The State Duma elections ceased to be a significant event in the country already long time ago. Anyway, they draw the attention of those who are interested in political processes and the history of this country. The majority of political analysts and observers assume that the oncoming parliamentary as well as presidential elections won't carry unexpected results. According to them they will be under way in a predictable way in accordance with the scenario written by the Kremlin. The election result will be expressed neither in figures, which particular parties gain, nor in the form of Duma mandates. The result of the elections will represent an ultimate and irreversible arrangement of a new political model in Russia. Russian elections have in fact become not a mechanism for the substitution of political elites but a mechanism guaranteeing the stability of the political system shaped up by the regime of the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
If the presidential elections' task is to secure continuity for the office of the "head of the state”, then the parliamentary elections play the role of a safeguard which sufficiently legitimises the entire political system in the public's eyes.
Simultaneously, the State Duma plays technical part in the affairs of state. As legislative power the Duma keeps on losing its political functions, positions and authority within the public. It has ceased to be the counterbalance to the executive. The existence of Duma, however, is necessary for the preservation of the illusion of democracy in Russia and for the ensuring of legitimate conditions under which the executive as well as the president act.
Quite apparent seems the fact that basic power tools are in the hands of the president and his nearest circles. Nevertheless, authoritarian propensities have been concealed by the existent and formally functioning democratic institutions like, for instance, elections.
In the Russian political system, democratic as well as authoritarian elements have persisted. On the one hand there are the institutions of political elections, opposition, political parties and NGOs and also individual independent media. On the other hand the democratisation processes are on the decline and the influence of central power on the society has expanded without any noticeable resistance of the society itself.
In Russia, democracy does not exist as a value, as a spirit or as a public necessity. It hasn't become the rule of the people and for the people, but a tool by means of which the state authority rules the people. We may say that democratic institutions like, for example, elections serve as a mechanism which secures the persistency of authoritarian system and the efficiency of its impact on the society. "Democracy” enables to rid the system of social and economic burden which would otherwise originate in the case of a perpetual control and the oppression of the society. The assessment of the political system established in Russia and Russian democracy was voiced by the President Putin: "We don't want to contrive a singular Russian democracy. We will stick to the basic principles of democracy which have been established around the world. However, the current democratic institutions and principles in question must at the same time meet the needs of the up-to-date development of the Russian society, our history and our traditions.
And that's nothing unusual. Every single country applies these principles in a distinctive way… However, we will apply the primary principles, fundamental principles in such a form which they have developed in within current civilised societies.” (1)
The process of the utilisation of institutions and values in accordance with the Russian political reality as well as historical principles, or rather, its "realisation” in the public life was dubbed "steered democracy”.
There are several opinions on what "steered democracy” actually means and whether it "is good for Russia or not”. Thus, for instance, one of Russian political observers V. Tretyakov says: "Steered democracy is neither dictatorship nor despotism. It is an authoritarian and proto-democratic type of power which exists in the form of a presidential republic and also in the shape of a nomenclatural and bureaucratic, partially federal and partially semi-democratic state that is strongly corrupted. Is this a good thing or a bad one? It's better than despotism (dictatorship) or even authoritarianism, but worse than an ordinary democracy. Steered democracy represents a democracy (elections, the choice from among several alternatives, the freedom of speech and press, the exchangeability of regime leaders), however, it is revised by the ruling class (or rather, a part of this ruling class which is in power). It is something that we have (in Russia – authorial comment). Meanwhile, there has been a visible breakthrough neither towards despotism nor towards ochlocracy. The transition to the genuine democracy cannot be taken for sure, but the processes have been clearly heading towards it. And there aren't the merest indications of any other development.” (2)
From this point of view steered democracy is a mechanism that facilitates a continual influence of ruling elites which have concentrated fundamental power tools in their hands and affect the decision-making process as well as the procedure of the division of social and economic property in full extent. Concurrently, this "mechanism” enables the restriction of the involvement of other social units in political processes.
Somebody might object that to control the society is inconceivable under the conditions of globalisation and general informatisation. The control of the whole society, however, is not necessary. It only suffices to hold grip on particular components of social system which are decisive as far as its social and political mobilisation is concerned. First and foremost among these are the NGOs and political parties, the media, persons who influence public opinion etc. To what degree the society is controllable hinges not upon the limitation of rights and freedom, but upon the grip on institutions and organisations through which these rights are put into practice.
As far as the opposition is concerned, it has been pushed out of public political scene also by means of fully democratic institutions e.g. elections. Nonetheless, it continues to exist in the society. It confirms thus the existence of political freedoms. The public image of the opposition being outsiders, not capable of doing anything for the country, has been created through propaganda tools. At the same time, pro-governmental political structures, parties and organisations have been developing their activities in terms of the political system. Favourable conditions for the existence as well as career prospects have been established for the members of these blocs like, for example, United Russia. Similar organisations have been gradually acquiring a mass character. They are fully donated and upheld by the state.
Elections are also among important those components of the system of steered democracy which evoke the impression of democracy and freedom themselves. Firstly, such a mechanism allows the option of a limited involvement of the society in political processes. The essence of the limitations consists in the fact that the voting result will be to a certain degree resolved in advance irrespective of the real people's vote. Secondly, the opposition, which will take part in the election campaign, will legitimise the entire process in the public's eyes via its participation and concurrently, opposition parties will "democratically” detach themselves from the political system under the illusion that "the people haven't vote for them”.
Obviously, elections, even the seemingly democratic ones, aren't feasible without the opposition's participation. Within the "steered Russian democracy”, not only does the state authority fight against the real opposition, but it even creates the opposition if necessary. For a long time, the central power in Russia has taken measures so that none of the forces inside the country could endanger it. From among various methods resulting in the enfeeblement of the opposition we may earmark the following ones:
1. The intensification of internal disunity of the opposition. The prevention from the establishment of a united "opposition front” with a joint political leadership. The more "opposition forces” and parties are a part of political life or the more diverse and conflicting the opposition's ideological room is the easier is to cope with it.
2. The expansion of internal conflicts in the opposition bloc and the establishment of conditions for the "de-concentration” of opposition electorate. With this aim it is conceivable to create pseudo-formal or formal opposition parties.
3. The initiation of internal dissensions in the most powerful opposition parties with the aim of achieving its structural weakening and discredit in the eyes of wide public as well as their own electoral college.
4. The provision of materials discrediting the political parties and movements leaders' activities to the media. Accusations of corruption or the acquisition of finances from abroad, party leaders' sexual practices etc. are quite often used to their discredit.
5. A complete discredit of the idea of the opposition activity deeming it unconstructive and anti-Russian and inspired by Russian "enemies”, i.e. the West and oligarchs.
Apart from unofficial methods of opposition liquidation the authority also applies absolutely legal tools for the liquidation of opposition parties and organisations by means of making the legislation as well as the conditions for political parties' existence stricter. Fundamental changes relating to the participation in elections were imposed in 2001 by the Federal Law on Political Parties. According to this law political parties, which have to meet a whole range of requirements like a minimum number of members etc., have become the only kind of public association entitled independently to nominate candidates (lists of candidates) for deputies and for other elective offices in state authority bodies.
According to the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation website there were 35 political parties registered in Russia up till 20th August, 2006, in accordance with the law mentioned. In the period from 2005 to 2006, the Federal Registration Service carried out the pre-registration of political parties. Solely 19 parties got through this procedure up till 26th October, 2006. Due to the failure to meet the provisions of the law according to which a party is not allowed to have less than 50,000 members and 45 regional branches with at least 500 members, 16 organisations have been liquidated in all. They lost the right to participate in elections and were forced to either decide on a voluntary dissolution or transform into social movements (3)
According to the official data submitted by the Justice Ministry of the Russian Federation from 2007 there are just 15 political parties acting in Russia:
1. Democratic Russia
2. all-Russian political party United Russia
3. Russian Political Party of Peace and Unity
4. Communist Party of the Russian Federation
5. Union of Right Forces
6. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia
7. Russian Democratic Party Yabloko
8. Patriots of Russia
9. Russian Ecological Party "Greens”
10. Agrarian Party of Russia
11. People's Union
12. United Socialist Party of Russia
13. all-Russian Party of Social Justice
14. Party of Russia's Rebirth
15. Fair Russia: Motherland / Pensioners / Life (4)
One has to point out that during the process of the liquidation of political parties an intriguing tendency has been shaped up. Some of the "voluntarily dissolved” parties directly integrated into the governmental United Russia party. Thus, for instance, in the end of 2006, the oligarchic United Industrial Party of Russia decided on its dissolution and entered as a whole the United Russia party. Its chairperson Yelena Panina is a State Duma deputy nowadays. The membership of United Russia offers real opportunity to fulfil personal ambitions and become a part of power structures.
The new Federal Law on Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Right of Citizens of the Russian Federation to Participate in a Referendum passed in 2002 defined that a election bloc can be comprised of maximum three members whereas at least one of them must be a political party. In 2003, shortly before the beginning of election campaign, such amendments were included in electoral legislation that further restricted the circle of civil groupings which can join election blocs. These laws presupposed at the same time that after 1st January, 2004, exclusively political parties were allowed to become a part of election blocs. (5)
Yet harder blow to opposition parties was the increase of the threshold necessary to enter the parliament from 5 to 7 per cent.
Amendments to election laws lead to the forcing out of primary democratic parties like Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces from political as well as electoral room. These transformed into "street” parties without the possibility to affect the country's political life in a legal way. This paved the way for the factual monopoly of United Russia in political clash.
The 2003 State Duma elections became significant from this point of view (see chart 1).Chart 1Summary of the 2003 Russian Duma election results
Other opposition democratic parties like, for example, Yabloko, Union of Right Forces (SPS) and Democratic Russia failed to go over the 5 per cent threshold.
Nevertheless, power doesn't wipe out the opposition once and for all. It facilitates the existence of some parties in Duma so that formal requirements emerging from the constitution are fulfilled. "One has to take into account that in accordance with the article 1 and 13 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation democracy, which is based on political plurality and the system of more political parties, emerges from the inevitability of the existence of opposition and does not permit a power monopoly. Therefore, if the threshold is exceeded just by a single election coalition, election bloc, even if it is voted by a majority, it cannot obtain the whole of deputy seats on the federal level, because such a case would be in conflict with the principle of proportional representation in terms of democracy.” (6)
Political parties which obtain the possibility to enter the legislature are either a supplement to United Russia, i.e. Fair Russia, or their activity is thus much odious and contradictory that their influence on the society is rather low (KPRF, LDPR).United Russia – the only party for the entire Russia
Russia has steadily transformed itself into a country where the dominant position has been taken by just a single party, namely, the party of power. This holds true for the United Russia party. The party of power is a concept with two explications that complement each other. On one level it means that a party is in power, but it is generally assumed at the same time that it has been established by state authority and for its own needs. The goal was not to seize power but to maintain it. "We won't surrender the power just so!” These are the words of the Emergency Situations Minister and co-chairperson of the Supreme Council of the United Russia party Sergey Shoigu (7)
United Russia is supported by the state apparatus in every way and vice versa United Russia upholds the state apparatus and is also a part of it. It is a product of the President V. Putin which he confirmed himself: "I was one of the initiators of the establishment of United Russia.” (8)
Thus it has become one of the most crucial "democratic” tools of the political authority over the society as well as state.
In the course of 2007, the party merged with the bureaucratic apparatus in full extent and became a nomenclatural organisation. This altered the formation and functioning principle itself within the centre as well as regions. It is not the elector's vote that is the pivotal factor as far as the power acquisition is concerned, but the party membership. Thus, for example, at the beginning of 2007, 70 out of 99 federal subject representatives joined the party. Anyway, they had already been the heads of federal offices.
One of the pillars, which United Russia relies on, are the financial subsidies flowing on the one hand from federal sources, but on the other hand from nongovernmental sources. It only suffices to take a look at the parties' final accounts in 2006 and compare them. Immediately, it is clear that none of the parties is from the viewpoint of strength able to compare itself with United Russia.
United Russia's official budget amounted to 1.386 billion rubbles (57 million dollars) in 2006, whereas it was the legal entities and not membership fees that accounted for main sources of income. In the same year, the political opponents' budgets amounted to the following sums: Yabloko – 43 million rubbles (approximately 2 million dollars); Union of Right Forces – 35 million rubbles (1,5 million dollars) (9)
Oligarchs represent the nongovernmental sources of income of governmental as well as opposition parties. The difference only consists in the fact that United Russia is funded by "loyal” oligarchs, while opposition parties by "disloyal” ones. This rises to the surface during information wars when United Russia uses this argument in order to reproach opposition parties for being funded this way. This was the case of SPS, which was funded by Mikhail Chodorkovsky, and also Other Russia financed by Boris Berezovsky.
In order to extend its influence on the society the party of power utilises also the social capital, i.e. the opinions of publicly known people. United Russia is supported by popular personalities like, for instance, the director Stanislav Govoruchin, Fiodor Bondarchuk (he is simultaneously the member of the Young Guard council), the singer Oleg Gazmanov, Aleksandr Rosenbaum etc.
The media are among the most important sources for United Russia,. When speaking of pre-election media information room, practically the whole of it is taken up by and subordinated to the political as well as ideological agitation of the United Russia party. According to the Russian centre Mediologija, which conducted a content analysis of TV clips broadcasted in news and political programmes of seven federal TV channels (i.e. Pervyj, RTR, NTV, TVC, Ren TV, RBK TV and 3 Kanal) the political parties' situation looks as following:Chart 2The share of individual political parties in the overall amount of broadcast devoted to political parties in the course of 5th October 2007
Source: CIPKR according to the data from Medialogija analyses and monitoring system of the media. http://www.kprf.ru/
Under the conditions of such general administrative and information support the influence of United Russia on the society has grown even further. Its policy doesn't stir up negative reactions among common Russians as well as the representatives of intellectual and cultural elites the majority of which uphold this party boundlessly. In September 2007, its popularity reached the figure of 55 per cent. The second strongest party was KPRF registering an 18 per cent level of popularity. In 2006, United Russia had 1,096,000 members in all. This fact could also indirectly confirm the party's support among the public. In reality the growth of the number of party members is attained through administrative pressure. It only suffices to say that 58.7 percent out of the overall number of members are civil servants (10)
.Chart 3Social structure of the United Russia membership
The important thing is that the information war against political opponents of the party is often waged by means of the most brutal methods. The stereotypical image of the opposition being a group of losers and rabble is instilled into the public awareness. Any kind of public protest against Putin or criticism about him is interpreted as anti-Russian and a sign of enmity towards the Russian nation. As a simple example may serve the quotation from the publication placed on the official website of the Young Guard organisation, i.e. United Russia's youth wing: "At present, Other Russia, a coalition of "non-system opposition", has been formed against the Putin course oriented at the building of a strong democratic state. Those who want to rid Russia of independence (the liberals and orangists) as well as those who want to deprive the people of liberty (fascist of any kind, Nazis and extreme communists) have been united inside this coalition. In Russian language, there is a splendid expression referring to the name of the coalitions of similar kind, namely, rabble (Russian sbrod – translator's annotation).” (11)
This happens regardless of the fact that Other Russia is upheld not only by politicians, but also by well-known human rights activists like, for instance, Lyudmila Alekseyeva who was the leader of the Moscow Helsinki Group for several year and fought against the Soviet totalitarianism all her life.
Similar steps testify to the low level of the political culture of ruling elite which aim is not just to discredit the opposition in a usual way, but also to shape up a subjective view on political reality among the people, particularly the youth, and to divide the society into "our people” and "alien people”. Opposition as a social and political phenomenon in Russia begins to be perceived not as a unit of political system which balances it, but as a counter-element struggling for its destruction. Radicalisation and sparking conflicts within the entire social system, which emerge from the confrontation between the opposition and the state authority, may subsequently lead to a deep political crisis and the disintegration of the system itself.
This won't happen unless the state system is based on hard centralisation and administrative regulations. As the events of the last years prove, there are three main pillars of political power in Russia:
- the United Russia party
- Federal Security Service (FSB) and other Russian special services
- the head of the state (the president)
Although there is a certain political autonomy inside the society, it isn't vast enough so that it is able to guarantee the stability of state institutions in the case of the weakening of central power. This is the reason due to which political crisis in Russia may result in a partial or full-scale disintegration of the state.Opposition inside the power
In the whole election game, opposition plays the role either of an observer or of a puppet, or rather, a spectre of something evil for citizens. In reality, it has still less options and mechanisms to affect political processes in the country and gradually loses its members and adherents. Even the pseudo-opposition Liberal Democratic Party of Russia has suffered considerable loss accompanied by scandalous revelations recently. Thus, for instance, quite unexpected was the departure of Aleksey Mitrofanov who was the second highest representative of LDPR. According to the party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky the primary cause of Mitrofanov's departure was a commercial one: "Mitrofanov is a solvent person. He pledged the party financial support that amounts to 2 million euro, but he didn't want to pay the money.” (12)
Yet before, other central figures abandoned the party, namely Oleg Malyshkin and Sulejman Kerimov. The person mentioned as last is a Russian billionaire who joined United Russia faction immediately after his departure from LDPR.
The shakeout which hit the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia wasn't accidental and was linked particularly with the fact that it takes up ideological room for the support of which United Russia applies. It cannot be ruled out that in the not-too-distant future this party will be liquidated and V. Zhirinovsky will retire from the political firmament.
By playing democracy the state authority wants to diminish potential risks emerging from the circles of civil society and to prevent any kind of possible social protests and revolutions. The well-known fact is that social protests are stirred up by opposition parties which thus strive to consolidate the society in order to achieve common goals. Anyway, the parties have step by step transformed themselves into closed groups torn from wide social classes. Moreover, the society understands only with difficulty which parties are opposition ones and which are not.
Opposition parties, or rather, opposition political forces which joined the election battle in Russia are to be divided into three categories:
1. Democratic and radical opposition (non-system opposition) – SPS, Democratic Party, Yabloko, United Civic Forum, National Bolshevik Party
2. Odious opposition – Communist Party of the Russian Federation
3. Pseudo-opposition parties (system opposition) – LDPR, coalition Fair Russia / Motherland / Pensioners / LifeNon-system opposition
The given term has several meanings that complement each other. It depends on the character of the situation which has arisen in Russia. Among these meanings are:
a) political organisations and parties which don't act inside the political system, because they haven't got into legislatures or executive bodies
b) parties and organisations which advocate irreconcilable attitude to the existent political regime with the aim of undertaking an fundamental or partial change
c) parties and organisations excluded from the system by the authority itself owing to their lack of interest in political compromise
Extraordinary attention during the process of the defining of "non-systemic opposition is to be paid to the fact that those parties and organisations that didn't originate on the basis of direct or indirect initiative, or rather, the support of state authority bodies. They are neither steered nor controlled by it and that's why they represent peril to the ruling elites from this point of view.
The democratic camp, or rather, non-system opposition consists of the most familiar parties like the Union of Right Forces, Yabloko and Democratic Russia which have assumed liberal-democratic positions. Irrespective of close political and economic programmes as well as joint democratic values the leaders of these parties aren't capable of finding liaisons and therefore these organisations are very weakened and splintered nowadays. In addition to this, there are still scandals and dissensions under way within their structures. That terribly impinges upon their image. It cannot be ruled out, with regard to the oncoming elections above all, that the conflicts mentioned could have been induced by the power so that it achieves full discredit on democratic parties and elections.
All attempts to establish a united coalition of democratic parties, even when directly facing the threat of losing parliamentary representation, have failed so far. In this year's election campaign democratic parties have been waging first and foremost a clash between one another and concurrently, they claim an exclusive representation of the democratic movement in Russia. Efforts to hold a meeting at the negotiating table concluded with mutual accusations and public criticism. "We assume that if we want to talk about democratic opposition, there is only one possibility left, namely the Yabloko party,” said the Chairperson of this party Yavlinsky when commenting the statements made by the SPS political council member Boris Nemcov. At the Interfax agency press conference, Nemcov stated that "the Jews are sure to agree with the Arabs sooner than we are with Yavlinsky.” (13)
Another instance of mutual mistrust and blatant enmity are the relations between the Other Russia opposition coalition and other liberal opposition blocs SPS and Yabloko. The parties in question rejected to take part in Other Russia's all-Russian forum in July 2007, which they explained by the participation of nationalist and extremist organisations in this event. The Other Russia bloc looks really dubiously and can hardly evoke affections among larger part of Russia's population despite subscribing to the principles of democracy and liberty. The main cause is the active involvement of odious organisations as well as Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party, the Working Russia party headed by Viktor Anpilov and the radical-communist Vanguard of Red Youth (AKM). Nonetheless, at the Other Russia regional conference in September 2007 in Moscow, the movement's candidate list to the State Duma was endorsed. Out of 17 people on the list there are 9 "nacbols” (the members of National Bolshevik Party), one representative of AKM and 7 members of the United Civil Front (OGF) lead by Garry Kasparov (14)
On the one hand, it's just natural that parties, which have only a little common with democratic values and have scandalous reputation, cannot represent the centre of integration of the entire democratic opposition. On the other hand G. Kasparov, who perceives himself the leader of democratic community, publicly accused SPS and Yabloko of the collaboration with state authority. "The opposition is not split,” he maintained. "The opposition is here and those who haven't come amount not to the opposition even if they would name themselves that way. Those who label themselves as the opposition are in fact financed by the Kremlin.” (15)
The registration of the Other Russia bloc as well as its participation in elections was refused on 12th October 2007. The Chair of the Central Election Commission Vladimir Churov claims in his official statement addressed to the leaders of Other Russia G. Kasparov and E. Limonov that solely those political parties, which are legally entitled to participate in the elections, are allowed to draw up lists of candidates. He further claims that "the organisation proposed by you is not contained in the Federal Registration Service list addressed to the Central Election Commission on 5th September.” (16)
Efforts to establish a united opposition front will be hardly rounded off. Without the possibility of legal participation in political processes Other Russia won't be capable of "gluing” ideologically completely conflicting organisations together any longer and will vanish from Russian political scene. To the contrary, these conflicts and dissensions are successfully abused by the state authority showing simultaneously to the public that the opposition is in reality not a political power and that it is corrupted in full scale, extinct, weak and in pursuit of their own corporate aims. In its context United Russia is depicted as a serious coalition representing the interests of the whole of society.Odious opposition
Above all the Communist Party of the Russian federation is among further opposition players that were labelled as "odious opposition”. Its oddity consists in the fact that this party was the exclusive political power in the country throughout last decades. Nowadays, owing to political transformation it has found itself in opposition. The existence of KPRF along with the relatively high support of this party among the public (i.e. 17 – 18 per cent) is prerequisite for current state authority from certain point of view.
KPFR is the direct successor of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (KSSZ), i.e. it represents even grater danger than the system established by Putin. Modern communists are used as "political scarecrow” for that part of the society which remains sceptical about V. Putin's rule. The primary purpose of this idea is that communism equals to the "political evil”. From this emerges that "its return cannot be permitted by any means,” even at the cost of tolerating Putin's government. Under Putin's rule, there is at least an illusion of political freedom and economic liberalism, i.e. he stands for the "lesser evil”.
One has to point out that communists themselves don't strive to change their programme principles. Some of these principles still remind of Bolshevik slogans on the eve of the 1917 revolution:
· it is necessary to: take the lead of the growing public resistance to the forceful capitalisation of the country;
· rid the mafia-like and comprador bourgeoisie, ordain the authority of working and patriotic forces;
· preserve Russian state integrity, build a restored Union of Soviet Nations, secure the national unity of Russian nation;
· strengthen the political and economic independence of the Union and restore its traditional interests and position in the world;
· take immediate measures in order to weather economic crisis via state regulation of economic life (17)
It is obvious that the progressively oriented part of the population will hardly support the conservative and reactionary demands of the communists.
Russian society has thus found itself in a kind of peculiar political vacuum. Democratic opposition doesn't exist as a structured and organised political force any more. Under these circumstances the exclusive power, which the voters can consolidate around, is the United Russia party. Also those who disapprove of such an option have to reconcile themselves to it.System opposition
The notion "system opposition” is as multi-semantic as the definition of "non-system opposition”. The most pertinent characteristics will be the following ones: To the system opposition belong organisations, or rather, parties which were established inside the existent system of state authority, are partially integrated into it and upheld by it in full extent, i.e. they are under the control of state authority institutions. They also fulfil concrete political functions in terms of the society. Such a system opposition is for instance LDPR along with the Fair Russia / Pensioners / Motherland / Life coalition. The tasks of the system opposition are following:
1. To blur the contents of the notions "opposition” and "democracy”; the formation of persistent unfavourable attitude to opposition leaders; to fatigue the citizens by "political masquerade” in order to strengthen subsequently their conviction that democratic institutions are inefficient and that mighty authority must be established.
2. The obtaining of traditional electorate of non-system opposition and the deformation of the system of political ideologies and values within the society which the public could take a fancy to. Thus, for instance, LDPR promoted itself to be a liberal party despite not being that way. Zhirinovsky as its leader used always to behave as the representative of power superpatriotism and anti-democratic forces which finally discredited the idea of liberal democracy. Fair Russia acts within the room of parties subscribing to socialist ideology and primarily enfeebles communists. Owing to the fact that social democratic ideology remains in its essence the closest one to the Russian society and may become an alternative to liberalism, state authority can ill afford the occurrence of a mighty political party in this room.
3. To evoke the feeling of civil helplessness. Parties comprising system opposition don't hide that they were established with the assistance of central authority and they don't intend to oppose it. Such a situation creates a conviction among the citizens that opposition itself doesn't exist in fact and that instead of it there are various organisations representing the political shade of omnipresent central power. Under these circumstances political involvement as well as the membership of diverse parties doesn't make sense.
4. The upper hand over the media. The leaders of parties like LDPR and Fair Russia are permanently present in news programmes and in live broadcast of large TV companies. As a general rule, they get into the television because of unceasing scandals and in this way they produce a political show. The side effect is that they create the illusion of the freedom of speech and democracy, anyway, they diminish serious opposition leaders and severe social problems which the authority has failed to cope with. For example, in the end of September 2007, the most frequently mentioned politicians in Russian media were Sergey Mironov (1,134 times) V. Zhirinovsky (891 times), Gennady Zyuganov (692 times) and Boris Gryzlov (679). (18)
As mentioned above, one of the most flagrant instances of system opposition is the political party Fair Russia / Pensioners / Motherland / Life. Its leader is the Chairperson of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly Sergey Mironov.
In order to get real image of the entire party it only suffices to take a look at the concise career report of this politician. Sergey Mironov – the Chairperson of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly. In 2007, he was elected this office for the third consecutive tenure. He is the Chairperson of the Fair Russia party and in the past, he was the head of Russian Party of Life. Since 2002, he has been the member of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. He comes from St. Petersburg. He held the office of the Chairperson of the St. Petersbourg Legislative Assembly form April to December 1998. In December 1998, he was re-elected deputy and became the coordinator of the Legality faction. In June 2000, he was elected vice-Chairperson of St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly. He has known Vladimir Putin since 1994. During the election campaign in winter 2000, he was the leader of an initiative group which was proposing Putin for a presidential candidate (19)
In 2006, the decision on the establishment of the Fair Russia political party was adopted. As some Russian analysts state, the party was established at the Kremlin's direct command so that there was the formal political counterbalance to United Russia. In March 2006, Vladislav Surkov, the deputy of the Chair of Presidential Administrative, met the leadership of the Russian Party of Life. The party's central aims were discussed in the course of negotiations. Surkov said that "relying on a single party, the Kremlin looked as if it was standing on one leg, therefore it needs its second, left leg.” (20)
Even the leaders of Fair Russia don't conceal this fact. "We have defined our opposition character throughout,” maintained one of the top representatives of the party Aleksandr Terentev. "The condition, our people have found themselves at present, pensioners and veterans in particular, is the fruit of their laws (Fair Russia's laws – authorial comment). Nowadays, the most important thing for United Russia is to say that we are the party of power as well. However, it isn't so. We bear no relation to them. The fact that Putin participated in the establishment of Fair Russia is overt and everyone knows it. He invited to Sochi the leaders of three parties and it was exactly him who commenced this process. However, he said at the same time that the party originated in order to secure that United Russia is not bored.” (21)Russian party system
Thus, a "two-party system of one party” composed of United Russia and Fair Russia has gradually originated in Russia. Irrespective of formal ideological discrepancies and mutual criticism these parties complement each other and their task is to uphold central power headed by the president. The President Putin's words prove the fact these parties didn't originate on the basis of political preferences or the people's interests, but they represent just a tool of political rule. The president defines their ideological orientation: "I see the difference between them in the fact that on one level United Russia represents rather a more rightist liberal centre, at least as regards the viewpoint of pursuing economic policy. On another level Fair Russia is obviously a party which completely reminds of socialist, or rather, social-democratic orientation considering its practices. However, it might not be thus much distinct, similarly to the rightist-liberal orientation of United Russia which isn't clearly detectable as well (22)
Political initiative is thus vested in governmental elites and all party configurations only underscore its status. "Ideological pluralism” may enable the ruling elite to hold full grip on electoral room and the spheres of public policy. No matter who the electors vote for, they are sure to support the authority!
The oncoming State Duma elections will not be an event that has the potential to change current situation in the country and animate political processes. Most probably parties, which could represent political and ideological competition for the existing system, won't get into the Duma. Preliminary sociologic research just confirms this fact:Chart 4Which party would you vote if the parliamentary elections were held the next Sunday?Source:
The Sociological Centre of the Russian Academy of State Services (RAGS) at the President of the Russian Federation. RIA Novosti, 31st July, 2007.
The remaining parties like Yabloko, Agrarian Party of Russia and SPS would gain less than 2 per cent of votes. A small group of respondents (1.6 per cent) stated that they will vote "another party”.Conclusion
Political situation in Russia as a whole confirms again that the state is on the road to political reaction the essence of which is the de-democratisation of the society and the establishment of autocratic political regime. Civil institutions, opposition political parties and non-governmental organisations aren't capable of facing the increasing pressure of the state and are more and more isolated form the society. The social as well as political degradation of opposition parties will continue in Russia. They have become political outsiders. Their voice will be heard only in the West.
The Russian society will gradually deteriorate into political apathy and will transform itself into a kind of "social material” suitable for manipulation and other political experiments, i.e. for playing "steered democracy”. Elections as well as other mechanisms by means of which the society could affect the process of the recruitment of ruling elites and the making of political decisions have become the tool for the command over the society and the system of the protection of ruling elites against undesirable influence from outside. The ruling elites are not endangered by political challenges from outside. One of possible real threats, however, could be the growing internal conflicts among particular interest groups.