Cablegate: Party Time: Four Parties Hold Congresses in Moscow

DE RUEHMO #4730/01 2700328
R 270328Z SEP 07




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Party Time: Four Parties Hold Congresses in Moscow

Ref: Moscow 04599

MOSCOW 00004730 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Over the past week, four of the 15 registered political
parties held their national congresses in Moscow to select their
candidates for the December Duma elections. As in any election
campaign they also attempted to engage an in electoral battle with
their rivals. As press reports have noted, the two main leftist
parties -- the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) and
"For a Just Russia" (SR) -- as well as the smaller Union of Rightist
Forces (SPS) have sought to attract a more diverse electorate by
promoting candidates beyond the usual older, male party apparatchiks
that have dominated political life here. The success of any or all
of these parties in attracting voters beyond their core
constituencies could change the shape of the future Duma on the
margins, either by the weaker parties gaining enough support to
cross the 7 percent threshold to be a part of the legislature or by
helping to stop the Kremlin-backed United Russia (YR) from gaining a
majority. END SUMMARY.

The Left

2. (SBU) The most contested political space is on the left, where
the KPRF and SR are positioning themselves to take advantage of a
perceived leftward shift in public attitudes. Neither party produced
the media splash that LDPR's selection of Andrey Lugovoy had
provided a week earlier (REFTEL), but presented well-orchestrated
and largely predictable political theater to bolster their
respective constituencies and attract uncommitted converts.

3. (SBU) The KPRF's congress on 23 September demonstrated the
communists' continuing identity crisis. Is the party to continue as
the inheritor of the "Party of Lenin" and its role as the advocate
for those who have been disadvantaged in the new Russia? Or should
it transform itself into a more modern social democratic party on
the European model with the hope of attracting a younger, more
prosperous electorate? Statements by longstanding chief, Gennadiy
Zyuganov, hewed closer to the former with calls for nationalizing
the strategic sectors of the economy, criticisms of continuing
"counter-revolution," and a call to fight against "bureaucrats,
oligarchs, and bandits." As in the past, there were signs of a
split within the party; Duma deputy Oleg Smolin gave a speech in
which he "presented for discussion" the idea that party could
benefit from a shift in the national mood to the left, especially
among the urban population, intellectuals, and young voters, by
pursuing classic strategies of the European left (albeit with an eye
toward the Russian experience).

3. (SBU) The KPRF's cadre policies also demonstrated tension between
the two approaches. On one hand, the party made much of its
commitment to youth, placing at least six young activists at the top
of regional party lists. Moreover, the party committed itself to
paying special attention to large cities, where the leadership
believes that it can attract more voters. On the other, the top
three of the party list -- longstanding party chairman Genndiy
Zyuganov, Nobel laureate Zhores Alferov, and former presidential
candidate and "unaffiliated" agrarian Nikolay Kharitonov -- and the
heads of the other 79 party lists reflected a traditional reliance
on "seasoned" apparatchiks. The newspaper Gazeta noted that the
average age of the KPRF congress delegate was 59 years.

4. (SBU) For its part, the Kremlin-authorized "For a Fair Russia"
party (SR) used its cadre selections at party congress, also on
September 23, to underscore its commitment to recruiting young,
intellectual voters. As expected, the party leader, Sergey Mironov,
will head the national candidate list, but in a surprise move, the
party selected the leader of its youth wing, Sergey Shergunov, to
serve in its troika. It also selected a former Communist and
currently serving Duma deputy Svetlana GQyacheva. In a calculated
move to raise interest, SR kept observers guessing until the last
moment about the contents of its list.

5. (SBU) SR continued its efforts to claim the mantel of the left
form the Communists. At the conference, it adopted the slogan
"Socialism Version 3.0". Along with a younger candidate in the
national troika, SR hopes to capture young voters who are not
attracted to the Communists. The placement of a former communist
not currently a member of SR in the troika indicates the party will
fight hard for the left-wing vote.

The Right

MOSCOW 00004730 002.2 OF 002

6. (SBU) The parties on the right continued to struggle for
relevance, in part by using the same strategies of the left in
promoting female, young, and intellectual candidates. The Union of
Right Forces (SPS) held its party conference on September 21 and
appointed party leader head, Nikita Belykh, to the top spot on its
national troika. Boris Nemtsov, a long-time party activist, came
out of semi-retirement to take the second spot in the list. In a
surprise move, also apparently calculated to attract women voters,
SPS included Marietta Chudakova as its third member. Chudakova made
a name for herself as a scholar of Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov.

7. (SBU) Perhaps the only surprise from the SPS congress was the
exclusion of Vladimir Ryzhkov, Duma deputy from Altay Kray, from the
party lists. Rumors had suggested that he would be the third member
of the troika for SPS. Press speculation suggests that the Kremlin
objected to his inclusion on SPS's list. In public statements,
however, SPS leaders have strongly asserted that they would not and
did not submit their party lists to the Kremlin for approval.

8. (SBU) The new Kremlin-motivated right-center party, Civic Force
(GS), held its party conference on September 23. It selected its
two main faces, party leader Mikhail Barshchevskiy and his de facto
lieutenant Aleksandr Ryavkin. Viktor Pokhmelkin switched his
allegiance from SR to GS and quickly took the third slot in GS's
national troika. Pokhmelkin moved to SR within the past two weeks.
As a current Duma deputy and leader of a grass-roots drivers'
political association, he brings experience and greater credibility
to the GS ticket.

9. (SBU) COMMENT: This season, a number of candidates have switched
parties in this electoral season. Aleksey Mitrofanov, previously
high in LDPR now heads the SR list in Penza. Numerous other
examples demonstrate the rather fluid divides between the current
parties. Some of the changes appear designed to assure election.
LDPR's success in December and continued existence have been brought
into doubt by recent polling data. Pokhmelkin's dissatisfaction
with SR made his future with that party questionable.

10. (SBU) Despite the looming shadow of the more powerful and
wealthy "party of power," United Russia (YR), the competition for
uncommitted voters who plan to take part in the election will have
an impact on the margins and could mean the difference between
survival in the Duma and political extinction. (Polling by the Fund
for Societal Opinion found that 21% of respondents who planned to
vote in the Duma elections were undecided in mid-September. Nearly
half, 48%, of respondents said they supported YR, 9% the KPRF, 7%
for LDPR, and 6% for SR. On the right, SPS attracted the support of
only 1% of respondents, GS virtually no support.) While everyone
expects United Russia to win the most votes, an active battle to
succeed in Russia's electoral environment appears to have taken
shape and will have an impact on the margins in the character of the
next Duma.


© Scoop Media

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