Diagnosis: Insufficiency in Parties
It is nobody’s secret that the present party system of the Russian Federation is in a crisis by now and the search for new political constructions for elections-2003 is becoming of more and more importance.
Currently there are no parties in Russia, which enjoy the real confidence of the citizens. It is significant that in those regions where a combined majority-proportional system was used for the regional elections, the leading positions were occupied by special political constructions developed specifically in those regions. One of the main regularities of all the cases observed in the Russian Federation for the period from 1993 to 2002 is the following: regional elections, even those held by party lists are strongly personified, the role of federal parties in these elections is insignificant. The only exception to the rule is a part of the electorate of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), ready to vote for the communists list in any elections (though for communists as well the presence/absence of an outstanding leader turns out to be an essential factor of success/non-success in local elections). The success of the following purely regional constructions testifies to it quite eloquently: «Kuznetsov, Polozov, Savitsky – together for the future» in Pskov; People’s party of Sovereign Tyva in Tyva; bloc «Za Rodnoy Ural» («For the Native Ural»), «May» and others in Sverdlovskaya oblast; bloc «Nashi» («Our people»), «Za Lebedya» («For Lebed»), «Anatoly Bykov’s bloc», «Severnaya partiya» («North party») in Krasnoyarsk; «Yantarny krai» («Amber land») and others in Kaliningrad. So, branches of federal parties in Sverdlovskaya oblast, except for communists, could never gain over 10 % of votes («Edinstvo» and «Otechestvo» of 2002 do not count – actually it was a new name of the bloc «Nash dom – nash gorod» («Our house – our town») of the Ekaterinburg Mayor Chernetsky). Except for the communists, NDR, or «Nash dom – Rossiya» («Our home is Russia») and Pensioners’ Party were the only ones who managed to overcome the 5% barrier and get their representatives into the Svedlovskaya Oblast Duma. The similar situation happened in Krasnoyarsk where in 2001 elections the top three winners were regional blocs («Our people», «For Lebed», A.Bykov’s bloc), and CPRF and «Unity» balanced near the 10% level. Often enough, even if there is a list linked to some federal party – by the included names, such link turns out to be highly conditional and is in that or another way based on election interests (most often to demonstrate its connection to the authorities and allegedly «Moscow support»). The list of «Unity» in elections-2002 in Pskov which is in no way connected with «Edinaya Rossiya» and the list of «Supporting President» in Kaliningrad which has nothing to do with the President of the Russian Federation are perfect examples and there are many others. Even when a «genuine» (i.e. created with the real consent of Moscow) list is found among the winners, in fact a local list, loosely linked with federal goals and interests, is frequently hidden behind it. Purely ideological organizations, except for CPRF, find themselves on the roadside or beyond its bounds.
An actual destruction and virtualization of regional structures take place – even of the parties, which tried to form a really functioning and active regional network during the 1990s. Thus the Liberal-Democratic Party (LDPR) expanded a broad network all over the country during the 1990s, setting up working offices not only in regional centers but even in rural areas. In this case it is not important whether party activists worked for money or for an idea -– a really functioning network was created. Now we can observe quite the opposite: the activity of LDPR regional offices has considerably fallen: there are neither noisy actions, nor free newspaper distribution, nor participation in regional elections any more, frequently it became impossible to find the local office itself.
Something of the kind is going on with «Yabloko». The party suffers an evident defeat and destruction in the regions traditionally viewed as its solid base: in Karelia (there was a faction in the Legislative Assembly until 2002 and then a complete collapse in 2002), in St. Petersburg, Sverdlovskaya oblast, Komi Republic. A complete degradation and actual disintegration of regional departments happened in Saratov, Nizny Novgorod, Krasnoyarsk, Moscow region and others. The organization’s activity becomes more and more centered. The Union of Right Forces party (SPS) is experiencing a similar trend: the majority of regional branches «pupated» passing to the latent state and obviously are expecting money for a federal campaign. The party shows almost a complete lack of participation in regional elections.
As before, the regional network of CPRF is the most «lively», the most competent and really functioning one. Though in the case of CPRF it is also possible to speak about an obvious weakening of the role of party membership in the regions of the «red belt». The reduction of communists representation in legislative bodies of such «red» regions as Bryansk, Tambov, Smolensk oblasts, and public distancing of many «red» governors from CPRF is traced everywhere.
As to «Edinaya Rossiya», it is a nomenclature formation, just like previous «parties of power» have been, and it takes part in elections most likely as a virtual brand, as a structure capable of effective organizing and holding an election. The reason to say this is in the fact that «Edinaya Rossiya» is not represented in most of the regional legislative bodies, and also the fact of mass «joining» the party by significant amount of government officials and enterprise directors – just like the mass entry of nomenclature to NDR used to be.
The main uniting factor for regional teams is interests of financial and industrial groups, of personal interests, using party brands and seals just for participation in elections and for this reason changing them easily. So participation in regional elections for parties becomes more and more of a mere PR action. In a number of regions local departments some parties have practically turned into election technology or PR-agencies, ready to work for anybody who pays real money.
The situation with the regional parties networks we are currently observing is the result of reduction of weight and authority of political parties at the Federal level with simultaneous increase of the role and authority of a non-partisan President, at the same time ebbing of influence and importance of the State Duma – the only place where parties are represented to a significant degree. As a result the parties do not have power, they did not learn to lobby. Voters are tired of boring brands and politicians: people have long ago understood what «these» are capable of, and there are no new serious electoral suggestions yet. In a word, the system is suffering an obvious crisis and demands renovation – there is a need for new images, strong moves attracting new sections of voters, which are very sensitive to the emptiness of Russian parties in their present state. The turn-out falls, and it becomes more and more difficult to elect new State Duma and to substitute the former deputies with the new-comers. And the party identity turns out to be more an obstacle than an aid to a candidate in election. As soon as the party system begins to «revive», forces really attracting public attention appear, then there will be a motive for significant regional politicians to take part in these structures.
Undoubtedly the main question of the forthcoming elections is what «Putin’s party (parties) will be in 2003 if any. Is Putin’s support equal to that of nomenclature around him? No doubt, it isn’t. There is a considerable amount of non-communist oriented citizens, incited against nomenclature at the same time, who are not interested in voting for a «party of power». It is enough to remember the difference in ratings between the leaving Yeltsin and his young successor. Putin’s election and the raise of «Edinstvo» in 1999 were a result of voting against the elite, anti-nomenclature voting, in some sort it was a no-confidence vote to the previous political elite (as well as voting for a «dark horse» – list of LDPR in 1993). But it is impossible to win like this twice: the life of people did not become considerably better over this time. However «Edinstvo-Edinaya Rossiya» has changed into a nomenclature party, therefore it is not worth expecting a magical success of this party. It is capable of gaining a significant number of votes and nothing more. To some extent people expected a miracle from Putin and «Edinaya Rosssiya» in 1999-2000 but the miracle did not happen. Only a new serious candidate for «a miracle creation» has a chance to convincingly win the new elections. If there is no such a candidate then most likely Putin’s anti-nomenclature supporters (and their part among Putin’s majority is great) either won’t vote at all or will vote for the Left and small Centrist parties. People have the most simple way of actions: to ignore elections which do not propose a suitable alternative.
It is the President’s consolidating role that to a significant degree forms «Putin’s» majority and all the attempts to attach the President to a concrete party will give nothing but narrowing of the field of his political backing. According to polls Putin enjoys the greatest confidence among supporters of all the parties – up to those of «Yabloko» and LDPR. Something of the kind was with N. Kondratenko and other high-rated regional political figures. Thus in 1998 in Krasnodarsky krai Kondratenko got support of both the majority of «Yabloko» voters and those of NDR, not to mention left parties’ supporters.
The new law on political parties is a trap of a certain kind. Cutting down their number will reduce the field for a political maneuver, lowers the possibility of forming new pre-election blocs. All this will first affect the «party of power» in a broad sense – it becomes a hostage of «Edinaya Rossiya» which is losing its authority. There are reasons to suppose that the given law will make for a political diffusion of federal political parties, for them becoming more amorphous. Forcing to increase numbers artificially may lead to the situation, when even «lively» parties just turn into assemblages of chance people and swiftly lose the inner unity and self-identification.
By 20th January 2003 according to the new political parties law 50 political parties have registered, 27 of them have already presented to the Ministry of Justice copies of certificates of registration of regional departments more than in 50% of subjects of the Russian Federation. However, try to find somewhere really functioning regional departments of L. Ubozhko Conservative party, Peace and Unity party, Russian party of stability, conceptual party «Edineniye», Party of life, party «Svoboda i narodovlastie» and other similar formations. It seems that authors of the federal law on political parties either did not know or ignored classical works in this field (M.Duverger, R.Aron, A.Leipchart and others) where basic principles and regularities of party systems are stated, one of which reads: the matter is not in the party dimensions but in the difference of structures.
Parties, which have formed in Russia by the end of 1990s are mainly personnel as a matter of fact. In our opinion, personnel parties are associations of politicians and technologists having for an object to make ready elections, hold them and to maintain contact with candidates, i.e. simply speaking these are technological machines and think tanks. Therefore for a personnel party the number of voters is the only possible measure of party community. As a rule they do not have strictly fixed membership and membership dues. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union ruling till 1991 was a typical mass party with fixed membership and membership dues. The new federal law on political parties makes a provision for creation of mass parties with fixed membership, however none of these parties have a membership fee. Quite evident that it is impossible to create a mass party, membership of which demands paying, under the conditions of present-day Russia. The vitality of such a hybrid, combining elements of essentially different systems, raises serious doubts. Personnel parties make imitate a mass character and as the imitating nature of the mass character is evident then bodies checking up the real party membership appear – a lever of power pressing on parties.
It seems that any strict patterns cannot unite within the bounds of two or even three parties all the variety of Russian regional, clan, socio-class and ethnic interests. Thus, the famous investigator of parties M.Duverger noted that a two-party system is a natural phenomenon as any choice is almost always dualistic. However there is bedding of different dualistic divisions in reality. It is based on the lack of coincidence of different types of dualistic opposites (right-left, nationalists-westernists, town-countryside and so on), and consequently their mutual crossing leads to a multi-party system. The real compatibility of dualisms gives a total number of parties, representing main public interests. Moreover there are both parties of the old dualistic division (communists-non-communists) and of the new one (globalists-anti-globalists and so on) at the same time. The stimulating effect of election legislation of a concrete country leaves its traces on these natural dualisms, and as a result we have one or another party system. At that it is important to note that a party becomes stable if it is either relatively homogeneous or if it has managed to combine skillfully different interests. In the opinion of Duverger, as many other researchers, there are countries where the two-party system is impossible in principle, obviously Russia is among them.
Taking into account the heterogeneity of Putin’s supporters, the basis of Putin’s majority should break up into several forces, more left or more right, or a certain mild construction, which is able to integrate different interests, should be chosen. By the way, «Uruguayan version» could become an interesting mechanism of the consolidation of Putin’s majority. Uruguay is interesting by its original system of presidential election when each of the two main parties – «Blanco» and «Colorado» – is split into factions and each faction nominates its candidate in the first ballot. The candidate from the party «Blanco» that is at the head of the poll gets all the votes given for the candidates of the party «Blanco» factions, the leading candidate from «Colorado» gets all the votes of «Colorado» candidates as well. This system is rather flabby, but it lets unite heterogeneous interests.
«Improving of CPRF» is the most important trend for creation of pro-presidential majority in the State Duma. For Russia CPRF is a «historical» party which is maintained by tradition itself and which many will vote for just because it is CPRF. Since the bulk of voters do not understand divergences between communists, social democrats and socialists, then even a turn of CPRF leaders towards social democracy is unlikely to antagonize a considerable amount of its voters. The matter is not in personalities – it shows in particular that numerous splits in CPRF regional branches and the CPRF group in the State Duma almost do not affect its rating. Any attempt of creation CPRF-2 is doomed to failure. The only real variant is to encourage a drift of its leaders and real representatives in the parliament towards the left center. In a word, everything depends on what hands the party’s brand is in.
Thus the left wing is fully occupied by CPRF. It is reasonable to suppose that a voter of «Edinaya Rossiya» is mostly moderately nationalistic. On the right wing there is already SPS and Yabloko, either the two of them or each taken separately will pass apparently into the new State Duma with the help of oligarchic groups. It turns out that there are two «vacant» niches: ultranationalistic and Centre-Left, i.e. socially orientated non-nomenclatural non-communist or a niche of the party of «social justice», as the sociologist L.Byzov denoted it. If the lack of strong nationalistic-type parties suits «Edinaya Rossiya»(as it together with SPS and Zhirinovsky gets their votes), then the creation of strong moderate left bloc becomes the main question of getting a stable majority by the pro-Presidential forces.
The famous idea of «right and left hand» blocs of Rybkin and Chernomyrdin was not as bad as it used to be considered, it was simply abominably formed as it is impossible to create a party at orders. A similar attempt was made in Nigeria where only two parties were officially permitted but nothing has come out of it. It is necessary to be careful when creating such a party for the authority (the President) was not as a founder of the party but as a power ready to help and support it. It must be not the President’s party but a party-»the President’s partner» supporting all Putin’s actions and opposing everything that «Edinaya Rossiya» has not been able to do. The political force, claiming to be named a Centre-Left party (citizens are afraid of «ism»s and a social-democratic-type party should not necessarily have the word «social democracy» in its name) in the Russian Federation, first of all should be non-engaged, non-connected with negative moments of the government’s activity (a voter will feel a pro-governmental slapstick at once). Secondly its representatives should express the mood of citizens for a renovation of the political elite and the tiredness of the present figures. There is a need for a number of party figures, respected and authoritative in concrete regions – it will be very difficult to achieve a success without the creation of «supporting» regions (e.g. Samarskaya and Nizhegorodskaya oblasts helped to a significant degree the SPS list in 1999). The given party should give if not a social lifting itself then a hope for it to a considerable part of citizens. That is what other parties do not give: it is impossible to make a party career in none of these parties except for CPRF: there are permanent party leaders who consider the party as individual private enterprises and hired technical employees. It is the absence of social lifting that is a nutrient medium for Anpilovists, Limonovists, Barkashovists and other groups. If Yavlinsky was not Yavlinsky, «Yabloko» could become the basis of such a bloc. However it is impossible with the present leader of Yabloko.
What is left? The parties of Seleznev and Mironov are left but they can be rejected at once in view of nomenclature and inadmissibility of their leaders to the intelligentsia. There is Social-Democratic Party (SDPR) of M.Gorbachev, however M.Gorbachev’s presence among the leaders of the party, because of his image, makes the SDPR list hopeless even if there won’t be Gorbachev himself on the list, regional structures of SDPR are in a poor condition. There is the Agrarian party, «Soyuz lyudey za obrazovanie i nauku»(«People Union for education and science») (SLON) of V.Igrunov, the Green Party, O. Shein’s party, the remainings of «Otechestvo» and other smaller parties. All these years the major problem for Centrist-Left spectrum has been its extreme disunity, it may be connected with the fact that it represents the most developed class, naturally it is the most differentiated class which leads to a variety of political positions.
The Agrarian party (APR), which has a neutral or moderate positive image in the eyes of almost all the population, if intensified by other structures could be able to become the most promising among the given Centrist-Left forces. The attraction of young and dynamic Igrunov’s team from SLON which has an active nucleus with an experience in the building of a party (it is Igrunov’s team that has created the regional network of «Yabloko») would be able to improve the evident weakness of Agrarian party management which is alone quite out of the running in these elections. Moreover as a mainly urban party, SLON would be able to provide the agrarians with the support of city dwellers they are short of. The leader of a conditional Centrist-Left bloc does not necessary have to be a very popular figure (not to be odious is more important for him) – the lack of personal fame is more than compensated by federal mass media and Putin’s image support. It would be possible to attract a number of image appealing but «currently ownerless» figures (V.Pyzhkov, S.Glaziev who has ruined his relations with CPRF and so on) to this new bloc. It seems that only the President’s office or somebody from oligarchs who has seriously decided to go into such a project has the strength to gather mixed Centrist-Left groups and organize their joint work.
Thus, there are scenarios of changing the present situation of the evident insufficiency in parties there, the question is whether there will be a serious will to implement them.
Ph.D. in political sciences,
expert of IESD and of International institute
for humanitarian-political studies.
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