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#14 - JRL 7210
BBC Monitoring
Russian Communist views pre-election balance of forces
Source: Argumenty i Fakty, Moscow, in Russian 3 Jun 03

Who can become a troublemaker during the summer's silly season? According to the co-chairman of the People's Patriotic Union of Russia, Aleksandr Prokhanov, several major political centres have been formed.

The president's administration is the first centre. It is strengthening One Russia, trying to portray the party of ministers as a popular people's party. At the same time the authorities are actively dealing with the left-wingers. A certain project is gaining force whose aim is to weaken the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. The party, according to various estimates, can get up to 40 per cent in the elections. Of these, 28-30 per cent are guaranteed; these people will vote for [Communist leader Gennadiy] Zyuganov even if he turns out to be a pregnant nun. The remaining 10 per cenr grabs. The media attack on the Communist Party [of the Russian Federation] is getting stronger. [TV presenter Andrey] Karaulov has replaced [TV presenter Sergey] Dorenko. Whereas Dorenko accused [Moscow mayor Yuriy] Luzhkov of "killing" Americans, now Karaulov will probably claim that Zyuganov is "transferring" 1m dollars to the Seychelles every day. The aim is to lead the dithering electorate away from the Communist Party to a bogus protest party set up to trap the voters. The search for a leader of this party is under way. I can only say that it won't be [Duma speaker Gennadiy] Seleznev.

The authorities are actively working with right-wingers as well. After Nord-Ost [the theatre hostage-taking in Moscow in October 2002], [Yabloko leader Grigoriy] Yavlinskiy has become Putin's new favourite. Yavlinskiy is preferred to [Union of Right Forces leaders Boris] Nemtsov and [Irina] Khakamada. He has almost stopped criticizing the presidential authorities, hoping that he will be helped to overcome the 5-per-cent barrier and all "liberal plankton" will be distributed in his favour.

[Fugitive tycoon] Boris Berezovskiy is the second centre. His project is peculiar. Having chased out [former co-chairman] Viktor Pokhmelkin from Liberal Russia, he wants in future to merge his party with the Union of Right Forces, which is now out of favour, and then to stick this coalition to the left-wing patriotic group. It is still unclear how to do this. Among the patriots, nobody except me wants to deal with Berezovskiy. Zyuganov and others fear him like the plague.

The patriotic opposition is the third centre. Our task is to retain as many sympathisers as possible around the Communist Party. Talking about creating a bloc with the right-wingers, currently we don't have such intentions. However, there is talk about setting up some kind of an all-party union to monitor the elections since the level of rigging will be unprecedented. This might become a basis for future cooperation between the left- and right-wingers in the new Duma.

The advance of the head of the Yukos oil company, Mikhail Khodorkovskiy, to the political foreground is another new factor. He has been delegated by the oligarchs. Many regard this as a warning to Putin: if the president doesn't suit the business elite anymore then they need their own envoy in politics who would be ready to take the reigns of power - first the prime minister's, then the president's. Besides, according to sources in the US State Department and the CIA, Putin's support for the people's anti-American feelings provoked displeasure in the USA. Probably the appearance of a pro-Western oligarch on the political scene is somehow connected with this.

I think there will be no silly season. Moreover, there are grounds to believe that the murder of [Liberal Russia co-chairman] Sergey Yushenkov will be followed by more shootings. The political hunting season will continue, a sort of shot of adrenaline into the flabby veins of our ageing politicians. The summer will not be dull.

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