"HOT POLITICAL SUMMER" BEFORE A "HOT AUTUMN": AN EARLY START TO ELECTION CAMPAIGNING

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Campaigning for the next elections has started – undoubtedly and unnoticeably. No one doubts that this autumn will be “politically hot”; however, no one is greatly concerned about it either. It is revealing that even now, every more or less significant event is considered from the viewpoint of its possible influence on the political layout in the elections. Every topic is explained with the phrase, “If you want to understand what the matter is all about, remember the elections.”

According to the Argumenty i Fakty weekly, the Kremlin has actively started to prepare for the upcoming election campaign and has formed two campaign teams.

Head of the presidential administration Alexander Voloshin is personally in charge of the first campaign team; Vladislav Surkov is responsible for ideology and public relations. St. Petersburger group members Dmitry Medvedev and Dmitry Kozak have also joined them, while tycoons Roman Abramovich and Alexander Mamut will support the campaign team financially. This is the so-called “Family group”.

Voloshin’s deputy Igor Sechin heads the rival “security” campaign team. It is also planned to involve Director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) Nikolai Patrushev in this team’s work. Alexander Zdanovich, formerly a head of an FSB department, is to deal with ideology and public relations. And “Orthodox banker” Sergei Pugachev is to provide financial support.

According to Argumenti I Fakty’s sources, Pugachev’s people are currently working out a new program for Russia’s economic development, the “economic mobilization” program. The rivals have already started competition. In particular, the media referred to the “Family’s” activities in coverage of the sudden appearance in public of former president Boris Yeltsin. Nowadays, Yeltsin keeps far from publicity; so public interest in such an action is understandable.

Professionals involved in politics are even more interested in Boris Yeltsin. As the Moskovskie Novosti paper noted, all who are involved in the process understand that “yesterday’s Kremlin master is a mouthpiece of the present head of state.” It is obvious as it is next to impossible to imagine Yeltsin’s unsanctioned communication with the media, “The informational curtain that separates the first president of Russia from the society is drawn apart strictly in accordance with orders. And only at deliberately chosen time.”

From the standpoint of the paper, this time the reason is evident, “It was necessary to let the society know that the Family is still strong and to make it clear for St. Petersburgers that it will be very difficult to defeat the Moscow clan.”

Therefore, all interested people were demonstrated the balance of forces in the present surrounding of the Kremlin’s master.

Another party is also manifesting its capacity. As the Vedomosti paper informs, at the end of the last week, members of the board of directors of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RUIE) received a letter from member of the Federation Council, Tuva Senator and founder of Mezhprombank Sergei Pugachev. Pugachev wrote, “During my meeting with President Vladimir Putin, the president suggested discussing the ways of possible involvement and legalization of capital of Russian residents that has been taken abroad. If necessary, I am ready to make a legislative initiative as a member of the Federation Council. I believe it is necessary to include this issue on the agenda… Please, prepare your suggestions.”

Vedomosti think there are two significant facts about the aforementioned letter. Firstly, the president and Pugachev held their meeting next day after French Le Monde paper reported that the Nice authorities are inspecting Pugachev’s banking transactions for money laundering. Secondly, before Pugachev has never been an active RUIE member, while now he requires to “prepare suggestions” stating that he acts by “president’s order”.

The Nezavisimaya Gazeta also showed interest in this situation.

According to the paper’s expert, head of the Institute for Political Research Sergei markov, the essence of the event is that “different groupings are trying to win important political positions”. If Pugachev manages to gain control of the urgent issue of returning flown capital to the country, the will receive a “powerful lever for promotion of his political and business interests.”

According to Igor Bunin, head of the Center for Political Consultations, Pugachev has made a number of suggestions to the Russian president. First, it is amnesty of Russian capital in offshore areas; secondly, it is support of the most ambitious innovation projects, which are able to provide for the rapid economic development tempo that Vladimir Putin has been requiring from the Russian government for so long.

At the same time, Pugachev is not alone: he leans back on a group of people, who are to form a “center of economic consultants”.

Valery Fedorov, head of the Center for Political Conjuncture believes that the presidential task that Pugachev has received is a decent answer to the aforementioned accusations.

Fedorov stresses that Pugachev is only a “first of the equal” and any solid businessman could be in his shoes. Now a most important objective is “to increase the economic growth rate and the volume of investments in Russia.” That is why the objective received presidential status, no matter who will have to carry it out.

Another expert of the Nezavisimaya Gazeta paper, author and current affairs TV host Alexei Pushkov, noted concerning Pugachev’s bad reputation, “Who has a good reputation these days?” Pushkov added that President Putin has held personal meetings with Oleg Deripaska, Vagit Alekperov, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Petr Aven. According to expert appraisals, these meetings mean that “the president is extending his hand to business leaders”.

By the way, the radical nationalist Zavtra paper has an explanation of its own for the president’s meetings with tycoons. According to the paper, lately the president has “rarely been cheerful” because meetings with Russian tycoons contained some real shocks for him.

Zavtra’s sources state that businessmen informed Vladimir Putin that he should not rely on their support during the forthcoming elections, as “Yeltsin’s clan is discontent with attitude of the new Kremlin’s leader in relation to proteges of the prior presdent.” First of all, this concerned his attitude to Mikhail Kasianov.

Putin is said to have long prepared an order on dismissal of “Yeltsin’s and Voloshin’s prime minister” and appointment of Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin to his position. The president is doubtful about this; by appointing Kudrin as prime minister, he would be facilitating promotion of Kasianov by tycoons as a candidate in the next presidential election; but on the other hand, he would be depriving himself of reliable financial support. Currently, Kudrin controls many financial currents, which makes it possible to use them during presidential elections campaign. However, if Kudrin is appointed as prime minister, he would lose direct control of financial means and this is likely to lead to unpredictable results….

On the contrary, Novaya Gazeta observer Boris Kagarlitsky believes that the latest events have been signs of intensification of the activities of the “security wing”.

Kagarlitsky writes, “The Kremlin is obviously purging the opposition. It is striking out in different directions; the Obshchaya Gazeta paper has been shut down, the Communists have been deprived of their Duma committees; oppositional regional leaders were given the hint that they should soften their political position, while Novaya Gazeta is facing huge fines.”

Moreover, the purge is being carried out through quite liberal methods: courts punish the media. Nothing threatens the freedom of speech, “Bt now it is necessary to have this freedom controlled and to certain extent.” The authorities allow newspapers stop unnecessary opposition and then it is guaranteed calm life.

The author states that the Communist Party has been given attention only because of its high popularity rating, “If the party grows smaller and loses some of its influence as a result of the Kremlin’s measures, the latter will leave it alone.”

Novaya Gazeta thinks that the new purge is to cease by the winter. “Upon the end of the action, Russia will have a multi-party system and freedom of speech. But all parties and all newspapers are to be strictly controlled.”

Boris Kagarlitsky writes, “The peculiarity of the present KGB state is that old Soviet structures and methods serve to the changed order. Economic power of corporations needs as much protection as privileges of party bureaucracy.”

On the other hand, the efficiency of such methods is very doubtful, as it is impossible to resolve strategic issues, such as economic growth and diminishing of social tension in the country, this way. However, the author notes that security structures do not intend to fulfill these strategic issues, “They are protecting the system as it is.”

Boris Nemtsov, the leader of the Union of Right Forces and a party associate of Anatoly Chubais states in his interview with the Moskovskie Novosti weekly, “Ruled democracy is as disgusting an idea as the police state.” Nemtsov stresses that the power hierarchy created by the president only increased apparatus and added to arbitrariness of Russian officials. However, Nemtsov is convinced that the present head of state is unable to act differently, as “He originates from bureaucratic class, which causes his sacred faith in the power hierarchy, federal districts, purges of the parliament, and dismissing of independent Federation Council.”

The leader of the Union of Right Forces can see two options for further development of events, a favorable and a realistic one. In accordance with this “favorable theory”, ruled democracy and bureaucratic capitalism will wonderfully transform into democratic market country of European-North American type. In accordance with the second option, Russia will move to national socialism. Lately, there have been more than enough signs of such movement.

Nemtsov believes that both ways are equally bad.

Meanwhile, Boris Yeltsin obviously thinks that activities of his successor are to be corrected. The press also states that the first Russian president again yearns for power and he is in good health and is “damned willing to work”.

Observer of the Vremya Novostei paper Leonid Radzikhovsky explains Yeltsin’s interference by the complicated situation with establishment of the Russia-Belarus union. According to him, it was clearly demonstrated to the political society that “wise old Yeltsin is still the guru of the post-Soviet politics and he is responsible for Putin!”

No wonder that Yeltsin’s “Belorussian initiative” caused anger of Vladimir Putin. During the recent traditional summer press conference he returned several times to this topic. However, in the opinion of Vremya Novostei, Putin’s anger should flatter Yeltsin.

Nonetheless, Radzikhovsky thinks that “Putin’s relations with Boris Yeltsin are much more important that his relations with Lukashenko”. The observer believes Putin should have toughly stand his grounds concerning creation of the Russia – Belarus Union, while in fact, Putin states he “is quite independent, he respects Yeltsin but acts as he thinks is better and after this he acts as Yeltsin prompts.”

As Spanish El Pais noted (cited in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta paper), Yeltsin is apparently trying to use Belarus “as a jump-off for returning into big politics”. According to the paper, his first objective is to “head the virtual union between Russia and Belarus, which currently exists only on paper.” Besides, the Spanish paper stresses, Putin is most unlikely to like Yeltsin’s attempts to present Mikhail Kasianov as a possible candidate at the coming presidential elections.

Lately, the press has noted many times that Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov became unusually active from the standpoint of politics. In these terms, the Expert magazine wrote, “Cautious and unhurried, Kasianov has demonstrated over past two years that he is an experienced official, who is able to settle tough inter-clan quarrels within his cabinet, as there is not a single person there, who is not involved in some grouping.”

Besides, the incumbent prime minister is doomed to be in the very center of increasing fights between clans. Deterioration of the situation on the threshold of elections, the winner of which is already known, is easy to explain: the aim of both fighting parties is to become “president’s team”.

Expert notes, that this is the real reason for forming two election campaign teams. However, it is not ruled out that neither of them will win.

It has long been clear that Putin would gladly “get rid of the Kremlin old guard”. On the other hand, the burden of his obligations to the St. Petersburg people is most unlikely to be much lighter.

That is why “lonely Putin”, as western media call him, is trying to find alternative support. According to Expert, in particular, they are a new presidential pro-western course, which is also called a “steep geopolitical turn after September 11”. Therefore, the magazine says, “Putin is trying to mobilize a foreign policy resource, pushing the nation onto a western path of development.”

The magazine states that in his time as president, Putin has become convinced that “it is possible to give the nation a steady development impulse only by breaking the traditional clan structure of the Russian elite.” That is why President Putin is now acting like a progressive entrepreneur: “He takes up western techniques, goes out to western markets, and hires western specialists.”

Evidently, such actions do not make the old Kremlin elite happy, as it is quite content with its status quo: “Besides its powerful economic base, the grouping holds two key positions in government: prime minister and head of the presidential administration.”

It is easy to guess that the prime minister will have to lead the party of irreconcilable opponents of the president, which experts have already called “party of conservation and low growth”. This is the cause of Kasianov’s public polemics with the president concerning economic indices. Hence, Putin is taking a great risk following the pro-western way, “The fight between elites for Putin is likely to become a flight against Putin.”

According to the Kommersant-Vlast magazine, it is no accident that closer to elections, Putin began to construct his own system for political balancing in the country, the system of doubles.

There are two presidential campaign teams. Gennady Seleznev is establishing how own political party to counterbalance the Communist Party. The Kremlin’s election project – the United Russia party – is counterbalanced by the St. Petersburg project of Sergei Mironov, the Party of Life. The Union of Right Forces and the Yabloko party are also to become political twins.

According to Kommersant-Vlast, there are countless examples: the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry; two ‘independent’ television networks. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who is often accused of following Soviet stereotypes and lack of dynamism and flexibility, has two doubles: head of the Duma committee for international affairs Dmitry Rogozin and head of committee for international affairs of the Federation Council Mikhail Margelov.

The magazine has a ready answer to the question why the president needs this: first, with a moratorium on personnel changes, the “system of duplicates” is the only way to force officials to work.

Second, this system provides a perfect opportunity for election maneuvers: in case of a failure, the president has a scapegoat and a substitute.

Overall, the magazine concludes, “everything is in accordance with the logic of an intelligence agent: everyone who has an important task should have a double. However, the duplicate will be necessary only if the agent fails in the operation. Or if he needs to be pulled out, for political reasons.”

However, every rule has an exception: so far Mikhail Kasianov and Vladimir Putin do not have duplicates. Or do they?

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