The Guardian January 26, 2000


New situation follows Russian elections

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) improved its share 
of the vote in last month's Russian parliamentary elections, despite 
widespread manipulation of the ballot and even outright fraud.

The official results credited the CPRF with winning 24.38 per cent of the 
vote (compared with 22.3 per cent in 1995).

Communist leaders say 34 to 36 per cent would be more accurate but with the 
Yeltsin-Putin regime in complete control of the investigative agencies as 
well as the polling administration and the media, there is little if 
anything that can be done about the anomalies.

The Russian electoral system sees half the 450-seat Duma (parliament) 
elected from single seat constituencies (on a first-past-the-post system, 
as in Britain), and half from party lists elected by proportional 
representation.

The CPRF, with 113 elected MPs, is by far the largest party in the Duma. 
The next highest is Unity, the "party" knocked together by Yeltsin and 
Putin on the eve of the election to cash in on Putin's tough line in 
Chechnya.

Unity gained almost as high a vote in the party lists (23.68 per cent) as 
the CPRF, but failed to perform in the single seat constituencies, leaving 
it with only 72 MPs.

The next largest group of MPs are the 66 in the Fatherland-All 

Russia bloc based around former Prime Minister Primakov and the mayor of 
Moscow, Luzhkov. This bloc only got ten per cent of the vote for the party 
lists but scored well in individual electorates.

The election was marked by a myriad of blocs of small (often very small) 
parties and assorted individuals and groups. Talks between the CPRF and 
some of the numerous small communist parties for a united bloc foundered as 
these groups made demands out of all proportion to their tiny following.

In the end, none of the smaller parties succeeded in achieving the five per 
cent vote needed to gain seats in the Duma.

A significant result, which indicates widespread disillusionment with all 
political parties, is that 125 of the MPs elected for the 225 single member 
constituency seats, were slated to be independent.

Unity, the Yeltsin-Putin party, waged a phenomenally expensive campaign 
with almost total mastery of the media and TV time. The Yeltsin forces and 
their neo-capitalist cronies, it must be remembered, have effectively 
emptied the Russian Treasury into their own pockets and robbed the people 
of what was public property.

They can afford to spend up big to retain their lucrative position.

Aware that Communist supporters would hardly fall for their blandishments, 
Unity's campaign was particularly targeted at the Primakov/Luzhkov group 
which occupied a more left-centre position in the political spectrum.

Not long before the elections, Primakov and Luzhkov were riding high in the 
opinion polls and expected to become the dominant party in the Duma.

Putin's Unity successfully cut their support to at least half of its 
original apparent strength.

Other parties which also lost support included the petty-bourgeois party of 
Yavlinsky, the extreme right and nationalist party of Zhirinovsky and the 
"Our Home is Russia" group of Chernomyrdin, a former Yeltsin Prime 
Minister. However, a party calling itself the "Union of Right Forces" 
polled nine per cent of the vote.

Overall a polarisation seems to have taken place with the Communist Party 
of the Russian Federation losing its former majority in the Duma.

In a statement immediately after the poll, Gennadi Zuganov said that the 
CPRF "has played and will play the key role in the political and social 
life of our country. Anti-communist forces in the country were not 
supported, despite the loud rhetoric."

He said that, "the communists had maintained their ideological supremacy in 
Russia because none of the other leading parties had a message for voters."

They "did not answer a single question in any field put forward by the 
electorate, beginning with the economy, social issues, pensions, taxes and 
all the rest. In the future they will have big problems...."

Yeltsin's nominee as President, Vladimir Putin, gained initial popularity 
as a result of his conduct of the war against the Chechen separatists.

In a surprise development, Gennadi Seleznev, the former Speaker of the Duma 
and a leading figure in the Communist Party of the Russian Federation has 
again been elected as Speaker of the Duma as a result of an apparent 
agreement between the CPRF and Putin's Unity. He received 285 votes with 
two against and seven abstentions.

This provoked the Primakov/Luzhkov MPs and those of other smaller parties 
to walk out and to refuse any of the positions offered to them on the 
Duma's 27 working committees.

In an attempt to involve all political groups elected to the Duma, a number 
of deputy chairmen and women have been elected, drawn from all the main 
political groups including those which walked out.

The bourgeois media have reacted by attempting to portray Fatherland-All 
Russia as "the only true competition to the Kremlin" and the vote on the 
Speaker and the various committee positions as a "deal" between Unity and 
the CPRF.

One report even speculated that, in return for the Speaker's position, the 
CPRF might have agreed "not to campaign heavily" in the March Presidential 
elections!

In what is clearly a fluid situation, it remains to be seen what other 
changes flow from the Duma elections and the Presidential election in just 
two months time.

Putin's first act as Acting President was to sign a decree promising 
complete amnesty against prosecution to Yeltsin and his family for their 
crimes against the Russian people.

Yeltsin remains a Presidential advisor and his daughter is part of Putin's 
promotional team.

While millions of Russians live on the potatoes they grow in their 
backyards, Yeltsin and his family are to be allowed to keep their stolen 
millions, their villas and Swiss bank accounts.

An extraordinary Congress of the CPRF held just after the Duma elections 
endorsed the Party's Chairman, Gennadi Zuganov as the Presidential 
candidate of the left-wing "patriotic forces".

The CPRF Congress declared that the CPRF was the only left party capable of 
winning, of uniting the left and centre forces and of steering the country 
onto a new economic and social course.

The CPRF is holding negotiations with other parties and organisations to 
achieve a fully united approach to the Presidential elections, to be held 
on March 26.

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