Oleg Kulikov, secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, recently said in Literaturnaya Gazeta that the lull between elections is over. It would be more correct to say that it never started – the transition from the social crisis linked with monetization of benefits (in society) and painful feelings connected with the color revolutions in the CIS (in government) to the beginning of the new election cycle proved to be absolutely unnoticeable.
Political analysts continue disputing over the prospects of an orange revolution in Russia, and their opinions differ. They agree on only one point. Valery Khomiakov, general director of the National Strategy Council, recently concluded at a political conference at the Rosbalt agency: “Although ‘orange’ attitudes do exist in Russia, they lack a consolidating figure as yet. But such an individual could emerge.” (Quoted in Novye Izvestia.)
Novye Izvestia also states that Dmitri Oreshkin, head of the Mercator Group, questioned the term “orange revolution” as such. In Oreshkin’s view, a revolution is a complete changeover of the ruling elite: new people with a new ideology taking power. But in the three former Soviet republics, “what we have seen is one group of the post-Soviet elite being replaced by another.” Oreshkin cited examples: “In Ukraine, one prime minister battled another. In Kyrgyzstan, a KGB chief replaced the president. And the people played a passive role there.” In Oreshkin’s opinion, the major precondition for “orange” events is the presence of an opposition that’s emerged from the very same post-Soviet elite. Oreshkin said that he can’t see any such group in Russia: “There is no realistic player who might speak out about election fraud and lead the people out onto the streets in protest.” But Oreshkin added that by discrediting the institution of elections as a legitimate means of transferring power, the Russian leadership is systematically setting up the preconditions for an “orange revolution.”
National Bolshevik Party leader Eduard Limonov – present as a de facto revolutionary representative, rather than an expert (as Novye Izvestia says) – maintains that there won’t be an “orange revolution” in Russia. Limonov said: “A revolution entails opposition forces conspiring to lead the masses out onto the streets – using various resources, including money. Certain elements of such a political conspiracy are present in Russia. Some funding of that nature is also available. But the prospect of leading people out onto the streets appears rather problematic to me – even with the help of money.”
Limonov then asked a rhetorical question: “So perhaps what we need isn’t an ‘orange revolution,’ but simply a coup d’etat?”
Political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky maintains that all of the recent revolutions in the former Soviet Union have had an objective historical nature. He explained this as follows: “Except for Russia, all of the other states that took shape on the ruins of the USSR were ad hoc formations, lacking an uninterrupted tradition as nations and states.” Belkovsky reassured his audience by adding: “Russia has a thousand-year tradition of statehood, so an ‘orange revolution’ can’t happen here.”
Vladislav Surkov, deputy head of the Kremlin administration was more cautious in evaluating the situation in an interview with Der Spiegel. When asked if the “potential for revolt” is rising in Russia, Surkov said: “Sure, there will certainly be some attempts to stage a coup – but they will not succeed” (published by Vedomosti).
Vladimir Milov, president of the Institute of the Energy Policy, said in Vewdomosti: “The regime is now openly admitting that political upheavals in Russia are inevitable. So many Russian citizens have relied on Putin’s vaunted “stability” and centralization of political authority as a means of maintaining civic tranquility. As we see now, however, even the Kremlin itself admits that all this is powerless to prevent social cataclysms.”
Milov thinks that the Kremlin has every reason to fear civil unrest: “Now that it controls the media as well as the federal parliament and regional leaders – now that the activities of political parties and electoral rights as such are restricted – many citizens will view any scenario for transferring power in 2008 (whether it’s extending Putin’s term in office or transferring the reins to his successor) as illegitimate. Should something like that happen, citizens are very likely to take to the streets in protest.”
Vladimir Milov warns that the only remedy is to hold absolutely free and fair elections for the president and parliament. This will require lifting state control of television broadcasting and making television airtime accessible for all potential candidates; abolishing the draconian restrictions on the activities of political parties; freedom of assembly and voting rights; a return to popular elections for regional leaders; an end to state persecution of political opponents and widespread use of state administration resources in elections.
However, the author notes that it doesn’t appear that the Kremlin intends to organize such elections. Retaining power (and control over big business) seems more important to our leaders than the administration’s mandate or stability in Russia. Instead of initiating nationalization according to the law, assets are turned over to all sorts of subsidiaries. The Kremlin is doing more than preparing itself for future riots. It is predicting them.
To all appearances, The Moscow territorial court’s decision to ban Limonov’s party should be considered as one of the preventive measures against the impending actions of protest.
The press state that the Kremlin does not like the National Bolshevik Party, Vyacheslav Surkov called them in the interview with Spiegel “a danger, which should not be underrated.” Vasily Yakemenko, leader of Nashi (Our Side), accused Limonov’s supporters of “extraordinary fascism” and immorality in Novaya Gazeta.He said that they “dare to make advances to fascism in the country, which lost 27 million people in the struggle against fascism.” At the same time, he also ranked Grigory Yavlinsky, Irina Khakamada and Garry Kasparov among people who “sympathize with fascism.”
Ilya Yashin, leader of the Yabloko party’s youth wing, said in Vedomosti that “the ban on the National Bolshevik Party’s activities places a political bomb under the situation on the eve of elections” because “any ban causes resistance and increases the degree of radicalism.”
Vremya Novostei states that “the authorities drive young supporters of the left-wing literary man to the underground, thus adding romanticism to their hooliganism.”
From the newspaper’s point of view, it’s as unreasonable as government’s “decision to consider the party’s escapades in the Health Ministry and the Presidential Administration last year as an encroachment on the constitutional regime.” As a result, activists involved in that actions were jailed and became famous throughout Russia.
The new attack on the National Bolshevik Party gave Eduard Limonov an opportunity to compare 2005 with the early 1980s. He immediately said on Echo of Moscow Radio that “for the first time over the past 20 years has government banned a political organization in Russia.”
Sergei Mitrokhin (Yabloko) noted in Vremya Novostei that “this decision is an advantage for the National Bolshevik Party because they become the main characters of publications in the press.” As far as court decisions are concerned, Mitrokhin said that Limonov’s contented look testifies that he does not care about them.
The leader of the banned party said in an interview with Kommersant that government encroached on the Constitution, which guarantees citizens’ political rights. Meanwhile, Maxim Kononenko, the architect of the Vladimir.vladimirovich.ru site, said that the authorities’ clumsy action is a publicity boost for the party, not political death.
Political parties are interested in advertising. Valery Khomiakov said in Literaturnaya Gazeta that the situation in Russia will be very difficult in autumn. It’s not ruled out that the people will protest against the reform of the communal sector, which boosts prices for public utilities. In addition, many people will be displeased by government’s refusal to give free medications to those who need them.
The author noted: “A lot of problems await our citizens in the near future.”
In the meantime, the people are losing their patience.
Profil published the results of a survey by Yury Levada’s center concerning citizens’ view on anti-poverty measures. It turned out that 60% of respondents say that the state should take responsibility for solving this problem, and increase wages of state-sector workers; 14.5% of respondents say that private companies should take responsibility for social support; and 11.4% of respondents say the government should take revenues from the rich and divide them among the poor. Only 8.2% of respondents said that citizens should take care of their own well-being.
Profil reports that the Levada Center concluded that “the feelings of social dependence are very strong in Russia, and 11.4% of the people are extremists who seek to go back to 1917.”
It turns out that the government’s anti-poverty measures (the increase of the budget’s expenditure instead of the creation of new jobs and development of small business) “corresponds to the level of development of Russian society, which dreams of socialism and redistribution of property.”
This means that Russia will remain a left-wing country, and political parties take in consideration this protest potential.
Nevertheless, Valery Khomiakov says that politicians’ activities are aimed at potential sponsors – governors, businessmen and experts – instead of voters.
Political parties become active because they need funds – no one will invest money in passive structures. This is why they seek to show their best sides – “we are strong and serious, and everyone will have to take our opinion in consideration when choosing the 2008 successor.”
As far as voters’ preferences are concerned, Khomiakov noted that “they are not as important as they will on the eve of the parliamentary and presidential elections.”
Dmitri Rogozin, who positions his Motherland (Rodina) party as the main opposition force, tried to reassure businesspeople in an interview with Kommersant-Vlast.
First of all, he focused on the party’s rivals: “I don’t believe that the Communist Party (CPRF) is an opposition force. I’ve listened carefully to everything the Communists say. It’s basically the same speech, made up of several segments. These segments are combined in different ways, and the term ‘anti-people regime’ appears all the time, but nothing is actually done to fight the regime.”
According to Rogozin, the CPRF is too feeble and old; it’s too late to fund Yabloko; and the Union of Right Forces already has a sponsor (RAO Unified Energy Systems).
The conclusion is that only “young predators, striving for a goal and too intelligent and ambitious to be simple puppets in the Kremlin’s hands” can defend the interest of Russian business.
Rogozin warned that the matter does not concern contacts with oligarchs: “You’d have to be completely mad to imagine that Gusinsky and Berezovsky would start funding Motherland.”
Rogozin noted in his interview: “The private sector has realized that when we talk of revising privatization results, we don’t mean privatization in general – we’re only talking about oligarchic privatization. This does not apply to medium-sized companies, or even large companies that people founded with their own labor and intelligence. We are achieving the objective I set six months ago: stop scaring the private sector, and explain that Motherland is prepared to stimulate Russia’s modernization on the basis of business and free enterprise initiative.”
In Rogozin’s opinion, social revolution includes “restoration of Russian consumers’ rights and the policy of protectionism.” To all appearances, part of Russian businessmen, who accumulate hatred to what is happening to the country, will like such Rogozin.
Rogozin noted that “It’s not the hatred of the lumpenproletariat, nor even low-paid workers. It’s the hatred of perfectly successful people who have become very, very tired of the regime and aggressive toward it. This kind of potential for aggression and opposition is growing, and it’s taking radical forms.”
The Motherland leader said that the turn to the opposite direction is inevitable in such circumstances. “New forces, which have waited too long to take part in state decision-making, have to be called upon. And there’s an element of continuity in all this – so there won’t be a revolution or a social explosion.”
Rogozin had this to say about Vladimir Putin’s fate after the 2008 election: “After stepping down, for example, he could become the head of Gazprom – especially since Gazprom has essentially usurped the entire spectrum of hydrocarbon companies. Heading Gazprom in a new capacity would be equivalent to becoming Russia’s new master.”
At any rate, Rogozin does not think Putin would do anything stupid or unconstitutional. He noted: “I’ve spoken to him about this topic on more than one occasion: a change of course isn’t the same as replacing the government; a change of course is necessary for the people. And Motherland is prepared to cooperate with President Putin in this. So far, it’s still prepared to cooperate.”
In order to be heard, Rogozin promises in interviews with different media that his party will have at least 500,000 members by the next elections.
In particular, the Motherland leader told a correspondent of Rossiiskaya Gazeta that “people throughout Russia rush to his party.” Rogozin said that “the people join us” regardless of the latest political speculations (such accusations of anti-Semitism and rumors about the split within the party).
However, Rossiiskaya Gazeta states that Rogozin thanks his opponent: “Bad publicity is still publicity.”
Vasily Yakemenko, leader of the Our Own (Nashi) movement, has his own views on modernization of Russia. He said that the main goal of his movement is to “train a new generation of managers.” Yakemenko said: “Each of our commissars must study at our institute of management. Our Own will have 3,000 nationally-oriented managers in three years, 10,000 in five years, and 100,000 in ten years.”
Yakemenko said that Putin “fails to cope with the situation because there are no fair, professional, socially-oriented officials around him.” This is why the president “has become the hostage of the system of inefficient bureaucracy.” Meanwhile, he noted cautiously that “it’s too early to judge while his term in office continues.”
However, it’s high time for political parties to prepare for the end of his term in office. For instance, they could create shadow structures, which would duplicate the incumbent government bodies in order to be able to replace incumbent officials.
As far as the main objective is concerned, his view resembles Rogozin’s statements: “If Putin steps down, the question of who will govern Russia will be decided democratically. In other words, the organization which proves to be best prepared for that will win.”
It’s a very confident statement – except for the opening words: “If Putin steps down…”