This Saturday's plenary session of the Central Committee of KPRF (the Communist Party of the Russian Federation), the last before the forthcoming KPRF congress, is to decide whether Gennady Zyuganov can retain his leadership in the party for the next period, political analysts say.
"Why is the party losing ground? Why did its electorate vote for Putin? Is now the right time to change the leader? are the main questions the KPRF is to find answers to," Leonid Sedov, a political analyst of the Levada Center, told RIA Novosti.
However, the plenum's official agenda, made available for mass media, features other issues, such as review of the current policy of the Russian authorities, and advisability of the party's participation in the country's executive and legislative bodies.
KPRF Central Committee Deputy Chairman Ivan Melnikov will deliver the main report at Saturday's plenary session.
"Journalists will have a chance to listen to the main report in the hall," the party's press release says (in the past, KPRF had always held its discussions behind closed doors).
Closed doors, however, have failed to prevent the ongoing conflict between Zyuganov's supporters and Gennady Semigin, the head of the National Patriotic Union, from going public. Gennady Semigin demands the change of the leader and thorough modernization of the party, which has lost any tangible influence in the State Duma.
"I see no ideological differences between the opponents. In my opinion, there is nothing but power struggle behind the conflict," Konstantin Simonov, head of the Political Research Center, told RIA Novosti.
It was KPRF poor performance in the recent State Duma elections (Communists lost half of their seats in the lower house of the Russian parliament) that has triggered off the current infighting in the ranks of KPRF and its allies.
Only 12.7 percent of the Russian electorate voted for Communists in the December 2004 parliamentary elections, a dramatic fall against the 24.29 percent the party had polled in the 1999 elections.
The fact that Nikolai Kharitonov, the KPRF presidential nominee, gained more votes that any other presidential candidate, excepting Vladimir Putin, somewhat exonerated the KPRF leadership, fuelling, however, further speculation about Zyuganov's role in the party, political analysts observe.
"The issue of leadership in the party has acquired additional poignancy now. What is touted as Kharitonov's success would have been a defeat for Zyuganov," says Sedov.
On his part, Nikolai Kharitonov told RIA Novosti that he had no ambition of becoming the party's new leader and referred to Zyuganov as "a mountain in the current political landscape" and "the opposition's ice-breaker". In addition, Kharitonov reminded RIA Novosti that, officially, he was a member of another political party, the Agrarian Party of the Russian Federation.
He added, however, that he was always ready to carry out a mission assigned to him by his comrades from the opposition forces.
"At the moment, Gennady Zyuganov has no match in the party. However, nobody is getting younger, and he certainly understands that... At to me, I am not an impostor. I know my worth and am always ready to respect the will of the majority," Nikolai Kharitonov said.