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Does Kremlin Have a Substitute for Its Party of Power?

The pre-election situation is getting tense in Russia
Last week, President of the Efficient Policy Foundation Gleb Pavlovsky claimed President Vladimir Putin has announced a contest for political parties hoping for Kremlin support. "The president of Russia made it clear that none of the parties currently aiming at the Kremlin may get support of the presidential administration at the forthcoming parliamentary elections." The political scientist supposes that Vladimir Putin has announced an open bid for those parties who can best represent the Kremlin interests in the State Duma.   

United Russia has managed to win over about 40 percent of the presidential electorate to its side; however this showing is rather unstable. Gleb Pavlovsky says that the party obviously has to rely upon its own political resources.

At the same time, the political scientist says, United Russia is the most successful party that is fighting for the right to become a pro-presidential party. The rating of other parties (The People's Party and the Party of Life) is close to zero. Gleb Pavlovsky says that "patriotic" voters and those who plan to vote against all parties will be of decisive importance at the forthcoming elections. None of the Russian parties have managed yet win this electorate over to its side. Gleb Pavlovsky thinks that under these conditions a new "liberal-patriotic" structure may arise and attract the majority of the electorate.

The president of the Efficient Policy Foundation says that Dmitry Rogozin and Sergey Glazyev are negotiating the creation of such a coalition. The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia holds third place among Russian parties. Thanks to its non-interference into the conflicts with the Kremlin and conflict-free atmosphere inside of the party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia managed to retain its previous electorate and even won many supporters among "small shop-keepers, merchants and traders."  Gleb Pavlovsky also says that the situation in Yabloko is rather favorable as well; the party is highly likely to take the fourth position at the elections. As for the Union of Right-Wing Forces, Pavlovsky says it is quite a problem for the party to establish contacts with the electorate.

Gleb Pavlovsky goes on to say that predicting a electoral success for the "party of authority" (United Russia) does not match with the reality. Pavlovsky is either very cunning (which is quite typical of spin-doctors) or he is simply attempting persuade everybody that Russia's current political situation is what he claims.  

In fact, prospects of the United Russia party are not so optimistic. On Monday, a round-table discussion was held to determined whether there was a split in the party. Analysts from the Center of Political Technologies, the Institute for Regional Problems, officials from the Presidential Administration and Duma deputies came to the round-table discussion; unfortunately there were no United Russia representatives present. 

Russian political scientists arrived at the conclusion that United Russia is experiencing a split in the party and won't be able to attract new votes duing the upcoming elections. The conclusion drawn is that the party is trying to be too many things for too many different groups in the electorate.

It is supposed that the party may be experiencing a split for the following reasons: intensified struggle within the party, lack of support in the regions of Russia and inability of the party chairman Boris Gryzlov to become a strong charismatic leader. That is why, political scientists say, all attempts that United Russia make to attract voters who haven't determined their choice are vain.

According to a provisional expert poll held by Igor Bunin's Center of Political Technologies, United Russia may expect to win not more than 22%. At that communists lay claims to 25%, the Liberal Democratic Party – to 6%, the Union of Right-Wing Forces together with Yabloko may get 12%. About 5% of the electorate is planning to vote against all candidates.

What interests the spin-doctors most is how up to 35% of the electorate will vote. These voters fall into two categories: an electorate without distinct ideological aims (they migrate from one candidate to another) and young people who disagree with the present-day regime but cannot change anything either. The latter group belongs to the so-called "stray electorate" who advocate justice and order. These people voted for the Liberal Democratic Party in 1993, for Alexander Lebed in 1996 and supported the Unity party at the elections in 1999. Experts at the Center of Political Technologies have produced two scenarios predicting the voter behavior of the above groups. The first scenario sees the Kremlin continuing its support of United Russia. In this case, voters who have yet to decide which party to support could see the next Duma resemble the present one: the Communist Party; United Russia; the group consisting of the Liberal Democratic Party, the Union of Right-Wing Forces and Yabloko will get 5% each. About 20% of voters will still vote against all candidates.

If the Kremlin decides to back the People's Party, a different scenario will come about. If the party organizes a good PR campaign, it may overcome a 5% barrier (at that it will seize 1-2% of the protesting electorate from other parties). Then less than 15% will be voting against all candidates. Five percent is small, however its position of a power brokerage would be meaningful.

Experts agree though that there is no scenario saving United Russia from a split. This is explained with the problem connected with the personalities of the party. The party faced the strongest criticism of its main program document approved at the last session of United Russia, the manifest of national success. It is said that leader of the Russia's Regions group Oleg Morozov is the author of the document.

Deputy Director of the Center of Political Technologies Dmitry Orlov read the document carefully and arrived at a conclusion that it is better not to focus attention on the document, Russia's Gazeta.Ru reports.

There are some problems connected with the People's Party. First of all, among party leaders, only the name of Gennady Raikov is commonly known. As for the party itself, society associates it with being anti-gay (it was the People's Party that suggested introduction of criminal liability for homosexual affairs). Suggestions of this kind are not in favor of a party that wants to be "the party of authority".

It is said that Gennady Raikov is supported by deputy head of the presidential administration Viktor Ivanov and head of the presidential administration Igor Sechin. It is alleged that during his meeting with President Putin Gennady Raikov asked for permission to oppose United Russia during the elections. It is said that Putin agreed. This may be true or not but the leader of the People's Party strongly criticized Boris Gryzlov's United Russia at a plenary session of his party.

To be continued

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