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Cablegate: "For a Just Russia" Positions Self As

VZCZCXRO0517
PP RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #0845/01 0591600
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281600Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7768
INFO RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 1950
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2237
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 3823
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000845

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/RUS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR KDEM SOCI PREL RS
SUBJECT: "FOR A JUST RUSSIA" POSITIONS SELF AS
LEFTIST, OPPOSITION PARTY AS DUMA CAMPAIGN BEGINS


MOSCOW 00000845 001.2 OF 003


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) The second, Kremlin-approved party, "For a
Just Russia (SR)" at its inaugural congress February
24-27 combined left-wing rhetoric, criticism of the
GOR's performance, anger at its treatment in the
regions, and patriotism in a credible effort to
establish itself as an alternative to the governing,
United Russia party. The often-lampooned SR Chairman
Sergey Mironov delivered a keynote speech that hit
all of the right notes. While dampening
expectations for extravagant results in the March 11
regional elections, Mironov predicted that SR would
cross the threshold to representation in each of the
fourteen contests, leaving it positioned to contend
with the reigning party, United Russia, in the all-
important December State Duma elections. End
summary.

----------------------------------
SR: Putin Present at the Creation
----------------------------------

2. (SBU) The second, Kremlin-approved political
party, "For a Just Russia (SR)" staged its first
congress February 24-27 in St. Petersburg. SR was
formed in October 2006 as a result of a merger of
the Russian Party of Pensioners, the Russian Party
of Life, and Rodina political parties. The creation
of SR was welcomed by President Putin who, it was
widely assumed, believed a managed, two-party system
would arrest flagging popular interest in Russia's
overdetermined politics and puncture growing
complacency among politicians ensconced in the
reigning United Russia (YR) political party.

-----------------------------------
Socialist, Communist Internationals
Burnish SR's Leftist Credentials
-----------------------------------

3. (SBU) Congress organizers reported that 299 of
the 328 invited delegates attended the event. (Each
SR delegate allegedly represented about one thousand
party members from 79 regions countrywide. At one
point during the plenary, Mironov claimed that SR
was adding 40 thousand members to its roles each
month.) Also in attendance were observers from
communist and socialist parties worldwide, many of
whom were invited, at the February 26 plenary, to
greet the congress as a way of establishing SR's
left-wing bona fides.

-----------------------
St. Petersburg Governor
Puts Stick in SR Spokes
-----------------------

4. (SBU) SR President and master of ceremonies
Sergey Mironov followed endorsements from the likes
of the communist parties of China, Cuba, and
Transnistria with a message from President Putin
approving the work of SR. Notably absent was an
endorsement from the congress's "host," St.
Petersburg Governor Matvienko. While publicly
distancing herself from both YR and SR, Matvienko
has channeled administrative resources to YR and has
even, observers in St. Petersburg told us, gone so
far as to deny SR representatives access to
theaters, schools, and other venues. Others in St.
Petersburg report that, during the week of February
19, teachers were ordered to meetings where they
were told to vote YR. (One contact told us her
summons was the first such instance since the
collapse of the USSR. Her response, also a relic of
the Soviet era, was to get a pink slip from her
doctor.) Still, Mironov noted in his introductory
remarks that the city government was represented at
the Congress by Deputy Governor Viktor Lobko, whose
uncomfortable-looking face was then flashed briefly
on the television monitors.

---------------------------

MOSCOW 00000845 002.2 OF 003


Congress Themes: Something
For Everyone
---------------------------

5. (SBU) The Congress mixed healthy doses of
patriotism (including two performances of the
national anthem, attacks on Estonia's decision to
remove its Soviet war memorial, and praise for
Putin's Wehrkunde speech), left-wing rhetoric,
schmaltz (boys and girls urging delegates to think
of their future), and criticism of those in power
(Putin excepted). In the audience with the delegates
to rev up the crowd were members of SR's various
youth groups brandishing Russian and party flags.

--------------------
Mironov's Stemwinder
--------------------

6. (SBU) In the plenary's keynote speech, Mironov
sought to position SR as an "action-oriented" party
with a "socialist perspective." A successful SR
would destroy "two monopolies": United Russia's hold
on power and the Communist Party's "right to
represent the interests of workers." SR, Mironov
said, "wants a real, two-party system." He deplored
the elimination of Yabloko from the ballot in St.
Petersburg. That sally, which managed to
simultaneously criticize Matvienko and position SR
to pick up the votes of disgruntled Yabloko voters
in St. Petersburg, won Mironov applause from thuSl~N=T{ed candidly
the problems facing the party. SR was encountering
"problems" in the regions, including difficulty in
winning access to the media, blackmail, and the use
of "dirty tactics." "Many governors are in YR,"
Mironov said. "And we know their relation to us."
After noting sourly that the law gives an advantage
to the incumbent party, Mironov promised delegates
that, once in power, SR would work to eliminate the
legal requirement for registered political parties
to register for each election.

8. (SBU) Also in Mironov's sights was that hardy
perennial, corruption, which must be treated as
"treason." Reform of the courts would be high on
SR's agenda. (Mironov's glancing reference to
corruption was echoed by subsequent speakers.)
Mironov then ticked off the four key economic points
on the SR agenda: a "just" pension, a progressive
tax system, the just use of natural resources, and
fair pay. Mironov promised that teachers and
doctors would receive "all of the benefits of state
employees," and the stabilization fund would be used
to that end. Pensions, Mironov said, should be at
least fifty percent of the median salary. Just as
Russia had paid off its external debt, it must,
Mironov said to applause, liquidate the 1992 voucher
debt to its own citizens. SR, Mironov summed up,
offered a "new socialist perspective" which would
have Russia, "like other rich countries," aid its
citizens through the state sector.

--------------------------
Local SR Chairman Sees
"Fear" Returning to Russia
--------------------------

9. (SBU) Mironov's well-delivered speech was
followed by the reading of congratulatory telegrams
from Accounting Chamber Chairman Sergey Stepashin
and Kamchatka Governor Mashkovtsev (the only
Governor to cast his lot with SR). Nine other
speakers followed Mironov, with remarks by Duma
Deputy Oksana Dmitrieva, actress Rima Markova, and
local SR Chairman Oleg Nilov (St. Petersburgers all)
winning the loudest applause. Dmitrieva, who heads
SR's list in St. Petersburg, concentrated her fire
on the GOR's failed pension reform, substandard
housing programs, and lack of support for small
business.


MOSCOW 00000845 003.2 OF 003


10. (SBU) Nilov's indictment of the status quo was
more sweeping. An almost forgotten sensation,
"fear," he said, was returning to Russia. No member
of the GOR was willing to join SR, and the current
appearance of election legality cloaked the real
state of affairs. Visibly sweating, Nilov asked,
"did we really lose millions of lives (during WWII)
only to again live in fear? We need to return
credibility to the political system. I appeal to
United Russia to join us in this task."

-------
COMMENT
-------

11. (SBU) Although many were prepared to see SR as a
puppet opposition party, Mironov's sense of outrage
at the obstacles encountered by his party in the
regions seemed genuine, as did his efforts to
present SR as an ideological and practical
alternative to YR. In a conversation after the
plenary, delegate Oksana Dmitrieva was at pains to
downplay the left-wing rhetoric that had studded
many of the day's speeches. "They talk, but we're
the ones who will write the legislation," she said,
and insisted that SR would pursue a moderate course
should it win a respectable minority in the Duma.
The chief threat to SR, Dmitrieva said, was not the
left, but those currently in YR who may cast their
lot with SR should it do well enough in the March 11
regional elections. Those opportunists, she
thought, would undercut what she hoped was SR's
sincere intention to address some of the problems
described by speakers during the plenary.

BURNS

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