Moderate campaign

The Russian parliamentary elections provided few major surprises, but this did not stop some Western media outlets from pretending otherwise. For example, the Evening Standard on December 18 was concerned about the revival of “reds” in Russia. Virtually all polls predicted that the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) would do well.

The results are still preliminary, but it would appear the CPRF is well ahead of all other political forces, polling nearly 22% of the vote in the party list area. This may not seem much, but there were 43 parties and groupings contesting, and as many as seven or eight parties might make it through the 5% threshold.

The CPRF did particularly well in some of the more remote and provincial areas. It polled over 30% of the vote in Bashkortostan, a republic in the Urals, and in Bryansk Region in the western part of European Russia. It is not clear why it did so well in Bashkortostan, but in Bryansk local economic troubles boosted the CPRF vote, according to Radio Russia (December 18). In particular, factory workers there who have not been paid for months voted for the CPRF - and for Zhirinovsky’s far-right Liberal Democratic Party which, gaining the second largest vote, did better than expected. It competed with the CPRF for the protest vote, and it reaped rewards in areas sidelined and impoverished by the ‘free market’.

A rival electoral list - Communists of Russia - also showed its flag. Led by Viktor Anpilov of the Russian Communist Workers’ Party, it is unlikely to make it through the 5% barrier nationally, though it did so in some parts of Siberia. Anpilov failed to win his contest in the Volga river areas. His bloc seems to have been “squeezed” by the CPRF. However, former Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov, standing for the Power to the People bloc, looked set to win a parliamentary seat in the western Russian town of Belgorod.

Interestingly, the CPRF did relatively poorly in Russia’s largest cities - Moscow and St Petersburg. There, the “party of power” Our Home is Russia, and parties taking their ideological cue from the West, did well. As predicted, the CPRF did very well among pensioners and cut far less ice among young people.

CPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov is starting to look like a contender in the presidential elections next summer. He did his best to reassure Western journalists about his moderation and respect for the market. Like other leading CPRF figures, he seems to admire capitalism with a ‘Chinese face’. He was accused of being a “social democrat” by at least one leader of the Communists of Russia bloc. In my view, this is a more accurate appraisal than any attempt to brand him as a purveyor of revolution, red in tooth and claw.

Steve Kay