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Cablegate: Communist Party Deputy Chairman Looks to His

VZCZCXRO0444
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #2856/01 3421533
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 081533Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5754
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 3630
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 1802
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2055

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 012856

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/RUS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM RS
SUBJECT: COMMUNIST PARTY DEPUTY CHAIRMAN LOOKS TO HIS
PARTY'S FUTURE

REF: A. (A) MOSCOW 12498

B. (B) YEKATERINBURG 410
C. (C) MOSCOW 12708

MOSCOW 00012856 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary. In a December 6 meeting with EUR/RUS
Director Mary Warlick, Communist Party (KPRF) Deputy Chairman
Ivan Melnikov offered reactions to current domestic political
events that confirmed his rumored social democratic leanings,
and that suggested he was positioning himself to replace KPRF
Chairman Gennadiy Zyuganov should the latter decide to
retire, as rumored, in 2008. Melnikov confirmed that the
KPRF would challenge in court recently-adopted electoral law
amendments. He did not exclude KPRF cooperation with liberal
democratic parties, such as the Union of Right Forces (SPS)
and Yabloko. Melnikov strongly backed fewer restrictions on
internal migration in order to lessen regional economic
disparities. He thought that immigration, on the contrary,
should be strictly controlled. "Other Russia" adherents Garry
Kasparov and journalist Yevgeniya Albats report that Melnikov
heads a KPRF faction interested in edging Chairman Gennadiy
Zyuganov to the exit and pointing the party to a more social
democratic future. End summary.

-----------------------
Election Law Challenges
-----------------------

2. (SBU) Warlick asked about the recent set of electoral law
amendments that abolish the required minimum voter turnout,
allow the removal of candidates from the ballot for
"extremism," and forbid the use of "negative" campaigning
(ref a). Melnikov said his party would challenge the
amendments in the Constitutional Court by the end of January
2007, and maintained the Court would discredit itself if it
did not find some of the amendments unconstitutional.

3. (SBU) The KPRF, said Melnikov, also plans to mount a court
challenge to the practice of using a "locomotive," i.e.,
placing well-known candidates with name recognition at the
head of party lists in regions where it is clear they will
not serve if elected. (In the October 8 Lipetsk regional
elections, Chairman of the Federation Council Sergey Mironov
was on the Party of Life ballot, although it was obvious he
had no plans to be a deputy there.)

--------------------------
Working with Other Parties
--------------------------

4. (SBU) Melnikov contended that the second,
Kremlin-sponsored party, "A Just Russia" had been
"appropriating" many of the KPRF's platform planks, although
none of the Rodina Duma deputies (the only part of the new
party currently represented on the federal level) had voted
for them when earlier proposed by the KPRF. Melnikov
regretted that the Duma had not passed legislation that would
allow voters to recall Duma deputies who did not fulfill
their campaign promises.

5. (SBU) The KPRF has begun to see the value of working with
some of the liberal democratic parties, such as SPS and
Yabloko, said Melnikov. While noting his disagreement with
much that was in their platforms, Melnikov supported lowering
the threshold for representation to allow those parties a
voice. He said that the KPRF often finds itself voting with
the western-oriented parties in the Duma. The SPS's strong
showing in the December 3 Perm by-elections notwithstanding
(ref b), Melnikov thought it would be at least fifteen or
twenty years before liberal democratic parties would find
favor with voters. In the interim, their main goal should be
survival.

----------
The Future
----------

6. (SBU) Melnikov refused to comment on media reports that
KPRF Chairman Gennadiy Zyuganov would for a third time
declare himself a candidate for president. Zyuganov
recognized that he could not go on forever, Melnikov said,
and the KPRF was committed to nurturing younger party
members. The KPRF would devote serious attention to the
matter over the next year, Melnikov said.

7. (SBU) Melnikov joined Ilya Ponomarev of the KPRF's

MOSCOW 00012856 002.2 OF 002


Information Technology Center (ref c) in asserting that the
KPRF is becoming the party of choice among the younger
intelligentsia. In cities, especially in ones where there
are prominent universities, the KPRF was seeing support
increase among younger voters, despite poorer results on
election day. He claimed that some "thinking" people,
disillusioned with the status quo, were voting for the KPRF.

8. (SBU) According to "Other Russia's (OR)" Garry Kasparov
and Ekho Moskvy journalist Yevgeniya Albats, Melnikov is
affiliated with OR, as are other, like-minded members of the
KPRF. Among Melnikov's party allies listed by Kasparov are
Duma Deputy Vladimir Kulikov, Central Committee Presidium
member Boris Kashin, and MGU Political Science Professor
Aleksandr Solovev. All, according to Albats and Kasparov,
are actively engaged in attempting to re-cast the KPRF, but
they face resistance from the party's old guard and elsewhere
on the spectrum from "young radicals" who would like to see
more rapid change, both in the KPRF's platform and in its
personalities.

9. (SBU) Kasparov alleged that ex-Prime Minister Mikhail
Kasyanov had been especially active in establishing contacts
with disenchanted regional KPRF leaderships, who are looking
for alternatives to the status quo. KPRF Chairman Zyuganov,
he said, was well aware of restiveness in the party ranks and
was "maneuvering" to keep it in check. Kasparov described
the KPRF's plans to hold a rally in Moscow on December 10,
Human Rights Day, as an effort by Zyuganov to preempt the
more social-democratically minded in the KPRF rank-and-file
who might be tempted to participate in a OR rally planned for
December 16.

-----
NGOs
-----

10. (SBU) Although he had reservations about some NGO
activity, Melnikov supported foreign pressure to ensure that
foreign NGOs were not unfairly barred from working in Russia
under the new NGO law. While NGOs would likely see little
interference for now, Melnikov cautioned that problems would
start once international attention had shifted elsewhere.

-----------
Immigration
-----------

11. (SBU) While Melnikov said he was disappointed by the
recent deportations and other questionable treatment of
Georgians, he noted that the KPRF opposed policies that would
encourage immigration of those who did not possess needed
skill sets. The KPRF, however, firmly supports relaxing
restrictions on internal migration for Russian citizens as a
way of lessening regional economic disparities. Melnikov
cited Dagestan and Chechnya regions that would benefit from
loosened restrictions on internal movement.

-------
Comment
-------

12. (SBU) Melnikov is a moderate and thoughtful interlocutor,
who shows an opposition party's appreciation for democratic
political processes and who probably recognizes the threat
that the left-leaning "A Just Russia" poses to the KPRF's
weakened position among Russian voters. Melnikov seemed
acutely aware that the KPRF will need to reinvigorate or
reinvent itself to stay competitive. We have yet to see
signs of the growing support among the disillusioned,
educated young that Melnikov suggests are the KPRF's future.
BURNS

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