#5 - 7138
April 9, 2003
FILING CABINET FOR POLICY PLATFORMS
Most Russian voters don't care about the policies of political parties
Author: Xenia Veretennikova
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
REPRESENTATIVES OF MAJOR RUSSIAN PARTIES AND POLITICAL SCIENTISTS HAVE MET TO DISCUSS PARTY POLICY PLATFORMS. FOR THE MAJORITY OF RUSSIAN PARTIES AND VOTERS, POLICIES HAVE LITTLE SIGNIFICANCE.
Representatives of the major Russian parties and political scientists accompanying them, having gathered yesterday at a meeting of the Open Forum club in order to assess party platforms, came to an unsettling conclusion. For the majority of voters these platforms do not contain anything the slightest bit interesting.
Voters are more attracted by a "brand", a charismatic leader, or some kind of election campaign slogan. The exceptions, possibly, are only the Communist Party and Yabloko. According to Mark Urnov, head of the Expertise Foundation, election policy platforms hold interest for 40% of potential voters for these parties. But then the platforms of the Union of Right Forces and United Russia are interesting for less than 20% of the voters. And this is not surprising: these parties to a large degree rely on the charisma of the leaders (in the minds of its voters, the leader of United Russia is President Putin).
In the opinion of Sergei Mitrokhin, deputy leader of Yabloko, precisely the party platform represents the touchstone against which it becomes clear exactly what the voter is dealing with - it is the ideological organization representing the interests of one group or another, or is the usual PR product. "In order to understand whether the party has a history or whether it is just a PR project, it is sufficient to have a look at when it adopts its policies," said Mr. Mitrokhin. "If the policy platform is adopted with great pomp on the eve of the elections, than we are dealing with a PR project." Mitrokhin clarified that he had the Union of Right forces in mind, whose platform "A Strategy for Russia", written by Boris Nemtsov, was presented only eight months before the upcoming Duma elections. Before that, the URF somehow got by without any high strategy.
Incidentally, this kind of attitude of the Union of Right Forces towards a party platform is not surprising. In the view of Irina Khakamada, co-leader of the URF, a party platform just doesn't play a key role in voting, but it should act in society "in the form of certain signals". "Recently, competition between parties has intensified exactly on the field of party platforms. It is not for no reason that the main accusation against United Russia is that it is not for anything going to form its own party platform. If, however, the party forms a platform only during the process of elections in accordance with the demand of voters, then this will be a PR, moment- based document." Nevertheless, Ms. Khakamada later said: "Platforms should become subjects for discussion in society."
Andrei Isaev, representing the roundly cursed United Russia, did not speak about party platforms. In accordance with United Russia's traditions, he swore that the abusive term "party of power" was unjust. However, as soon as Igor Bunin, head of the Political Techniques Center, discovered a new type of electorate - sort of a protest vote group, but at the same time not wanting to vote for the communists - Isaev immediately announced the claims of his party to this kind of vote: "The electorate which is not in opposition to the President or the regime, but is in opposition to its leader, for example the head of the Housing Services Commission - they will vote for us."
The political scientists also decided that it was necessary to make things clear with the term "policy platform" itself. "All the platforms which parties have presented were impossible to fulfill. The President has the filing cabinet for these platforms, but not the administrative apparatus," said Gleb Pavlovsky, president of the Effective Policy Foundation. He has promised, as well, that after the coming elections such an apparatus would be created.
The Director of the Information-Analytical center of the Communist Party, Ilya Ponomarev, shared his opinion: that policy platform ideas roam from one platform to another, with those present. A policy platform will have real significance when a party that wins the elections actually comes to power. For the time being, however, the majority of platforms are no more than a decorative element of party life. And with this, by all appearances, the greater part of participants in the discussion were in agreement.
(Translated by Alexander Mazzucchelli)