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Russian Communist Party firm election favourite - Komsomolskaya Pravda analysis
Source: Komsomolskaya Pravda, Moscow, in Russian 15 May 03

Ahead of the parliamentary elections in Russia, due to be held in December, the Russian Communist Party is in the lead, argues a well-known political analyst. This fact is of particular importance given that the Duma to be formed as a result of these elections will, more than ever, reflect the true disposition of political forces in Russia and determine Russia's future direction. The following is excerpted from Vitaliy Tretyakov's article in the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda on 15 May; subheadings are as published:

The parliamentary election campaign in Russia is gathering momentum. It is already clear today that the forthcoming elections will be substantially different from those that we have known. Who is among the favourites in the present election race, and why? What are the distinctive features of the present election campaign? The well-known Russian publicist Vitaliy Tretyakov muses on these and other issues...

An oligarch's forecast

Back in April, Mikhail Khodorkovskiy, who is officially acknowledged to be Russia's richest man, and who is the head of Yukos, stated publicly that he would support the Union of Right Forces and the Yabloko parties financially in the elections, thereby sending a signal to all the biggest and other big property owners of Russia what sort of choice they must make. Let me also note that the No 1 oil oligarch issued this de facto mobilization call to the liberal-oriented electorate five months before the official start of the election campaign.

Why so early? Undoubtedly it is because Mikhail Khodorkovskiy is afraid that something might happen on 14 December which would radically change the political situation in Russia. Namely, that Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces would not get into the Duma and, as a result of that, a two-party left-to-left-of-centre system would take shape in Russia, with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation victorious in the elections...

The Communists have a very good chance of becoming the No 1 faction in the Duma but, of course, with only a relative and not an absolute majority. In the 12 years of democratic and liberal reforms, this would be not just a sensational occurrence but also a very serious political defeat both for the party of power and for the Kremlin, as well as for the right-wing liberal idea in Russia in general. If the trend towards political marginalization of our right wing (that is, the liberals), to whom economic power and a large proportion of big property in Russia today belong, is confirmed by a poor showing of the Union of Right Forces in the elections, then at the very least a whole generation of the first wave of reformers - [Yegor] Gaydar, [Anatoliy] Chubays, [Boris] Nemtsov and so forth - will become political has-beens. Moreover, the big property owners in Russia will lose their sole political structure and in even the best-case scenario for them, they will end up absolutely dependent on the Kremlin, to which at present they nevertheless most frequently dictate their own terms.

The next Duma elections will be the first to take place in a politically stable Russia.

The fourth Duma, if it is elected (given all the pre-election passions) in a tranquil atmosphere, will finally show the real correlation of political forces in Russia. It is for this reason that the forth Duma will not be a rough draft but in fact a fully validated matrix of the country's future. The fact that this will not be a right-wing liberal matrix is already clear. But the question is, how left-wing will it be?

CPRF prime candidate for victor

Russia is a left-wing country. The social base for the communist (left-wing) idea and accordingly for the Communist Party has not just remained in Russia but has even grown stronger, even though numerically it is now somewhat smaller.

The CPRF has rid itself of conformists and fellow travellers and so the social base of the Communists has grown more stable and more ideologically cohesive. Its basis is now composed of strata that really are indigent and of whom there is no end, but whose political choice is not based on short-term considerations because it is dictated not by reason but by their way of life.

The Communists, that is to say, the CPRF starting from 1991 have been the sole political party that functioned in real opposition to the ruling regime and naturally this rallies together both this party's activists and its voters. It is the CPRF and not at all the parties that call themselves democratic and which actively advocate a multiparty system, that has derived the greatest practical benefit from the multiparty system that has emerged in the country. If not Russian communism, then the Russian Communists, have definitely got a second wind whilst in opposition to the "power of the democrats".

Moreover, Russian political thought of the end of the 20th and early 21st centuries has not offered society any workable left-wing or even centrist idea as an alternative to communism, nor even a more or less developed liberal idea, and, what is the chief point, an effective idea.

Moreover, the left-wing electorate is today, now that the children of those who were dispossessed by the reforms have grown up, the only mass electorate in Russia that is renewing itself on a massive scale.

In a word, the CPRF has everything essential to transform a group of political kindred spirits into a party: a powerful self-reproducing social base; a precise and well-thought-out ideology; a political history; a leader who is a political figure of nationwide renown; sufficient financial resources; a nationwide organizational structure; and its own mass media (admittedly only print media).

It is meaningless to attribute all the achievements of the CPRF as a party to its own correct policy (although as a party policy it has been by and large correct), because there is simply nothing with which to compare the CPRF - because of the absence from our political scene of any other proper parties.

What might be an answer to the question of who wins in an election if one party and several non-parties participate in the election? Only one: the party of course. And in today's Russia that means the CPRF. The way events have been developing so far means that the Communists are certainly heading for a victory with a result of between 30 and 35 per cent.

The pre-election techniques that will be used against the CPRF are well known. The two main ones are the use of administrative resources [of those in power] and television. The task of the CPRF is to make these resources (if only partially) work for the CPRF.

How? For this, it is necessary to make use of yet another pre-election resource. What kind of resource? Putin of course...

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