THE UPCOMING FEDERAL ELECTIONS AS REPORTED BY THE CENTRAL MEDIA
Meanwhile, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes that Luzhkov apparently considered it necessary to “once again demonstrate his solidarity with the working people on the threshold of the election” and remarks that the slogans at the events organized by the CPRF and Otechestvo bore a striking resemblance. The two leaders, Zyuganov and Luzhkov, expressed their satisfaction with the performance of the government and its head, Premier Yevgeny Primakov. The paper says that Luzhkov’s words about the necessity “to stop being led around by the nose” by the IMF, which is deciding “what we should do with our economy” almost completely coincide with one of Zyuganov’s favorite slogans. As for Luzhkov’s demands that those who are guilty for “the lawless and extortionist privatization” be punished, “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” openly states, “If Luzhkov goes on robbing the CPRF of its slogans and ideas in such a brazen manner the Communists will soon find they have nothing to proclaim during the election campaign.” The paper is of the opinion that the resemblance between the political positions of Luzhkov and Zyuganov is growing as the election draws nearer: “Both of them gather people on the same occasions, speak in the same cliches, and are equally sure that only theirs are true people’s parties.”
Itogi weekly also writes about the similarity between the ideas of Otechestvo and the CPRF. However, this publication believes that criticism of Otechestvo for its ideological uncertainty and closeness to the Communists was completely true only during the time of the movement’s first congress. By the time of the second congress in Yaroslavl, it had become clear that the movement’s ideologists had taken the critical remarks into consideration. The necessity to explain to the regional electorate the difference between the leftists (whose positions in the regions are well known and attractive to many) and the latter-day centrists has also contributed to the changes, and the provisions of the movement’s program have been revised, apart from adherence to traditional Russian values and the protection of domestic manufacturers (which has long since been actively supported by the leftists). Otechestvo leaders have stated that they are not planning any radical changes in the political system in Russia, will not encroach on the presidential republic, and are against isolationism and the idea of the exclusiveness of Russia’s geopolitical mission. If Zyuganov calls human rights “liberal-fascist values”, Luzhkov maintains that “Russia and freedom are compatible. This is our national idea.” Such slogans are announced to demonstrate to “the ordinary voter” Otechestvo’s advantages over the Communists and to win over those who are prepared to vote against the leftists “come rain or shine” to Luzhkov’s side. As for the fact that a paternalistic state, of which Luzhkov is a living personification, is categorically incompatible with civic rights and freedoms, this is simply disregarded by the movement, “Itogi” asserts.
Another weekly publication, Kommersant-vlast’, devoted a large amount of space to the composition of Luzhkov’s electoral staff, which comprises such well-known politicians as Vice Speaker of the Duma Artur Chilingarov (chief of staff), head of the Fund for Presidential Programs Yevgeny Savostyanov (“deputy for operative work”), Deputy Chairman of Otechestvo Vyacheslav Volodin (“deputy for support work”), President of the Politika foundation Vyacheslav Nikonov (“reconnaissance chief”), and many others. However, the paper stresses, the deciding vote in the staff belongs to a man who does not hold any official posts in it and is not officially responsible for anything. This man is Vladimir Yevtushenkov, head of the Sistema media corporation, “the Commissar of His Excellency”, as “Kommersant-vlast'” calls him. It is he who decides whether any idea of the staff should be supported or buried by being deprived of funding. So far nobody has contested Yevtushenkov’s leadership in Otechestvo’s election campaign: “There is no one else on Luzhkov’s team who possesses such resources.” Nevertheless, the paper notes that Vladimir Gusinsky, a well-known TV magnate who has of late re-established relations with Luzhkov, might compete with Yevtushenkov. On the other hand, the paper believes that the point of deciding who will supervise the election campaign still lies ahead. Apparently, it will happen no earlier than the middle of summer, and Luzhkov will have the last word. The results may be unexpected: “Recently Luzhkov announced that he is entering a coalition with Mintimer Shaimiev to create an Otechestvo-All Russia bloc without any prior consultations with his colleagues in the movement. This alone may in the long run force him to change both staff and strategy.”
Parlamentskaya Gazeta is of the opinion that the alliance with Shaimiev’s movement has become an important pivoting point for Otechestvo – the movement does not need any allies anymore. Luzhkov’s financial, organizational, ideological, and information resources have been supplemented by a powerful administrative resource “as regards the support of the regional authorities.” In this connection, “the painful necessity of dropping curtseys to Yabloko and the CPRF” has disappeared. The paper asserts that the creation of the Otechestvo-All Russia bloc in fact marked the birth of a new “party of power”, a party of a new type, which, “unlike NDR in 1995”, was created not from above but from below. The paper expresses the opinion that sociologists are exceedingly cautious when predicting that the new bloc will finish only third in the parliamentary election. “Kokoshin, one of Otechestvo’s leaders, has already claimed first place – and, with the aforementioned resources, it is unlikely that he is overestimating the bloc’s capacities.”
Kommersant-daily also appraises the new bloc’s chances as very high. In its opinion, for regional leaders who are determining their positions on the eve of the election, joining Otechestvo directly would mean recognizing the leadership of Luzhkov, who is still not overly loved in the provinces, since many people there believe that “Moscow is growing fat at the expense of the regions.” These very excessive ambitions, although carefully concealed, are causing the governors to regard Konstantin Titov, leader of Voice of Russia bloc, with caution. As for Shaimiev, the head of All Russia, the complete absence of claims for a federal post on his part is in his favor. In addition, his alliance with Luzhkov, as well as the rumors that Primakov may become head of All Russia, suit the majority of governors just fine. On the other hand, regional leaders will make their final choices no earlier than this fall.
Argumenty i Fakty sees the regional blocs as a real alternative to the CPRF, and considers their would-be well-coordinated actions in the parliamentary election to be insurance against “a red revenge”. The paper is of the opinion that the “party of the regions” has the best chances of getting its candidates elected in single-mandate constituencies: “The CPRF is short of eminent figures in constituencies, it is only strong in its party list.” The regional blocs, which, as the majority of media assert, will dictate the results of the upcoming parliamentary election, are pursuing the goal of getting their candidates elected to the Duma, and by doing so “putting an end to intrigues and internecine squabbles over ideology and getting down to formulating an open policy and a real economy.”
Nezavisimaya Gazeta cites completely different reasons for the governors’ intention to found a powerful regional representation in the next Duma. It states that a parliamentary faction lobbying for the common interests of the regions is hardly possible, even in theory, “since these interests are by definition different.” In the paper’s opinion there is only one interest which is shared by all of the regions, namely “to steal the budget blanket”. Some of them (for instance Tatarstan and Bashkiria) manage to do so as it is, without any special lobbying, by transferring relatively small sums to the federal budget. The others are not so lucky – only 10 out of 89 regions are rich enough to “feed” the center, and even they would be only too glad to decline such an “honor”. The remaining 79 regions would not survive without donations from the federal budget, and their interests contradict the aspirations of the ten donating regions. In addition, the paper reminds its readers that all Duma deputies without exception, regardless of their political affiliation, actively lobby for their regions’ interests, and they do not need the support of any faction to do so. “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” thinks that the real sense of the innovations which the governors hope to bring about lies merely in electing deputies who will be totally controlled by them. “Of course, from the viewpoint of any governor, the ideal system would be one in which Duma deputies from his region are appointed by his resolution, but the Federation Council is unlikely to secure such amendments to acting legislation.” That is why the governors were forced to create their own “regional party” and accompany the party’s construction with statements about the necessity to avoid “the hegemony of political parties in the Duma” and “deputies’ support of narrow party interests”. The paper warns that the current political tendencies in the regions will inevitably lead to the creation of a “party of authorities” which will protect “the powers that be from citizens’ discontent, not citizens from the arbitrariness of the powers that be.”
Inostranets weekly warns about another danger which may be caused by the sharp growth in the political activity of regional leaders. The publication is of the opinion that the program theses of the “party of regions” which is currently being formed are too “general and hackneyed” and will not be able to lead the country out of the deadlock in which it has found itself. Regional leaders are playing with fire when they promise to solve their electorates’ problems of unemployment, salary arrears, inflation, and social benefits payments: “The term of the electorate’s credit of trust is short, and the crisis is so deep that it will be impossible to get out of it by sheer acts of will, even on the part of experienced economists.” What is needed are systemic reforms. Meanwhile, “Inostranets” continues, there is a danger that the voters’ credit of trust will be exhausted by the presidential election and then many votes may act according to the principle “half a loaf is better than no bread at all, and Makashov, for lack of a better candidate, is better than no president at all.” In other words, by reducing the danger of “a red revenge” in the parliamentary election, “the party of regions” may well increase it by a hundredfold in the presidential election with its irresponsible statements.
Vremya MN also warns about the possibility of surprises in the election. In addition, it notes that, starting in 1993, practically no elections have happened without surprises. As a rule, the reason has always been the same – the political elite’s inability and unwillingness to understand and take into account the moods of ordinary citizens. The paper characterizes the current situation in this country as “stagnation”: “Currently, the main feeling of ordinary voters is perhaps one of hopelessness connected not with the general situation in this country but rather with the absence of good prospects for any positive changes whatsoever.” In this situation, the paper believes, electoral associations which are so far not regarded as serious forces, first of all radicals – both left-wing (Anpilov’s adherents) and those of the ultra-nationalist orientation (Makashov’s followers) – may get their big break. The paper maintains that if the radicals form a uniform bloc they may not only overcome the 5% barrier in the election but also create a Duma faction of their own. Besides, their expenses would be minimal: their campaign could be paid for by the right-wing forces, which are already prepared to grasp at “the struggle against fascism” as their straw to ensure overcoming the 5% barrier. The leaders of the rightist forces do not realize, the paper notes, that, in the eyes of many voters, they have turned into “marker figures to whom you must listen and then act otherwise.” Therefore, their “struggle against the threat of fascism” will in reality provide the radicals with “the very information resource which they the radicals would have never gotten by themselves.”
Nezavisimaya Gazeta published the results of a study conducted by the Information Sociological Center of the Russian Academy of State Service attached to the Russian president. The study’s goal was to ascertain citizens’ attitudes towards the major institutions of power. The results are stunning, especially as regards the attitude towards President Yeltsin. As it turns out, only 2.2% of respondents fully trust Yeltsin, 18.8% do not trust him completely, and 71% distrust him completely. The people’s trust in Primakov is quite different: 25.8% fully trust him, 44.2% do not trust him completely, and only 14.6% distrust him completely. The paper reports that Primakov has left all other politicians far behind in terms of the sympathies of citizens: in particular, Gennady Seleznev enjoys the trust of 10.2% of respondents, and Yegor Stroev 8.8%. As for electoral preferences, Yabloko holds the first place with 31.8% of votes. Otechestvo is slightly behind with 31.4% of those polled. The CPRF ranks third with 22.1%. The LDPR’s popularity has grown slightly recently, from 9.4% to 10%. NDR is continuing to lose its constituents – its current rating is 5.6% of respondents.
The question of citizens’ social standing produced even more peculiar results. When respondents were asked if they were afraid of losing their property as a result of social cataclysms, the answer “No, for I have nothing to lose” was the most frequent. The paper notes that in fact a revolutionary situation is developing in Russia according to the well-known formula “the people have nothing to lose but their chains.” The paper also points out that the study was conducted by a presidential structure: “In theory, these results should be used by Boris Yeltsin and his team in their tactic and strategic calculations.”