The Perils of Party Politics – Just Russia Struggles to Compete

Note: apologies for not posting more often. School and work are taking up all of my time, but I will make an effort to update on a more regular basis

Putin’s goal of creating a reliable two-party system – composed of United Russia and Just Russia – suffered a blow this month. First, a poll conducted a few weeks ago indicated that, if elections were held today, Just Russia wouldn’t even get into the Duma. The poll might have been related to news reports of infighting amongst party leaders over who would be on the regional party lists. In my opinion, however, a few other factors are far more significant in preventing the party from solidifying itself. First, the LDPR, which seemed on the brink of dissolution a month ago, has regained strength. Perhaps most significant in LDPR’s [perhaps temporary] revival was the announcement that Andrei Lugovoi – the primary suspect in the Litvenenko poisoning – would run for the Duma in the second place on the party’s list. According to Gazeta.ru, this immediately raised LDPR’s rating by 4%. Also, the announcement on Lugovoi’s candidacy was made right before the poll that cast doubt on Just Russia’s prospects – I see a correlation here. Gazeta also reported that, according to the Times, Lugovoi was added to the list at Putin’s request. If this is true, it was a big error on Putin’s part because of the detrimental effect it had on Just Russia’s rating.

I think these developments demonstrate that Just Russia is not fulfilling its intended task – stealing voters from the Communists and ending that party as a political force. And this comes to Just Russia’s second major problem – leadership. I think the blame for the party’s woes should fall on the party’s leader, Sergei Mironov. I don’t like Mironov as a party leader for several reasons. First, the political show he hosted on Channel 1 while I studied in Russia was so boring. Second, the guy has way too much facial hair – think for a moment, who was the last Russian [non-Muslim] political leader to have a full beard (not just a mustache)? This anti-beard tendency probably goes all the way back to September 1698, when Peter the Great started taxing beards. The last leader with a beard was Tsar Nicholas II, and we all know what happened to him. The same principle applies to European and American politics (the last US president with a beard was Ulysses S. Grant). If I were Mironov, I would get rid of the beard and mustache, and fast. Lastly, Mironov is always making crazy statements, such as “in 2012, I am sure, we will have to nominate Vladimir Putin again and elect him president.” Perhaps he is trying to demonstrate his party’s loyalty to Putin, but I think United Russia has that market cornered. There are some indications Mironov is changing strategy. For example, at a recent congress, Mironov called on Just Russia to put forward a platform of ‘socialism 3.0’, which is neither the Communism of the Soviet Union nor the social democracy of Western Europe (Sean Guillory discussed what this means here). Social democracy with a Russian face? Sounds like something that Russian voters will go for. Mironov, in addition to shaving the beard, needs to continue this course of distinguishing Just Russia from United Russia and the Communists.

(For Duma election coverage in English, try Russia Profile’s new section, Election Watch. For election coverage in Russian, try Gazeta’s section, Выборы 2007)

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