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Zhirinovsky at the end of the road?

Vladimir ZhirinovskyRussia's next parliament could be a three party affair, with the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) failing to make the grade, a recent poll suggests.

To make it into the State Duma, Vladimir Zhirinovsky's party have to win 7 per cent of the vote in the Nov. 2011 poll ­ and VTsIOM calculate that current support among the public amounts to just 6.9 per cent. That would leave United Russia to debate their policies with only A Just Russia and the Communists.
[Original of image copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036]

But there is an agenda at play here and rather more happening than a simple falling away of nationalist support in the face of the United Russia juggernaut, say the pundits.

Here to stay

"We think this data doesn't reflect the real situation," Igor Lebedev, head of the LDPR's parliamentary faction, told The Moscow News. "VTsIOM always lowers its figures for opposition parties. One year before the election they are trying to hammer into the heads of the voting public that the ruling party is popular," he railed.

Moscow Carnegie Centre analyst Nikolai Petrov agreed, "I would not pay much attention to these results. There is more than a year to go and VTsIOM are not very professional," he said by telephone.

The 6.9 per cent figure is within a reasonable margin for error and LDPR reckon they will get more anyway, "We believe our rating to be 15 per cent. And the recent election has just confirmed it, as we got 15-16 per cent on average around the country. It would be strange to imagine that this rating will sink by half, even if we didn't do anything. And we, actually, do a lot," said an indignant Lebedev.

A place in the food chain

"LDPR neutralised a lot of aggressive nationalist sentiment and a lot of anger in Russian society during the nineties and so instead of voting for really dangerous parties people voted for this rather strange buffoonish party," RIA Novosti political analyst Dmitry Babich told The Moscow News.

And the LDPR says the niche it carved out is still there. "Our voters are young people, up to 45 years old, mostly working class or smaller business owners. Officials and big business support the ruling party (United Russia) as they are concerned about their possessions and property. Pensioners habitually vote for the communists. And progressive young people support us. Our results from Tomsk just confirmed it as we got 25 per cent in this student town," said Lebedev.

Voter discontent

No likely new parties are raising their heads above the parapet and there is discontent with the way that United Russia is leading the country.

"United Russia will never get the results in Moscow, Baskortostan or Tatarstan that they got before the crisis in 2007, and these are the biggest regions," says Petrov. "There is disappointment in not only the regional authorities but in the federal authorities in Irkutsk, Sverdlovsk. You can see a decline for United Russia in these regions, this is one fifth of the votes which they will never get again."

But this does not mean a swing to opposition parties, such as the LDPR. "United Russia symbolises state power for Russians and so obviously people may not be happy with it but the problem is that the vast majority don't see any other party that can solve their problems," says Babich.

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