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#15 - JRL 7245
June 30, 2003
Red and pink blot on the landscape
By Avtandil Tsuladze

Judging by the outcome of the plenary session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party held last Friday, the Kremlins plans to split up the left-wing opposition have ended in fiasco. Not only has the left not fallen apart, but they have also mustered the strength to give the pro-Kremlin bloc United Russia a big surprise.

Russias leftist forces will contest the seats in the lower house at the end of this year under a single banner CPRF (the Communist Party of the Russian Federation). At any rate, at their plenum on Friday the communists agreed to go ''in single file''. The widely publicized political bloc guarantees around 20 per cent of the vote, and additional votes may well be secured through the smaller parties siding with the communists.

It means the left will gather their forces into a single ''red fist'', thereby disrupting the Kremlins efforts to split the Communist Party up.

However, in the forthcoming campaign the communists will acquire one more resource. Prominent economist Sergei Glazyev may help the CPRF secure the votes of the so-called pink electorate, or moderate left. This will be seen as yet another blow to the Kremlins plans. The presidential administration had endeavoured to split up the CPRF by enticing the pink Gennady Seleznyov into the ranks of Kremlin supporters.

But the plan to divide the party failed. The Communist Party purged its ranks by expelling the ''renegades'' (Gennady Seleznyov was expelled for refusing to abandon the seat of State Duma chairman last year, after the pro-Kremlin centrist factions redistributed the top jobs in the lower house, stripping communists of almost all the top posts), while the Revival of Russia party formed especially for Seleznyov has proved a complete non-starter.

With Glazyevs entrance the situation changes dramatically: he is able to add the votes of the moderate left to the those of the traditional electorate of the CPRF. Thus, the Kremlin, instead of pushing the Communist Party out of the political arena, will be faced with a strong rival in the form of a red and pink stain, slowly but steadily spreading through the electoral spectrum of Russia.

But even Glazyev is far from being the last trump card of the monolithic unit that is the Communist Party. In the wake of the political changes carried out by Putin, the CPRF has remained the only influential opposition force in the country. After years of being just the leftist opposition, the CPRF has now become the only opposition to the authorities.

And that means that the Communist Party has every chance of attracting some non-communist protest voters to its ranks [i.e. those who prefer to cast their ballots against all candidates or political parties].

The ranks of protestors, despite the nationwide love of the president, are growing day by day. And most importantly, none of the parties has as yet managed to attract their votes. The Kremlins main party, United Russia, has still not decided how to approach that particular group of voters, while the other parties simply do not have the energy to win them over to their side.

Perhaps only the LDPR, Vladimir Zhirinovskys ultra-nationalist Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia, because of the talents of its leader, has managed to play on that field with any semblance of success: the partys ratings remain at about 10 per cent. But Zhirinovsky has virtually accepted his partys marginal niche, forcing the moderate protestors to join the more influential ranks of the CPRF.

There is one more circumstance that favours the communists the presidents route to political stability. At a recent news conference Putin once again confirmed that his main priority is to preserve public stability. And in practice that means that he will not allow the unbridled anti-Communist propaganda that was so evident in 1996.

After all, some 10 per cent of Putins majority are communists. And any confrontation is detrimental to stability. Therefore, the Kremlin has no plans of ''wiping the communists out'' altogether.

Thus, for the time being the Communist Party is in a very advantageous position. The party no longer faces the threat of a split, it has resources to expand its electorate, and finally, the party is not threatened by a serious confrontation with the Kremlin.

If the CPRFs rivals, primarily United Russia, fail to take any extreme measures and the situation does not change dramatically, the communists are likely to achieve a resounding success at the 2003 parliamentary elections.

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