Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 50

The latest nationwide poll by Yury Levada’s All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) shows that public opinion is still polarized between friends and foes of change — just as it was at the time of the 1996 presidential election. Apathy and disillusion is also a very strong sentiment. This adds an element of unpredictability to the political system. (Moskovsky komsomolets, March 11)

Twenty-two percent of respondents identified themselves with the Communist party, and 15 percent with the Democrats. Fully 42 percent of respondents said that they did not feel any allegiance to a particular political party. This constitutes a huge pool of undecideds who could be mobilized by a charismatic leader of the reform camp (as in 1996), or possibly by one of the opposition groups. If elections to the State Duma were held now, 21 percent said they would vote for the Communists, 11 percent for Grigory Yavlinsky’s Yabloko, 8 percent for Aleksandr Lebed’s Popular-Republican Party, and 7 percent for Viktor Chernomyrdin’s "Russia is Our Home". No other party looks set to score more than the 5 percent threshold required to qualify for seats on the party list. Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party scored a surprisingly low 3.1 percent–though supporters of radical parties are known to hide their true voting intentions in opinion polls. The dismal level of support for pro-reform parties helps explain why Yeltsin officials are repeatedly floating the idea of abolishing party-lists (which account for half the seats) in the next Duma election (1999).

Speculations on Russia’s Next Presidential Run.