HOW THE UPCOMING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS ARE INTERPRETED BY THE CENTRAL MEDIA

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HOW THE UPCOMING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS ARE INTERPRETED BY THE CENTRAL MEDIA

The central media is again interestedly watching the actions of Yevgeny Primakov, which are being evaluated primarily from the viewpoint of increasing or decreasing the Premier’s pre-electoral rating. This is being done with the same perseverance with which Primakov himself continues to assert his intention not to participate in the presidential elections. Even his announcement made at the session of the Committee for Foreign and Defense Policy (CFDP), in which he flatly opposed pre-term dismissal of the President since he considers “retaining stability in society” the most important, the newspaper Vremya MN ponderously commented on his words as follows: “Finally, this very formula can later serve as an incentive for Primakov to ‘break’ and, within a year and a half, agree to ‘run for president’ if stability in society is under the threat.”

As expected, Nezavisimaya Gazeta (NG) turned out to be the most caustic in its evaluations of the results of Primakov’s meeting with the political elite during the SFDP session. According to NG, the part of the Premier’s speech dedicated to the economy, from which participants of the Assembly hoped to learn “which way he will lead Russia” did not fulfill their hopes. Once more, the conclusion was made that “the economic ideology of Primakov’s Cabinet” is most probably a set of trivial recipes from everyday practice, rather than a subtle and far-reaching chain of economic measures.” The Premier was rather more convincing in the political part of his announcement, states NG. “The audience saw a really gifted politician who is a witty interlocutor skillfully controlling the spirits of the audience and even possessing a sort of hypnotic influence over them.” “Primakov’s mesmerizing powers” were proven by the fact that none of those present presumed to have “even a hint of the slight criticism or disloyalty toward the Premier.” Having mentioned that “intellectual non-resistance to a big shot is a characteristic feature of the Russian establishment”, the paper described what happened when the Premier left: the participants of the meeting “suddenly revealed” the abundance of setbacks and errors in the words and proposals of the Premier. Even the economic and political problems which he had just mentioned underwent detailed consideration. But this was possible only in the absence of the Premier…”

The weekly publication Vek dedicated an article entitled “The Battle for Primakov” to the fights of various components of the Russian political spectrum with the Premier and his cabinet. “In order to influence the government they are struggling as hard as they did for the president five years ago”, “Vek” states. “The only difference is that, if earlier the right was mainly attempting to take hold of the President’s elbow, now the left is trying to conquer through the Premier. Of course the right is not losing hope, but the chances of the left seem better.” “The left orientation of Primakov’s government has been emphasized by the media more than once. “Vek”, when commenting on Kirienko and Chubais’ readiness to use their influence in the West to help the government in the negotiations with the IMF, excitedly noted: “The right, while criticizing the government, is trying to be of any use possible to it, like the Communists. And the creation of such pro-governmental impulses on both flanks of society is the Premier’s most amazing achievement.”

Obshchaya Gazeta goes much further in its assumptions regarding the readiness of the right to help the Premier, and not only with current affairs. According to this publication, the advertising campaign of the Novaya Sila New Force movement headed by Sergei Kirienko has only been a cover for the purposes of his visit to Krasnoyarsk. The secret mission of Kirienko was to find out whether Alexander Lebed would agree to enter an electoral coalition with Yevgeny Primakov and Grigory Yavlinsky. “The goal of the scheduled alliance is to capture the presidency for Primakov. Yavlinsky in that case will receive the post of Premier and Lebed the post of Defense Minister or the Vice Premier in charge of the security departments. The initiator of this alliance will also be rewarded, although to what extent has not been discussed yet.” The newspaper confesses, however, that it possesses no information about whether Kirienko has received a mandate for his likely negotiations from Primakov, but assumes that the Premier, who had ordered that the Krasnoyarskugol works be saved from the encroachments of Anatoly Bykov – Lebed’s main current opponent – has every reason to count on the gratitude of the General, i.e. the votes of his electorate. “This means Lebed will have to surrender his presidential ambitions, but otherwise he could lose the governor’s post without possible prospects for becoming a minister or vice premier.

Prominent journalist Mikhail Leontiev, in his interview to Izvestia, was the only one to address Primakov and his Cabinet inimically. Concerning his switch from the third, or “Luzhkov’s”, channel of central TV to ORT, “Berezovsky’s channel”, Leontiev explained that it was a purely political decision and called Luzhkov his ideological opponent: “In my opinion, his alliance with Primakov is based on incomprehension of what is happening in the country. This fact makes the situation extremely dangerous. I consider Primakov to be extremely dangerous for Russia.” In this Leontiev shares the positions of Boris Berezovsky (that is why he has switched to ORT), but according to his definitions the Communist restoration is being prepared “by the people of Andropov’s epoch who dreamt of it even at that time.” He does not deny that Primakov is a “patriot” too, but thinks his remedies are “pernicious for the country”. According to Leontiev, Berezovsky has a good command of the situation, and therefore a “frontal attack” is being performed against him: “Primakov’s team would never tread on everyone at the same time, it will trample us each in turn. The game started very correctly – Berezovsky was not chosen because of ORT, which is such a tremendous ideological instrument.”

Georgy Kozyrev, Director of the Public Relations Department of the Russian Industrialists and Businessmen’s Union, is positive about the Luzhkov-Primakov alliance. Expressing the viewpoint of a considerable part of the Russian business elite, Kozyrev stressed the ideological and electoral proximity of the Premier and the Moscow mayor: “Both of them are centrists, have advanced posts as state officials, both reject rushed and unreasoned reforms and have balanced socio-economic policies which are directed to favor the majority of people.” Therefore, from Kozyrev’s viewpoint an alliance between the politicians would be the most reasonable thing to do in the current situation. “They could determine themselves, considering the political and economic experience of each of them, the specific features of their characters, and other nuances and peculiarities who runs for president and who for premier”, tactfully stated Kozyrev (“Vechernii Klub”).

And Yury Luzhkov himself repeatedly refuted the assumption about his pretensions for the presidency in his interview to Vechernyaya Moskva: “I am tired of repeating that I have not announced my intention to run for the presidency so far.” At the same time, the Moscow Mayor is aggrieved by the ease with which “many absolutely unknown individuals” do so. It is widely known that Luzhkov does not reject the possibility of entering the electoral race if he sees no person to whom the country can be trusted. And therefore he is observing the development of events rather attentively: “So far, unfortunately, I see no person who understands the main problems of our country and who is able to find a way to overcome the political, economic, and social instability.”

As for publications which treat the Moscow Mayor negatively, the topic of Luzhkov’s electoral campaign is one of their main topics of investigation. For instance Nezavisimaya Gazeta, having mentioned that the Russian-Ukrainian treaty had been ratified by the Federation Council, notwithstanding all of Luzhkov’s efforts, stated condescendingly: “But Yury Luzhkov will not come off as a loser. If his motley crew manages to properly analyze what has happened, the Moscow Mayor will have the unique opportunity to wash his hands and enter the presidential elections with nothing to explain to the UN concerning certain territorial claims on Ukraine.” However, according to NG, reasonable people are hardly to be found in Luzhkov’s circles: “So far the pitch is being set by sycophants who have no relation to the political game with Luzhkov’s silent consent.” It should be mentioned that the imperfections of Luzhkov’s team and his regrets about his inability (or reluctance) to find classified advisors are some of the main issues analyzed in the paper (needless to say, NG is known as “Berezovsky’s newspaper”). On the other hand, NG, in another edition, expresses doubt about the legality of Luzhkov’s post. Two Russian citizens have files a claim in the European Court for Human Rights with a request to acknowledge as invalid the postponement of the elections to the Moscow Duma from 1995 to 1997. (In Moscow, as in many other Federation subjects, the 1995 elections were postponed in accordance with a presidential decree). According to Russians citizens Vladimir Voronin and Yevgeny Shimenkov, this decision violated their suffrage rights and should be acknowledged as illegal, which practically means the illegality of all resolutions of the Moscow Duma beginning in December 1995, i.e. the moment its powers elapsed. The elections for Moscow Mayor, in which Luzhkov gained a sensational victory over his opponents, took place in 1996. Thus, as the publication states, an international scandal can hardly be avoided, “and the reputation of the Moscow Mayor will be badly damaged.”

Unlike Yevgeny Primakov and Yury Luzhkov, Grigory Yavlinsky announces his claims for the presidency rather openly: “It is impossible to be engaged in policy-making in Russia if you are running for president.” According to the leader of Yabloko, Yeltsin’s epoch in Russia is coming to an end: “Russia is a country in which economic reforms can only follow political ones.” For that very reason, the presidential elections define the destiny of many people: “These elections are forever. The question of whether our children will want to live in Russia or not depends on them.” Yavlinsky expounds his program very minutely. His intention, if elected, to re-distribute powers between the president and the parliament can be considered one of the key points of the political part of his program: “Power which exceeds the President’s physical abilities, whoever he may be, always abandons him for those who are closer. The Duma should gradually be granted more substantial powers, but only if it is improved.” As for Yavlinsky’s economic program presented at the conference at Davos, Expert magazine says that it practically reiterates the economic program of the government. The difference is that Yavlinsky proposes his own program of measures to overcome the crisis in the Russian economy under the motto “No real liberal economic reforms have ever taken place”, and the government acts under the slogan of a social orientation of the economy and a combination of macro-economic regulation with “the formation of conditions for development in the micro-economic sphere.” Having concluded that there is no way to make definite economic resolutions, “Expert” states that, to all appearances, “Inside the spectrum of non-radical ideas, the spot where skirmishes between the left and the right will take place has been outlined.” “Expert” predicts that those “whose total weight is more” will win the battle, and calls for people to “bet on their favorite!”

According to the central newspapers, the strengthening of the positions of regional leaders has been the main peculiarity of the parliamentary election campaign. Nezavisimaya Gazeta even questions: “Is the Moscow period of Russian policy ending?” According to NG, henceforth the regions “will not only avoid following the path paved by Moscow, but will be ready to act contrary to the Moscow authorities. The birth of ‘the governors’ party’ is a reflection of the distrust of the regional elite in Moscow politicians, primarily for their incessant squabbles.” Therefore, Moscow will not dictate its will to the regions, and regional leaders will choose whom they will support. So far, the “regional party” has no actual leader. It has only a federal coordinator of the project – Samara Governor Konstantin Titov. However, regional leaders have evident sympathy for Primakov: “The Premier is the state official, a person with no financial interests, who has no large and voracious team and who sticks to the rules set by the apparat.” He has every advantage over the Moscow Mayor, who is exceedingly active, both politically and economically, and who provokes the aversion of regional leaders with his effusiveness. However, as NG mentions, Primakov will hardly answer any straightforward or indirect invitations of regional leaders in the near future: that could sharply aggravate his relations with other political powers – primarily the CPRF and Otechestvo, and the Premier does not intend to take such steps.

However, Alexander Shokhin, the ideologist of the new bloc, stated to Kommersant-Daily that, by virtue of the vastness of the regional initiative, it could be less acceptable for the Premier than for any other person in “the narrow segment in the political sector”.

The weekly publication Novoe Vremya, also citing the increase of the political influence of regional leaders, notes what the shift in their polished techniques means for the federal level: “The lack of options in the majority of provincial elections has shown how badly the regional heads can handle their own electorates. If traditional parties inspire the fewest fluctuations in the mood of the electorate, governors can only hope for that number.” Undemocratic technologies will inevitably be used further on: the electorate, the central electoral committees, which are subordinate to local authorities – all of these are “hard pre-electoral currency which allows regional leaders to seriously trade with politicians from the center.” In other words, “the time for kneeling before the central authorities is over and the governors have decided to demonstrate their worth.”

Leader of the NDR Duma faction Vladimir Ryzhkov elaborates on his views about the problems connected with the parliamentary elections in Argumenty i Fakty. He is anxious about society’s loss of interest in the Duma elections: “They will, as the majority of our political scientists think, be the rehearsal of the presidential elections and in July, when we will elect the real Master.” And then, as Ryzhkov writes, “we will have the familiar picture: the Duma will most probably dislike the president. The government will certainly support the president. The parliament will not implement the necessary laws in revenge. The government will remember the sequestration, the President the vote, the Duma the impeachment, and the investors the default.” And all this will continue until the presidential elections, which will again bring no relief for the country: “They entail no changes except changes of faces on TV screens.” Ryzhkov proposes a radical remedy to break this vicious circle: after the elections, charge the Duma majority with the task of forming the new Russian government. This will ensure that the victorious parties will assume responsibility for the actions of the government. “And then all the mistakes of the government will echo during the next elections, and they will not get into the parliament.” According to Ryzhkov, “It will be a step away from chaos and the absurdity of the current political system.”

Kommersant-Vlast has published an interesting forecast regarding the financing of the upcoming elections. According to K-V, the overall amount of electoral money is some 500 billion rubles, i.e. $25 billion. The federal budget is undoubtedly the main source of money: “This year, some 365 billion rubles should be received into purpose funds which are consolidated with the budget and four funds which so far have budgets of their own – the Pension Fund, the Social Insurance Fund, the Medical Insurance Fund, and the Engagement Fund. Adding income received by the CBR and numerous industrial and ministries’ funds, 500 billion rubles can be gathered rather easily.” Certainly, as the weekly specifies, the funds have tasks to fulfill. However, the most “still revisions” carried out by the Auditing Committee show non-purpose expenditures of 10-12% of their funds, and, following the sequence of scandals, the figure of 30% emerges, i.e. approximately $2.5 billion annually. “This money will suffice for the campaigns of the five leading nominees for president.” CBR funds will undoubtedly participate in the elections, primarily in the parliamentary one. Lately the legislative branch has been showing an impertinent intention to deprive the CBR of its sovereignty, and consequently it is mandatory for the CBR to support candidates who understand the Duma’s control over the CBR as irrelevant for different reasons. “In general”, concludes K-V, we have unassimilated money. The main task for today is to share it properly for however much political concord is necessary.”

COMMENTS ABOUT THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS IN THE CENTRAL MEDIA

According to the central newspapers, the strengthening of the positions of regional leaders has been the main peculiarity of the parliamentary election campaign. Nezavisimaya Gazeta even questions: “Is the Moscow period of Russian policy ending?” According to NG, henceforth the regions “will not only avoid following the path paved by Moscow, but will be ready to act contrary to the Moscow authorities. The birth of ‘the governors’ party’ is a reflection of the distrust of the regional elite in Moscow politicians, primarily for their incessant squabbles.” Therefore, Moscow will not dictate its will to the regions, and regional leaders will choose whom they will support. So far, the “regional party” has no actual leader. It has only a federal coordinator of the project – Samara Governor Konstantin Titov. However, regional leaders have evident sympathy for Primakov: “The Premier is the state official, a person with no financial interests, who has no large and voracious team and who sticks to the rules set by the apparat.” He has every advantage over the Moscow Mayor, who is exceedingly active, both politically and economically, and who provokes the aversion of regional leaders with his effusiveness. However, as NG mentions, Primakov will hardly answer any straightforward or indirect invitations of regional leaders in the near future: that could sharply aggravate his relations with other political powers – primarily the CPRF and Otechestvo, and the Premier does not intend to take such steps.

However, Alexander Shokhin, the ideologist of the new bloc, stated to Kommersant-Daily that, by virtue of the vastness of the regional initiative, it could be less acceptable for the Premier than for any other person in “the narrow segment in the political sector”.

The weekly publication Novoe Vremya, also citing the increase of the political influence of regional leaders, notes what the shift in their polished techniques means for the federal level: “The lack of options in the majority of provincial elections has shown how badly the regional heads can handle their own electorates. If traditional parties inspire the fewest fluctuations in the mood of the electorate, governors can only hope for that number.” Undemocratic technologies will inevitably be used further on: the electorate, the central electoral committees, which are subordinate to local authorities – all of these are “hard pre-electoral currency which allows regional leaders to seriously trade with politicians from the center.” In other words, “the time for kneeling before the central authorities is over and the governors have decided to demonstrate their worth.”

Leader of the NDR Duma faction Vladimir Ryzhkov elaborates on his views about the problems connected with the parliamentary elections in Argumenty i Fakty. He is anxious about society’s loss of interest in the Duma elections: “They will, as the majority of our political scientists think, be the rehearsal of the presidential elections and in July, when we will elect the real Master.” And then, as Ryzhkov writes, “we will have the familiar picture: the Duma will most probably dislike the president. The government will certainly support the president. The parliament will not implement the necessary laws in revenge. The government will remember the sequestration, the President the vote, the Duma the impeachment, and the investors the default.” And all this will continue until the presidential elections, which will again bring no relief for the country: “They entail no changes except changes of faces on TV screens.” Ryzhkov proposes a radical remedy to break this vicious circle: after the elections, charge the Duma majority with the task of forming the new Russian government. This will ensure that the victorious parties will assume responsibility for the actions of the government. “And then all the mistakes of the government will echo during the next elections, and they will not get into the parliament.” According to Ryzhkov, “It will be a step away from chaos and the absurdity of the current political system.”

Kommersant-Vlast has published an interesting forecast regarding the financing of the upcoming elections. According to K-V, the overall amount of electoral money is some 500 billion rubles, i.e. $25 billion. The federal budget is undoubtedly the main source of money: “This year, some 365 billion rubles should be received into purpose funds which are consolidated with the budget and four funds which so far have budgets of their own – the Pension Fund, the Social Insurance Fund, the Medical Insurance Fund, and the Engagement Fund. Adding income received by the CBR and numerous industrial and ministries’ funds, 500 billion rubles can be gathered rather easily.” Certainly, as the weekly specifies, the funds have tasks to fulfill. However, the most “still revisions” carried out by the Auditing Committee show non-purpose expenditures of 10-12% of their funds, and, following the sequence of scandals, the figure of 30% emerges, i.e. approximately $2.5 billion annually. “This money will suffice for the campaigns of the five leading nominees for president.” CBR funds will undoubtedly participate in the elections, primarily in the parliamentary one. Lately the legislative branch has been showing an impertinent intention to deprive the CBR of its sovereignty, and consequently it is mandatory for the CBR to support candidates who understand the Duma’s control over the CBR as irrelevant for different reasons. “In general”, concludes K-V, we have unassimilated money. The main task for today is to share it properly for however much political concord is necessary.”

 

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