THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN THE CENTRAL MEDIA

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THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN THE CENTRAL MEDIA

Apparently, the fact that such a scandalous figure as Berezovsky has vanished from the political arena has shocked the majority of media outlets. Nobody ever expected such a sudden finish to the fight between the premier and the “public gray cardinal,” as the weekly Rossiyskie Vesti called him in the article entitled “The Legendary BAB” (BAB is the abbreviation for Boris Abramovich Berezovsky, which has a derogatory tinge – translator’s note). However, nearly all journalists are sure that, after the dismissal of Berezovsky, the premier should expect a retaliatory step. Rossiyskie Vesti writes: “His main post is Boris Abramovich (there is no need to specify the surname), and it is hard to dismiss him from that position.” All publications are emotionally marked, and all media outlets are sure that his withdrawal from the political scene is temporary. Rossiyskie Vesti formulates the idea this way: “He has a great business. He played with large cards, and it is impossible to stop the gamble. If he is not successful any longer, he should take a new step. He should stake on a new card, a card with an image of the president. The main point is not to be mistaken.”

Nezavisimaya Gazeta states that Primakov’s victory over his main opponent will mean a significant intensification of the influence of the left wing forces in the country in general. The president cannot resist their pressure any more, since he has lost his political will. Therefore, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the victory of the left in the election is certain. “What does this victory mean? It implies an absolute majority of the left in the Duma, a left-oriented speaker, and a premier dependent on the left wing. Thereafter, only idiots can keep the presidential election from turning out favorably for them. And the Communists are no idiots.”

Therefore, it is now allegedly senseless to fight the Communists’ rise to power. But it is necessary to do everything possible to prevent their coming to power from being a catastrophe. This means that it is necessary to secure basic democratic rights and liberties, such as free elections and private property. This will keep the country out of a new civil war. According to the newspaper, Primakov as the premier should ensure political stability not until 2000 but for the period after 2000. “The ‘concord treaty’ may be desired by Primakov from the tactical viewpoint to fortify his current political position, but the country as a whole needs a different political agreement. But nobody, including Yevgeny Maximovich, wants to think about it.” Nezavisimaya Gazeta supposes that the Premier is hoping that, after 2000, political concord will be secured by the very presence of his personality. However, relying on this is too hazardous, as the newspaper stresses.

Kommersant-daily also questions the premier’s ability to curb the left. In an article entitled “The Duma Threatens Primakov” the paper muses: “The Duma deputies have demonstrated to the premier that his political future depends chiefly on them, not on the president.” The context was the Duma’s refusal to reduce the VAT this year. This decision, promoted mainly by the Communist party (CPRF) and the Liberal Democratic party (LDPR), was a shock to the government, especially now that the negotiations with the IMF have been resumed. One more shocking fact is that, during the meeting between Primakov and the leaders of Duma factions, the latter assured the premier that they would support his economic policy. “And now it turns out that either faction leaders have lost control of their deputies on the eve of the parliamentary election, or they chose the moment on purpose in order to show Primakov who is master of the situation. The latter is more likely to be the case.”

A constant topic in Nezavisimaya Gazeta is the probable successors to Primakov as premier. The newspaper supposes, in an article devoted to the meeting between the president and Grigory Yavlinsky in the Central Clinic Hospital, that Yavlinsky will be asked either to form a new government or to take the position of senior vice premier in charge of the economy and finance. This appointment would be especially timely in order to eliminate the disagreements between Russian and Western creditors: “As a Nezavisimaya Gazeta correspondent has managed to learn from a well-informed source close to Yavlinsky, officials of the IMF and the World Bank said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that they would not insist on the urgent payback of Russia’s debts if Yavlinsky became their partner in the negotiations.” According to the newspaper, “The post of economic vice premier means, if not winning the second round of voting in the presidential election, then at least the premiership under the next president for Yavlinsky.” Therefore, the newspaper is sure that Yavlinsky will not be able to help accepting this proposal if he receives it.

Dmitry Bykov, a prominent journalist, has a curious opinion about the results of the election for Zyuganov, one of the leaders in all presidential ratings. In an article published by the weekly Vecherni Klub, Bykov holds that Zyuganov has no chance to even get into the second round of the election, and the journalist puts forward a lot of arguments. The policy of the reformers has been practically stultified, but the people do not consider this an achievement of the Communists. Moreover, the Communist party is being split, it does not have a distinct program, and therefore Zyuganov will hardly be the only candidate of the opposition. “Wishing to assemble the entire protest electorate under their colors, the Communists have ended up dividing it.” Zyuganov’s absolute insipidity will also pay a pernicious role, according to Bykov: “Being unable to invent something extraordinary is a miracle, a phenomenon typical of petty Soviet Communist party employees. Only the most backward voters who fear any changes can like such a mediocrity.” But the main reason, according to Bykov, is that the people “have overated nostalgia.” The half-forgotten marks of the past have returned: “native goods, native movies, the inability to get abroad, indifference toward boring public life, and complete social apathy.” In this situation, the protest electorate will soon get tired of protesting, and only a strong personality will awake them. “This is what Zyuganov does not have. Now that it is not enough to merely function, but is necessary to propose something, Zyuganov is confronting the danger of bankruptcy. His only merit is his negative attitude towards the government, but now even the most aggressive unemployed cannot be bought for the idea of a mass riot.”

However, the CPRF leader is not the only one who will apparently have to face the indifference of voters. According to the polls, the results of which are published in Kommersant-daily, 25% of voters are not confident in any of the candidates, and 45% of people do not intend to participate in the elections at all. On the whole, the future president of Russia, according to the majority of respondents, should be a man of 40-50, a Russian, and should have a higher economic education. The paper notes that “the country wants to have a business plan and get a share of profit, but not a belief in a messiah or a righteous chief.” For all that, the president should not be rich and should have an average income. It is desirable that he be from a province, not a beauty, and without epaulettes.” Participants in the poll mainly did not say whether this description corresponds to some particular figure of current political life, acting according to the rule of contraries: “The president should be neither a fascist nor a second Stalin, he should not work in Yeltsin’s manner, and should differ from Yeltsin in general.”

The topic of electoral technologies is also being discussed in the media. Georgy Rogozin, a former deputy of Alexander Korzhakov, is now engaged in political consulting. He says in his interview to Obshchaya Gazeta that Yeltsin may change his mind and try once more to become president. Then Rogozin touches on the chances of “a person with fingers spread apart” (a derogatory nickname for well-to-do criminals – translator’s note) coming to power. He says that these people want to live in peace, having accumulated their capital: “They want to live in peace here, in Russia, and not there, abroad. There they would never live as luxuriously as they live here. And a question arises in this connection: How can civil society be adapted to these people?” Rogozin mentions Anatoly Bykov, an important businessman, as an example: “He’s no fool – he has saved himself in many difficult situations. Why get rid of him just because some years ago a TV station called him its criminal protector?” Rogozin says that consulting firms should help such people.

Izvestia has quite a different approach to this problem. In an article entitled “Consulting, PR, and Electoral Technologies”, the paper notes: “Our electoral technologists have caught up with and even outpaced America, and resemble the characters of the well-known film Wag the Dog in their cynicism and lack of principles.” According to the newspaper, Russian PR organizations can change the haircut of their clients, sew a T-shirt for them, and make a commercial for TV. But they can hardly elaborate a real electoral program. “In other words, Russian political consultants have mastered the art of swindle and mystification, but they are unable to produce really important things, and therefore they are unable to serve serious clients who have some moral political qualities.” The newspaper is anxious about a government formed by such methods.

NG-Stsenarii, a supplement to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, holds that the character and results of the upcoming electoral campaign will depend on how successful the attempts to revive “the party of power”, which disappeared from the Russian political arena when Our Home is Russia lost its political position, will be. The most promising movement that may become the party of power is Luzhkov’s Otechestvo. However, according to NG-Stsenarii, “Federal and regional elites will not join Luzhkov without a benediction from above, especially on the eve of the parliamentary election, when the strategy of regional leaders is not to put all their eggs in one basket.” Traditionally, the impulse to create a political prop for the current regime has been received from the president. However, today, according to the paper, all the aspirations of the Presidential Administration “boil down to protecting some petty parties oriented toward radical democrats which are unable to become real parties of power.” The newspaper is skeptical about the party-building activities of Russia’s Voice, which allegedly intends to organize its participation in the parliamentary election in the same way as regional elections are usually organized, which is counter-productive, according to NG-Stsenarii. On the whole, the party most likely to become the party of power will be one which is led by a prominent political figure. “There is only one such politician on the current political scene: it is Yevgeny Primakov, and all proto-parties of power will aspire to get him as a member.”

Obshchaya Gazeta, on the contrary, holds that the bloc Russia’s Voice is the most promising among the parties entering the electoral race. According to the paper, the independence of the federal authorities is a mere legend cherished by governors. On the other hand, it is very difficult to conceal the Moscow origin of Russia’s Voice: its headquarters is governed by people who participated in Yeltsin’s electoral campaign in 1996. However, Russia’s Voice counts on absorbing part of the personnel of Our home is Russia, including Chernomyrdin and Gazprom, which will evidently relieve them of their financial problems. “To all appearances, the skeptical attitude of the Moscow political establishment towards the governors’ party may prove to be irrelevant.”

Nezavisimaya Gazeta published a long article dedicated to principles of the party-building activities of Yury Luzhkov. The paper stresses that Otechestvo is hoping for the support of local authorities, who may elevate its rating on the regional level in the election. However, the paper warns that what Luzhkov considers his chief merit may prove to be his downfall. “Voters are more hostile towards mayors and other bosses, especially when they are promoting somebody. For the majority of the population, Luzhkov is the mayor of the rich capital, which has not gotten closer to the rest of the country even after the August crisis. And therefore he is perceived as a member of the ruling class by the majority of Russians.” Thus, the paper holds that his success in the upcoming parliamentary election is doubtful, and unless he is successful in the parliamentary election there will be no reason for him to count on a victory in the presidential election.

The newspaper Segodnya obtained some fragments of the president’s message to the Federal Assembly in which the President evinces his anxiety about a possible Communist revenge. According to the paper, the president intends to prevent such an event, but plans “to do so honestly, giving Russians the opportunity to defeat the Communists in the elections.” The President holds that the new Duma should consist of “people able to protect the reforms begun eight years ago. We need professionals with patriotic sentiments, but not professional patriots.”

According to the weekly Vek, the Kremlin has more radical ways to pressure the opposition. The Kremlin’s first means of influence is the materials of the investigation of the legality of the CPRF’s activity. According to Vek, it is not difficult to prove that the CPRF violates the Russian law. The CPRF has been ignoring the prohibition against creating primary party organizations at enterprises, as well as the decision of the Constitutional Court on the illegality of regional, municipal, and local party committees for six years. “In case of a serious confrontation with the left opposition, the Kremlin may use this trump. Then what will be left of the party’s organizational structures, of which it is so proud?” The second danger threatening the CPRF is that some Communists may be punished for making chauvinistic statements. Because of this, the CPRF may be forbidden from participating in the parliamentary election, or even declared illegal. “Of course, these are extremes, but the Communists had better keep in mind that their legality is questionable, and the senior authorities simply lack the political will to start the judicial machine.”

Boris Nemtsov, the leader of the movement Young Russia and one of the creators of the Right Cause bloc, expressed his viewpoint on the problem of a possible Communist revenge in his interview to Segodnya. According to Nemtsov, the future of the Communists depends on Primakov’s government. Nemtsov calls Primakov “an import variant of Homo Soveticus” (apparently, it would be more correct to say “an export variant”). According to Nemtsov, Primakov is not the worst candidate for president, “if only because he will stay in power for only four years due to certain well-known circumstances.” But the bad thing about it is that “Primakov does not believe that Russia can become a normal market country, and for all that he equates business with criminals.” Therefore, Nemtsov thinks that Primakov does not have a political future, like his Communist supporters. “It is enough not to hinder the premier currently, to let him and his Communist brigade work for some time in order to eliminate the people’s desire to vote for them. The machine they have started cannot be stopped right now. I would let them work until the parliamentary election and after that weigh the results. In my opinion, the red will lose control over the Duma, and their aggressive aspirations to redistribute powers prove the fact that they are aware of their impending defeat themselves.”

Newspapers are reporting on the prepared changes in the electoral law. A new draft of the law on the basic electoral rights of citizens has been approved by the Duma. Requirements for candidates have been toughened: they will have to present a revenue declaration to the electoral committee, along with information about their criminal records, and are even forbidden to engage in charity during the electoral campaign. According to Segodnya, “The law stipulates much tougher control of the process of voting and seriously complicates the opportunities for falsifications and influence over the results of the elections.” The newspaper notes that, owing to this, the law may be rejected by the Federation Council.

THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION IN THE CENTRAL MEDIA

NG-Stsenarii, a supplement to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, holds that the character and results of the upcoming electoral campaign will depend on how successful the attempts to revive “the party of power”, which disappeared from the Russian political arena when Our Home is Russia lost its political position, will be. The most promising movement that may become the party of power is Luzhkov’s Otechestvo. However, according to NG-Stsenarii, “Federal and regional elites will not join Luzhkov without a benediction from above, especially on the eve of the parliamentary election, when the strategy of regional leaders is not to put all their eggs in one basket.” Traditionally, the impulse to create a political prop for the current regime has been received from the president. However, today, according to the paper, all the aspirations of the Presidential Administration “boil down to protecting some petty parties oriented toward radical democrats which are unable to become real parties of power.” The newspaper is skeptical about the party-building activities of Russia’s Voice, which allegedly intends to organize its participation in the parliamentary election in the same way as regional elections are usually organized, which is counter-productive, according to NG-Stsenarii. On the whole, the party most likely to become the party of power will be one which is led by a prominent political figure. “There is only one such politician on the current political scene: it is Yevgeny Primakov, and all proto-parties of power will aspire to get him as a member.”

Obshchaya Gazeta, on the contrary, holds that the bloc Russia’s Voice is the most promising among the parties entering the electoral race. According to the paper, the independence of the federal authorities is a mere legend cherished by governors. On the other hand, it is very difficult to conceal the Moscow origin of Russia’s Voice: its headquarters is governed by people who participated in Yeltsin’s electoral campaign in 1996. However, Russia’s Voice counts on absorbing part of the personnel of Our home is Russia, including Chernomyrdin and Gazprom, which will evidently relieve them of their financial problems. “To all appearances, the skeptical attitude of the Moscow political establishment towards the governors’ party may prove to be irrelevant.”

Nezavisimaya Gazeta published a long article dedicated to principles of the party-building activities of Yury Luzhkov. The paper stresses that Otechestvo is hoping for the support of local authorities, who may elevate its rating on the regional level in the election. However, the paper warns that what Luzhkov considers his chief merit may prove to be his downfall. “Voters are more hostile towards mayors and other bosses, especially when they are promoting somebody. For the majority of the population, Luzhkov is the mayor of the rich capital, which has not gotten closer to the rest of the country even after the August crisis. And therefore he is perceived as a member of the ruling class by the majority of Russians.” Thus, the paper holds that his success in the upcoming parliamentary election is doubtful, and unless he is successful in the parliamentary election there will be no reason for him to count on a victory in the presidential election.

The newspaper Segodnya obtained some fragments of the president’s message to the Federal Assembly in which the President evinces his anxiety about a possible Communist revenge. According to the paper, the president intends to prevent such an event, but plans “to do so honestly, giving Russians the opportunity to defeat the Communists in the elections.” The President holds that the new Duma should consist of “people able to protect the reforms begun eight years ago. We need professionals with patriotic sentiments, but not professional patriots.”

According to the weekly Vek, the Kremlin has more radical ways to pressure the opposition. The Kremlin’s first means of influence is the materials of the investigation of the legality of the CPRF’s activity. According to Vek, it is not difficult to prove that the CPRF violates the Russian law. The CPRF has been ignoring the prohibition against creating primary party organizations at enterprises, as well as the decision of the Constitutional Court on the illegality of regional, municipal, and local party committees for six years. “In case of a serious confrontation with the left opposition, the Kremlin may use this trump. Then what will be left of the party’s organizational structures, of which it is so proud?” The second danger threatening the CPRF is that some Communists may be punished for making chauvinistic statements. Because of this, the CPRF may be forbidden from participating in the parliamentary election, or even declared illegal. “Of course, these are extremes, but the Communists had better keep in mind that their legality is questionable, and the senior authorities simply lack the political will to start the judicial machine.”

Boris Nemtsov, the leader of the movement Young Russia and one of the creators of the Right Cause bloc, expressed his viewpoint on the problem of a possible Communist revenge in his interview to Segodnya. According to Nemtsov, the future of the Communists depends on Primakov’s government. Nemtsov calls Primakov “an import variant of Homo Soveticus” (apparently, it would be more correct to say “an export variant”). According to Nemtsov, Primakov is not the worst candidate for president, “if only because he will stay in power for only four years due to certain well-known circumstances.” But the bad thing about it is that “Primakov does not believe that Russia can become a normal market country, and for all that he equates business with criminals.” Therefore, Nemtsov thinks that Primakov does not have a political future, like his Communist supporters. “It is enough not to hinder the premier currently, to let him and his Communist brigade work for some time in order to eliminate the people’s desire to vote for them. The machine they have started cannot be stopped right now. I would let them work until the parliamentary election and after that weigh the results. In my opinion, the red will lose control over the Duma, and their aggressive aspirations to redistribute powers prove the fact that they are aware of their impending defeat themselves.”

Newspapers are reporting on the prepared changes in the electoral law. A new draft of the law on the basic electoral rights of citizens has been approved by the Duma. Requirements for candidates have been toughened: they will have to present a revenue declaration to the electoral committee, along with information about their criminal records, and are even forbidden to engage in charity during the electoral campaign. According to Segodnya, “The law stipulates much tougher control of the process of voting and seriously complicates the opportunities for falsifications and influence over the results of the elections.” The newspaper notes that, owing to this, the law may be rejected by the Federation Council.

 

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