Internationalists and patriots will keep political consultants occupied

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The Kommersant newspaper reports that two new party projects, with opposite ideological inclinations, were announced on March 20. Marat Gelman, gallery owner and leader of the International movement, is forming an alliance with the Social Justice Party (SJP) to fight nationalism and xenophobia. Sergei Baburin, leader of the People’s Will party, is forming a nationalist coalition. Experts warn that neither the nationalists nor the internationalists have any chance of being elected to the Duma.

According to Lenta.ru, the launch of the International movement was announced on April 4, 2006 by Social-Democratic Party leader Vladimir Kishenin and a number of lawmakers and public figures – including Oleg Shein and Vladimir Ryzhkov. The new movement declared that its main objective would be to counter neo-fascism and xenophobia.

According to media reports, the idea of establishing a new alliance came from Marat Gelman, who is reviving the International movement.

In an interview with the Vedomosti newspaper, Gelman emphasized how dangerous nationalism can be for present-day Russia: “The authorities are attempting to flirt with nationalism and fight it at the same time. If they decide to arm themselves with nationalism, politicial forces will shift in that direction, and about a quarter of Russian citizens will find themselves in danger. The threat of Russian nationalism at the level of daily life – followed by Tatar nationalism and Bashkir nationalism – should not be underestimated.”

Moreover, Gelman maintains that the rights and interests of Russians abroad – in Georgia or the Baltic states, for example – can be protected effectively only if all ethnic groups in Russia live in peace. “We’ll help these people here, and they’ll help us over there,” said Gelman in an interview with the Vzglyad newspaper.

The SJP, the International movement, and another unspecified “political force” are signing an agreement on March 22 to establish an election bloc called International. Vzglyad reports that the bloc’s participants will promote the “evergreen” idea of “friendship between peoples.”

In an interview with Echo of Moscow Radio, Gelman said that the new party with the working title of International regards “anyone who uses the ‘Russia for Russians’ slogan” as its opponents. In an interview with Vedomosti, Gelman said that this list of opponents includes nationalists like the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI), along with the Communist Party, to some extent, because it is trying to take advantage of nationalist sentiments.

“We need to grab this issue and ensure that our views are taken into account everywhere,” said Gelman in the Vzglyad interview.

He assured Echo of Moscow that he is not and does not plan to be “the public face of this project,” and expressed the hope that the new party “will have some leaders within a month.”

Gelman declined to name any potential International members in his Vedomosti interview. A source in the SJP said that the project might include Communist politician Vasili Shandybin, Labor Russia leader Viktor Anpilov, and Duma member Sergei Glaziev. In summer 2003, before the last Duma election, Gelman worked with Glaziev to establish the Comrade (Tovarishch) movement, which later developed into the Motherland (Rodina) bloc. Earlier, the Regnum news agency reported that popular television host Alexander Lyubimov might become the leader of International.

In an interview with Echo of Moscow, Sergei Glaziev denied having anything to do with the International movement. He said he is aware that the SJP “plans to revive itself,” but he is “not informed” about the details. Glaziev told Vedomosti that he approves of such alliances.

Viktor Anpilov told Vedomosti that his friend Ilya Konstantinov had invited him to attend an expanded meeting of the SJP council and International, but he does not intend to participate: “They’re prioritizing ethnic problems over social problems, but that is not the most important issue in Russia today.” According to the Vzglyad newspaper, Anpilov had been counting on the SJP merging into Just Russia, but after learning that the SJP has no plans for an alliance with Just Russia, Anpilov started calling himself an “external adviser.”

Vedomosti reports that Shandybin also denies participating in the International movement.

Ekspert Online says: “The new pro-Kremlin is multi-purpose: acting as a spoiler for the Communist Party, diluting the audience of nationalists like the DPNI and Dmitri Rogozin, and obstructing Just Russia.” And Gelman’s own motive is to show that his services as a political consultant are in demand as the new election season begins.

Vzglyad reports that Gelman had attempted to get involved with Just Russia as an adviser and consultant, but was rejected. Then the Kremlin took an interest in Gelman’s plan to set up the International movement as a spoiler for Just Russia, a party that annoys Vladislav Surkov, deputy head of the presidential administration.

Ekspert Online goes on to expose International’s real objectives, noting that it is relevant as a means of countering Russian nationalist trends and organizations, which are rapidly becoming politicized and getting out of control. Some lawmakers and other politicians have started associating with the controversial and radical DPNI – including the well-known Dmitri Rogozin, a potential threat to the Kremlin. Nationalist rallies are growing more frequent, and anti-migrant trends are becoming established in the popular mindset. Under the circumstances, there is a need to dilute nationalist tendencies – in the streets, at least. The International movement could perform this task.

Ekspert Online goes on to note that the Communist Party (CPRF) performed fairly well in the March round of regional elections, preventing Just Russia from taking second place overall. The CPRF isn’t giving up. It now intends to diversify its election strategies by taking nationalist sentiments into account. The agenda for the CPRF Central Committee meeting on March 24 includes the “Russian question” – protecting Russian culture, the Russian language, and the social position of Russians. A leftist-nationalist trend in the CPRF is a dangerous mixture that might enable the CPRF to make a political comeback. The Kremlin cannot permit that.

To all appearances, the Internationalist movement will strive to expose and condemn the CPRF’s nationalist trend. If Shandybin and Anpilov (well-known figures among CPRF voters) decide to join International after all, their task may be to encourage the CPRF to remain within the framwork of its traditional internationalism.

CPRF Central Committee Secretary Oleg Kulikov says that the Kremlin is trying to harness two issues – the Russian question and internationalism – in order to cast a broad net for voters. Kulikov also suggests that the Kremlin may be interested in Gelman’s project from the standpoint of fighting the CPRF. In an interview with Vedomosti, Kulikov said: “The CPRF has not abandoned internationalism, but it has also been raising the Russian question: Russians are our country’s main ethnic group, and population decline is an obvious problem.”

Levada Center analyst Alexei Grazhdankin told Vedomosti that if the Kremlin’s attempts to “catch voters” proves unsuccessful, the CPRF might be able to use the Russian question to raise its support rating from 18.5% (in the Levada Center’s latest poll) to 22%.

InDem Foundation analyst Yuri Korgunyuk told Vedomosti that the International movement won’t be able to distinguish itself in the field of fighting nationalism, now that the strong internationalist CPSU is gone.

Political analyst Dmitri Badovsky adds that the International project might be used to counter the DPNI in street protests, but it won’t be a mainstream player in the Duma election campaign. In Badovsky’s view, the idea of internationalism isn’t a strong vote-winner these days.

Ekspert Online stresses that Gelman’s project is essentially process-oriented, not results-oriented. Its priority is to justify its own existence by being in demand for multipurpose application. Ekspert Online says it’s unlikely that any election campaign objectives are being set for Innternational: it will be just another of the projects that arise in the lead-up to elections and provide “seasonal employment” for professional PR consultants and political consultants.

The first big event is planned for May 1, when the Internationalist March is scheduled to take place in Moscow. According to Vzglyad, the organizers hope to attract 50,000 people to this rally.

The other party project announced on March 20 – the People’s Union – brings together a variety of nationalist-patriotic organizations and movements. It has been initiated by the People’s Will party. According to Kommersant, the stated aim of this coalition is to establish a center of patriotic forces which can “lead the people” and ensure “the Russian people’s breakthrough to building a society of justice and order.”

At a congress next Saturday, People’s Will plans to change its name to People’s Union. The People’s Union leadership team will include the leaders of organizations which have signed the “Unification Act.” People’s Will leader Sergei Baburin said: “As yet, we don’t know if we will have one leader or several co-leaders. All proposals will be considered and discussed at the congress.” Baburin made no secret of his new-look party’s intention to compete in the Duma election.

Baburin, a deputy Duma speaker, told Regions.ru: “With the Motherland party’s move to the left and the formation of Just Russia, the patriotic niche is now vacant – not counting the clownish antics of Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The nationalist field is unoccupied, and People’s Union is choosing that field, because United Russia has to be a party with three faces, covering all of society.”

But Baburin is unlikely to succeed in uniting all the patriots. The most broad-based nationalist formation these days is the Congress of Russian Communities (CRC), headed by former Motherland leader Dmitri Rogozin. The CRC includes the notorious DPNI. However, a source close to Rogozin told Kommersant that there’s no question of the CRC forming an alliance with People’s Union, since relations between Rogozin and Baburin (former partners in Motherland) are still tense. “At best, we could coordinate our activities and work on a few joint projects,” said the source.

Valery Khomyakov, director of the Applied and Regional Policy Agency, told LentaKom.ru that Baburin “lacks the resources to create a truly effective political party that might participate in the election process.” Consequently, Khomyakov concludes that “all this is just a public relations project with the aim of getting Baburin recruited into Just Russia or some other party. He’s trying to show that he has something to offer – a viable organization, in his view.”

Stanislav Belkovsky, head of the National Strategy Institute, told Kommersant that neither of these new projects have any chance of making it into the parliament. “The next Duma will have four parties,” said Belkovsky. “The outcome of the March elections have confirmed that structure.” According to Belkovsky, Baburin might act as a spoiler for Just Russia, at best, taking 2-3% of the vote. Belkovsky described the International movement as “an aesthetic project that will last six to eight weeks before its complete unviability becomes obvious.”

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