POST-ELECTION DUMA RESHUFFLING WILL NOT CHANGE RUSSIA’S POLITICAL LANDSCAPE
Publication: Prism Volume: 1 Issue: 25
Post-Election Duma Reshuffling Will Not Change Russia’s Political Landscape
By Andrei Zhukov
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Russia’s electioncampaign for the State Duma is its multitudinous parties. Thereare over three times as many parties participating in this
campaign as in the previous election. Since the Russian SupremeCourt ruled that the Central Election Commission must registerthe election bloc of workers of Russia’s housing directions andcommunal services, the total number of participants in the Dumarace is 43 blocs and associations, compared with 13 in the 1993election.
Most of the blocs participating in this year’s election fall withinfive distinct ideological categories: reformers, right-traditionalists,left-traditionalists, right-centrists and left-centrists. A sixthgroup–the "dark horses"– are those whose politicalplatforms are so amorphous as to make their ideologies unidentifiable.
The following analysis of the outcome of the December 17 electionsis a result of research conducted by the Expert Institute of theRussian Union of Industrialists and Businessmen. But the Institute’sconclusions have been echoed by a number of well-known politiciansfrom across the political spectrum, including State Duma ChairmanIvan Rybkin, Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky and State Duma Legaland Judicial Reform Committee Chairman Vladimir Isakov.
The reformists parties, with 10 distinct groups, are most numerous.This camp includes: Common Cause, Forward, Russia!, Pamfilova-Gurov-Lysenko(the Republican Party), Yabloko, Russia’s Democratic Choice–United Democrats, Economic Freedom Party, the Bloc of 89 (89 regionsof the Russian Federation), Christian-Democratic Union–Christiansof Russia, Boundary Generation, and the Federal-Democratic Movement.These blocs and movements advocate continuation of the reformsand agree that the ultimate goal is the establishment in Russiaof the rule of law and a free market economy. They disagree onlyabout the best means to achieve that goal.
Of these groups, only Yabloko, headed by the popular Grigory Yavlinsky,is certain to exceed the 5 percent threshold, reuirement for partiesto enter the Duma. Yavlinsky expects to receive 10 percent ofthe vote, giving Yabloko about 35 seats in the Duma Accordingto experts, the total size of the democratic bloc in the Dumawill be approximately 50-55 seats.
Ballots will include four associations and blocs of socialistsand communist orientation. These are: the Russian Communist Party,Agrarian Party, Power To The People bloc and Communists–WorkingRussia– For the Soviet Union bloc. These parties share nostalgiafor the past. They disagree only on how far the clock should beturned back — whether to 1917 or to 1982.
The potential electorate of these "traditionalists"is much less divided than that the other groups. A clear leaderin this pack is Zyuganov’s Communist Party of the Russian Federation(KPRF). If the KPRF wins 15-20 percent of the votes it will gain50 seats in the Duma. In the single-member districts, the CommunistParty, together with Anpilov’s Working Russia and Ryzhkov’s PowerTo The People, could gain another 30 seats.
A factor working in favor of the "traditionalists" isthat the Agrarian Party and the KPRF agreed to "share"the single-member districts. Only one candidate from either ofthese parties will run in the single-member districts so thatthe vote is not split. If each partyhad a candidate in one district,the weaker of the two agreed to drop out.
The Agrarians probably will pass the 5% barrier, winning possiblyas many as 35 seats. The left-tradionalists could, therefore,win as many as 120-125 seats in the Duma.
The national-patriots (right-traditionalists) are representedby 6 blocs: the Russian Liberal Democratic Party (headed by VladimirZhirinovsky), Derzhava Social Patriotic Movement (headedby Aleksander Rutskoi), Russia’s National Republican Party, StanislavGovorukhin’s Bloc, Russian All-People Movement and the NationalSalvation Front. All these blocs and movements subscribe to thenationalist motto that "Russia is for the Russians."Each of them advocate the revival of "integral and indivisible"superpower, and promise to save the Motherland from NATO, andthe United States.
In this pack the premier position is occupied by Rutskoi’s Derzhavaand Zhirinovsky’s LDPR. According to some estimates each ofthem has a chance to receive up to 6-8 percent of the vote. Theother parties in this group have little chance of reaching the5 percent threshold.
The center right is comprised of "Russia Is Our Home"(ROH), Party of Russia’s Unity and Accord, Duma-96, Stable Russiaand Transformation of the Motherland. Provisionally. All of thesecan be called "proponents of stability": they maintainthat the reforms are close to completion and stability in thecountry is the now the main priority. Some of them advocate, inaddition to stability, greater independence for the regions. Theseregional proponents–which include the Party of Russia’s Unityand Accord and Transformation of the Motherland– are attemptingto appeal to the separatist moods characteristic of many regionalpolitical leaders, in the hopes of gaining help for their campaignsin the regions (for more on the role of regional politicalleaders in the election process, see Aleksandr Zhukov’s aricle"Regional Governors: The Election’s Wild Cards " PrismNo. 24, November 17, 1995)
The only party of this pack which has a clear chance of surpassingthe 5 percent threshold to enter the Duma is Viktor Chernomyrdin’s"Russia Is Our Home" bloc. President Yeltsin recentlystated at a press conference that between 8 and 12 percent ofthe electorate supports ROH. It is conceivable that ROH couldwin as many as 35 seats from party list voting and up to 30 seatsin the single-member districts.
The center left is represented by Ivan Rybkin’s Bloc, Russia’sWomen, Trade Unions and Industrialists — Labor Union, Social-DemocratsBloc, My Motherland association, Party of Working People’s Self-Government,Congress of Russian Communities and the "For the Motherland!"movement. The left centrists advocate a Western-style social-democraticmodel, with strict government regulation of the economy and protectionof domestic industry. They are moderately critical of the governmentand relatively loyal to the president.
The most popular of these groups is the Congress of Russian Communities(KRO): According to experts, KRO could receive somewhere between7 and 11 percent of the vote. Russia’s Women, according to thePublic Opinion Foundation, can count on 7- 8 percent. Howeverthis is most likely an overly optimistic prediction. The electoralbase for Russia’s Women is in the cities, where the Foundation’spolls were conducted. Thus the rural vote is factored in, thepercentage will drop considerable.
The Black Horses
Another nine election blocs have reached the final stage of theelection race. Their statements and slogans do not reveal theirtrue aims and goals. The list of "dark horses" includesthe Party of Beer Lovers, the Association of Lawyers, Kedr (Cedar)movement, Inter-Ethnic Union, People’s Union, NUR Muslim association,Tikhonov-Tupovel-Tikhonov bloc, and Union of Workers of HousingDirections and Communal Services. It also includes two blocs withvery long names (which are called, informally, "a bloc of38 words" and "a bloc of 30 words"), both of whichwere established by State Duma Deputy Andrei Volkov. The firstof these parties is headed by famous ESP healer Dzhuna Davitashvili,and the second is headed by a famous physician (Valentin Dikul).
All indications are that the majority of these blocs will barelyreach the 5 percent barrier. But these blocs, by detracting supportfrom the recognized "favorites," can dramatically affectthe election outcome.
In summary, who will enter the next Duma? The Center for StrategicAnalysis and Prognosis (headed by Prof. Dmitry Olshanskii) hascompiled a rating list of the election blocs and movements. Whiledrawing up the list, specialists from the center judged each politicalorganization or bloc on the bases of ten parameters (includingthe extent of development of the infrastructure, intellectualpotential, financial resources, access to the mass media, etc).Eventually, the specialists derived a consolidated index. Whenmaking their asssessments specialists from the center used expertestimates, opinion poll results or combined criteria which includedboth objective and subjective components.
The experts noted the following trends in the November ratings:
— The Russian Communist Party is clearly No 1 and continues tooutpace its rivals. Political analysts say the leading positionof the Communists is not so much the result of the strengtheningof their position but of the weakending of other political forces.The fact is that the majority of the election blocs are stillunable to organize an efficient campaign.
— Ivan Rybkin’s bloc continues to lose support. Experts cannotsay for certain that this bloc will not lose yet another of itsconstituent parts. Moreover, the leader of the bloc has registeredas an "independent candidate" in the Voronezh regionsingle-member district. One way or another rumors about the StateDuma chairman shifting to the executive power structures havecirculated for a long time now.
It is interesting that the experts’ ratings closely correllatewith the results of an opinion poll conducted in September bythe All Russian Public Opinion Research Center. The table belowpresents first the experts’ estimate (in points), and the nextfigure (given in brackets) is the percent of the respondents whopledged to support this movement in the elections during the opinionpoll:
1. Russian Communist Party — 7.0 (11%);
2. Yabloko — 6.0 (6%);
3. Congress of Russian Communities — 5.8 (6%);
4. Russia’s Women — 5.7 (4%);
5. Russia Is Our Home — 5.6 (7%);
6. Russian Agrarian Party — 5.4 (3%);
7. LDPR — 5.4 (3%);
8. Party of Working People’s Self-Government — 4.0 (5%);
9. Russia’s Democratic Choice — United Democrats — 3.0 (3%)
10. Forward, Russia! — 2.9 (2%);
11. Ivan Rybkin’s Bloc — 2.8 (1%);
12. Derzhava — 2.7 (2%).
These figures agree with the predictions made by the Russian SecurityCouncil. One of its high ranking officials told me that the RussianCommunist Party will win the most votes, followed by "RussiaIs Our Home" and the Congress of Russian Communities, respectively.The top six will include Yabloko, Russia’s Agrarian Party andone of the democratic associations–either Russia’s DemocraticChoice–United Democrats, or "Forward, Russia!". Accordingto this Russian Security Council official, the executive branchwould never allow the Communists and national patriots to gaintwo thirds of the seats in the Duma.
Obviously there will be no "big winner" in the Decemberelection. The new Duma will be as politically diversified as thatwhich was elected in 1993. According to forecasts, the AgrarianParty could lose up to 20 seats; Russia’s Democratic Choice maylose up to 30 seats; the LDPR could lose as many as 30 seats;and Party of Russia’s Unity and Accord could lose 25 seats. Theseats thus vacated will be taken up by the Communists, RussiaIs Our Home, Congress of Russian Communities, Derzhavaand a number of other associations. Yabloko, on the other hand,will probably slightly increase its representation.
It is also clear that the next Duma will be defined by a decidedlyanti-Yeltsin majority.
This may prove to be more of a problem for Duma speaker Ivan Rybkinand Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin than for the president.Rybkin will lose the post of Duma chairman. And there is a fairchance that the new Duma will be able to garner enough votes topass a vote of "no confidence" in the Chernomyrdin government.
But because the Russian Consitution grants limited power to thelegislative branch, there will be no dramatic changes in Russia.As long as Boris Yeltsin is president, the Duma will not be ableto make any significant alterations to Russia’s government orto its Constitution. That opportunity comes, in theory, only afterthe 1996 presidential elections.
Andrei Zhukov is a correspondent for the Moscow newspaper Obshchayagazeta.