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By John Helmer, Moscow

Everybody should know by now that bulls are colour blind. They don’t like or dislike the colour red. They are threatened and so they charge, not at the red, but at the waving of the cape, whatever its colour, or at the bull fighter moving around the ring.  Bulls are perceptive – they can tell the difference between an armed man and his camouflage.  

Since 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party,  the Russian communists have not been as astute.

Like men, bulls grow less intelligent, more stubborn and miscalculating with age. This is also a problem for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) whose leader, Gennady Zyuganov (lead image, left), has recently turned 79 years of age. He is compos mentis compared to the similarly aged leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties in the White House and US Congress. But that’s not saying much – not enough to have persuaded Russian voters to support the KPRF candidates in the regional, gubernatorial,  and mayoral elections which were held across the country between September 8 and 10.

This month the KPRF polled significantly more poorly than it had done at the last regional elections in 2018, although it retained its two governors, Valentinin Konovalov in Khakassia and Andrei Klychkov in Oryol; they have the advantage of incumbency, and were first elected in 2018. Communist Party support in the new Donbass regions was poor; 11% was their second place result in Kherson; they ran third in the three other Donbass region polls.

United Russia, the government party, did significantly better than in 2018, taking majorities in the legislative assembles of the regions, and a two-thirds vote countrywide.

A KPRF spokesman claimed the war is the reason for the communist defeat. “In 2018, there was the [government’s] increase in the retirement age and the rise of the pension protest movement which affected our results. Now the situation is reversed – [there is the] special military operation and society is consolidated [around the government].”  

In fact, voters viewed the KPRF as having no policy differences with President Vladimir Putin on any significant issue.  “Except in Khakassia,” according to one source, “the Communist Party doesn’t really exist.” Even there, the source concedes, the government’s United Russia party withdrew from the gubernatorial race, and the party took the majority of seats in the regional legislature.  

Zyuganov insists the KPRF still leads the opposition in the country. “We need to realise that this war has been declared against the entire Russian world, our civilisation,” Zyuganov says in an interview published on the party website on Monday.  

“So we have only one way out — to win a complete and unconditional victory. But to do this, it is necessary to correctly assess the current situation, understand our strengths and weaknesses — and resolutely go on the offensive. It is necessary to unite society as much as possible, to mobilise resources, to master all the most advanced and freshest. And to be able to do it in conditions of unprecedented sanctions.” 

“Putin has changed his strategy four times over the past twenty years. He came to power after the ‘dashing 1990s’, during which more than 80,000 enterprises were destroyed and sold off, citizens’ savings were blown to the wind, and the Soviet government was shot. In the 1990s, the country turned itself into Uncle Sam’s wagging tail and decided to turn into an oil and gas pipe, a quarry,  and a sawmill. But Putin realised it was necessary to change the strategy… But the remnants of the Yeltsin era [remain] in power. They still occupy many offices in the Kremlin and the government…”

“Putin made a very interesting and informative speech at the Fareastern Forum.    But I would like to pay special attention to the part of his speech that concerned tax legislation. The oligarchy breathed a sigh of relief — the president says we will not change the situation with taxes. But of all the twenty leading countries in the world, only we have a flat tax scale, in which the same percentage of income is collected from both the poor and the leading rich! This is absolutely unfair and directly contradicts the interests of the state. Thanks to this policy, the oligarchs do not pay normal taxes…They continue to plunder the country at an unprecedented pace. In 2022 alone, $261 billion was transferred from Russia abroad. The total capital of our 25 richest oligarchs has already exceeded $ 300 billion. This is more than the entire Russian budget!  And all this happens in the conditions of the special military operation, when help, support, and compassion are needed! When maximum consolidation and cohesion is needed!”   

In the countrywide poll held from September 8 to 10, Russian voters elected 33,000 regional parliament deputies and the governors of 21 regions. Average turnout was 43.5%.

In all regions where the leaders were elected, the incumbent governors won, including Khakassia, where the incumbent since 2018 is Valentin Konovalov of the KPRF. He won with 63% of the vote; this is up from 58% at the last poll in 2018. The breakaway Communists of Russia drew 12% in the same poll; United Russia did not contest the election. In Oryol, the incumbent governor since 2018, Andrei Klychkov,  is also a Communist Party leader; United Russia did not oppose him. Klychov has won with 82%; in 2018 he won with 83%.  Konovalov and Klychov are both sanctioned by the US.

In the elections for the regional legislatures, United Russia took first place in every one except Khakassia.

In the Moscow mayoral vote, Sergei Sobyanin was re-elected with 76.4%; his 2018 majority was 70.2%. Then he defeated the KPRF candidate at 11.4%. This time, Leonid Zyuganov, 35-year old grandson of the KPRF leader, polled just 8.1%.  

Leonid Zyuganov, left, campaigning for the KPRF in Moscow with his grandfather, Gennady Zyugaov, August 23.

For a tabulation in English of the election results compiled from the Russian reports, click to read.  

Vzglyad, the Moscow website specialising in national security analysis, has published this report on the regional elections as a pointer to the presidential election campaigning between now and next March.  The translation is verbatim; illustrations have been added.

Source: https://vz.ru/

September 15, 2023
In the current conditions it has become difficult for Russia’s political parties to be different from one another
The key mistakes and successes of the Russian parties identified

By Andrei Rezchikov

The elections which have taken place in Russia revealed a number of new trends. On the one hand, it has become more difficult for parties to be different from one another. On the other hand, not all parties have clearly formulated their policies for the voters.

What other mistakes were made during the poll and in what condition will the Russian party system approach the next elections?

The experts have called the Single Day of Voting (EDG), which took place last weekend, a ‘referendum vote’, since in all legislative assemblies where elections were held, United Russia won a majority, including in the new [Donbass] regions. In addition, the candidates for governor from United Russia, and these are 19 people out of 21, also won in the first round with results of 70% to 80%.

According to political scientists, during the election campaign many parties faced the fact that it became more difficult for them to differentiate from each other. For observers, the results of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia [LDPR] , which fought without Vladimir Zhirinovsky [died April 6, 2022], turned out to be unexpectedly high. But Fair Russia – For the Truth (SRZP) and the Communist Party could not adapt to the current political realities and offer voters something other than their traditional slogans. Against this background, the New People [Novye Lyudi]  party  managed to prove that it has now become a fully fledged member of the political system.

Andrei Nechaev, co-founder of Novye Lyudi (“New People”), a cosmetics marketer, in a positive profile by The Bell, an anti-Putin publication.  

Some experts call the recent elections a training run for the parties before the presidential campaign of 2024. In general, the system maintains an internal political consensus even against the background of competition in a number of regions.

United Russia ‘has created an understandable technology for mobilising its voters, so there is no point in the party radically changing something: they are not looking to change their winning team,’ says Yevgeny Minchenko, president of the Minchenko consulting communications holding and a  director of the MGIMO Center for Research on Political Elites. ‘It is possible to adjust the technological methods,  but they are sticking to the model of using the image of the president, the mobilisation of the administrative [government] and industrial component [business], active work in the social media,  and the system of mobilisation through party members – this all works.’

‘The lead deputy heads of the Executive Committee of United Russia, Alexander Sidyakin  and Sergei Perminov,   are doing a great job, a very good job,’ Minchenko believes.

Left, Alexander Sidyakin; right, Sergei Perminov.

‘As for other parties, it is really difficult for them to distinguish themselves,  the expert believes. “The reason lies in the so-called Donbass consensus. Everyone has united around the president, all parliamentary parties support their own. In such conditions, it is very difficult to be different from each other,’ the political scientist adds.

The political strategists of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation ‘did a good job this season, conducted a good campaign by Valentin Konovalov in Khakassia,’ Minchenko believes. Among his findings [from the Konovalov campaign] are working on the image of a politician, being active on the Internet, using an earpiece during debates,  and getting Konovalov to accept recommendations from consultants.

‘It’s too early to write off the Communist Party. It’s not a good time for them right now, but the inertia [in the KPRF vote base] still exists. However, the fact remains that the Communist Party has greatly worsened its position, including in those regions where it once performed positively, for example in the Irkutsk region,’ the political scientist noted.

‘In general, the party’s results have been dwindling for quite understandable reasons. In the past, their jump was due to the pension reform  and a tacit coalition with the Navalnyites and the liberal opposition, which voted for the Communist Party as a protest alternative to United Russia. Today, this segment of the electorate is demoralized; has gone into internal emigration and deprived the Communist party of their votes,’ Minchenko explained.

In turn, political analyst Pavel Danilin believes that the Communist Party could not clearly formulate its platform for voters. ‘It does not understand what to say to them at all. And the party should carry out serious work on this mistake. The Communists seem to support Vladimir Putin, but they don’t seem to,’ the political scientist believes. ‘The leaders of the Communist Party got lost themselves and lost their voters.’

In such a situation, the party needs ‘a real rejuvenation and a change of leader. ‘The old plough horse, of course, will not spoil the furrows. But Gennady Andreyevich Zyuganov is too sclerotic. Let him be replaced by Zyuganov, okay – but young Leonid, the grandson of the party leader. This will be a big plus for the Communists,’ Danilin believes.

However, the future leader must meet the needs of the voter. ‘Currently, the Communist Party does not give its supporters an answer to why they should vote for the Communists. What does the Communist Party want to offer, what is the party’s vision of the future for Russia? There is no answer to this question, and if there is one, then the very restricted groups who know it are unable to preserve the Communist Party as the second most powerful party in Russia,’ Danilin believes.

‘But the Just Russia-For Truth party [SRZP, led by Sergei Mironov, right] has gone down the path of radicalisation in vain. The idea of promoting itself as a ‘shock party’ didn’t work. It did not attract the so-called ‘angry patriots’ and it alienated traditional voters. Hence the decline in the party’s results,’
Minchenko explained. ‘The SRZP played on a very narrow electoral field and only lost votes’, adds Danilin. ‘At  first, Just Russia supported the ultra-patriots, but after the rebellion of Yevgeny Prigozhin, it had to abandon the shock party concept altogether.’

‘So it turns out that only United Russia has remained the winner. Its messages clearly corresponded to the needs of voters. But this does not mean that the United Russia party does not need to invent something new for the next campaign,’ the political scientist emphasizes.

‘The Liberal Democrats [LDPR] showed a decent result due to several factors. First of all, Leonid Slutsky turned out to be an effective negotiator who competently built relations with the regional authorities and spent a large amount of his personal time on this. The second factor is the competent use of the image of the departed party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky as a prophet and sage.  These were interesting and creative innovations,’ Minchenko points out.   ‘In addition, a whole galaxy of strong regional leaders has grown up in the LDPR. Among them there are Alexander Gliskov in the Krasnoyarsk Krai, Mikhail Molchanov in Khakassia. “Due to their charisma, these people pulled up the result of the party,’ the expert noted.

According to him, ‘the agenda itself, on which the party is basing itself now, as well as the idea that Zhirinovsky foresaw a lot, helped make party ideology in demand. It’s hard to say for how long the LDPR will benefit from this, but remember the Soviet Communist Party lasted on Lenin’s image for decades,’ Minchenko recalled.

At the same time, Danilin believes ‘the LDPR very clearly supports the president’ on the fundamental issues, and in other cases clearly articulates its proposals to the voter. ‘Yes, the image of Zhirinovsky and his legacy helped the party a lot. And also because of clever  positioning and active participation in the public debates, the party managed to bite off pieces of the electorate from the Communist Party and the SRZP. If this trend continues, the LDPR will push the Communist Party out of second place,’ Danilin acknowledges.

‘The New People party did not perform very smoothly, but on the whole it was creditable. The New People proved that it is no coincidence that they are in parliament. Vladislav Davankov’s election campaign in Moscow was not as effective as we would like – he took fourth place in the mayoral election. At the same time, his campaign was the most meaningful of all, except for Sergei Sobyanin, who had a real program and real achievements,’ Minchenko believes.

According to him, the best result of the party which was achieved in the elections to the Il Tumen of Yakutia and in the elections to the Yakutsk City Duma is the result, on the one hand, of the personality of Sardana Avksentieva (right), and on the other, with her  bright and creative campaign. Many people should study and replicate the Yakut experience in the next electoral cycle,’ Minchenko recommends.

According to Danilin, it was the New People who stood out distinctively from the other parliamentary parties, but ‘they do not articulate their message at all, so they have had a bad result almost everywhere, except in Yaroslavl and Yakutia. It is necessary for the party to clearly formulate its platform and address the expectations of voters, then the results will improve.’ 


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