06MOSCOW12708, COMMUNIST PARTY: NOT DEAD YET

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW12708 2006-11-30 12:44 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO2571
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #2708/01 3341244
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 301244Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5545
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 3603
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 1793
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2046

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 012708 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM RS
SUBJECT: COMMUNIST PARTY: NOT DEAD YET 
 
MOSCOW 00012708  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY.  Most observers describe the Communist 
Party (KPRF) as a party on life-support sustained by 
nostalgic pensioners.  The cliche has it that as party 
stalwart's die off, so too will the KPRF.  This assessment, 
however, ignores a relatively constant level of support, 
despite the demographics, and the attraction that some feel 
for a well-defined political party structure.  The KPRF 
accommodates not only the "Soviet" socialist traditionalists, 
but also a new generation of intellectuals who wish, 
literally, to overthrow Russia's current system which they 
believe only helps the select few.  KPRF's message, however, 
is unlikely to reach beyond these two small constituencies. 
End summary. 
 
------------------------ 
VOTER SUPPORT DECREASING 
------------------------ 
 
2. (U) From the fall of the Soviet Union until the 2003 Duma 
elections, the KPRF increased its percentage of the vote with 
every successive Duma election.  The KPRF was perennially in 
second place.  The bulk of its support came from the "red 
belt", a swathe of conservative, agrarian regions that 
consistently supported KPRF candidates against all comers. 
 
3. (U) As participants at a September roundtable held by the 
"November 4 Club" noted, KPRF's opponents stoked fears of the 
re-creation of the Soviet Union and the concomitant loss of 
freedoms that Russians had come to take for granted to 
significantly erode that support in the 2003 State Duma 
election.  The resulting Duma has 47 KPRF party members 
(compared to 110 deputies in the 1999 Duma), which represents 
about ten percent of the legislative body. 
 
4. (U) Voter support for the KPRF has eroded regionally, as 
well.  In the most recent regional elections, held October 8, 
the KPRF won 10-18 percent of the vote in all but one of the 
nine regions holding elections (now a distant second or third 
place finish), just enough to overcome the 7 percent 
threshold for regional representation.  This was not the case 
in Tuva where the party received 5 percent of the vote. 
 
---------------------------- 
WHERE ARE KPRF VOTERS GOING? 
---------------------------- 
 
5. (SBU) Since KPRF voters are generally understood to be 
pensioners who support the KPRF out of a sense of nostalgia 
or force of habit, many commentators attribute the drop in 
KPRF voter rolls to death.  In an October 24 meeting, KPRF 
Information Technology Center's Ilya Ponomarev offered a more 
nuanced explanation.  While KPRF voter rolls are being 
reduced by death and disability, the inherent "conservatism 
of the peasant class" may have prompted others to change 
their allegiance to United Russia, the party that now 
represents the status quo and stability. 
 
6. (SBU) Indem political analyst Yuriy Korgunyuk agreed with 
Ponomarev.  Russians want a "chief" to take care of them and 
will vote for the person with the connections to Moscow and 
the money.  Today, he concluded, that person belongs to 
United Russia. 
 
7. (SBU) In recent years, many regional politicians have 
followed the voter to United Russia.  Even one of the KPRF's 
staunchest erstwhile supporters, ultra-nationalist Aleksandr 
Prokhanov, has declared the party a spent force and switched 
his allegiance to President Putin, whom he credits with the 
renaissance of the Russian empire.  Putin, Prokhanov told us, 
has given Russia stability. 
 
--------------------------- 
BUT POLLS REMAIN CONSISTENT 
--------------------------- 
 
8. (U) Opinion polls, however, show that since 2003 the KPRF 
has maintained a fairly steady level of support, with no 
other party yet able to challenge its grip on second place. 
Levada Center polls taken monthly over the last three years 
show the KPRF typically garnering 15-22% of support among 
likely voters.  The most recent poll, taken in October 2006 
shows support at 22%. 
 
9. (SBU) Ponomarev reported a dip in KPRF support among 35 to 
60 year olds, but claimed that support increases among those 
under 35.  Ponomarev described these young supporters as 
"Trotskyites": young intelligentsia, who believe that the 
Soviet Union represented state capitalism and that communism 
 
MOSCOW 00012708  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
is the ideal with which to shape society. 
 
10. (SBU) In a November 20 meeting, Vasiliy Koltashov, member 
of the Central Committee of the Youth Communist League, 
reported disillusionment with KPRF Central Committee Head 
Gennadiy Zyuganov's hold on power because of his ties to the 
Kremlin, which sanctions the criticisms that Zyuganov makes. 
Koltashov spoke of his disagreement with the KPRF's tame 
views.  He promised that he would create a new party (the 
"Left Party") which would oversee the nationalization of 
industry, d
o away with residence permits, and ensure housing 
for all.  He also told us of impending labor unrest in Tyumen 
over low wages and poor working conditions.  Koltashov 
admitted that he did not know when these things would come to 
pass, but was firm in his belief that young Russians would 
not remain passive. 
 
11. (SBU) Ponomarev also claimed that the KPRF was gaining 
strength in the regions, particularly in the cities, because 
it represents real opposition.  He argued that this was true 
even in regions such as Krasnoyarsk, a major part of the 
Soviet Gulag system. 
 
------------------------------- 
EXPLANATION FOR THE DISCREPANCY 
------------------------------- 
 
12. (SBU) The discrepancy between Ponomarev's description and 
the opinion polls and the actual election results was 
explained by allegations of fraud.  KPRF Duma Deputy Sergei 
Reshulskiy detailed to us the many forms in which fraud could 
occur, including instructing workers and others dependent on 
administrative resources how to vote, helping "voters" fill 
out their ballots, and falsifying the results after the fact. 
 
 
---------- 
THE FUTURE 
---------- 
 
13. (U) Despite the allegations, Ponomarev argued that fraud 
can only succeed at the margins.  Citing the Samara mayoral 
elections, where the Party of Life candidate unexpectedly 
won, he proposed that if Russians sensed a real possibility 
for change, they would vote in sufficiently large numbers to 
overcome attempts to falsify the results. 
 
14. (SBU) In a separate meeting, Duma Deputy Reshulskiy was 
less optimistic, pointing out that with no access to the 
media it would be impossible for such a candidate to become 
known to the electorate.  In combination with the recently 
enacted electoral legislation that prohibits negative 
campaigning, removes minimum voter turnout requirements, and 
expands the reasons for which a candidate may be removed from 
the ballot, Reshulskiy doubted that real change could occur. 
He told us that he would content himself with using his Duma 
position to speak out against the wrongs of the Putin 
administration. 
 
15. (SBU) Despite attempts to build the KPRF base and sharpen 
its message, Ponomarev believes that, barring an arrangement 
with the Kremlin, it is a distinct possibility that the KPRF 
will lose all representation in the Duma in the next election. 
 
16. (SBU) In a recent press briefing, Zyuganov expressed the 
hope that the KPRF would win 20 percent of the State Duma 
seats next year and announced his intention to stand for 
president in 2008.  Ponomarev, however, told PolOff that 
Zyuganov is due to step down next summer, although it is 
unclear who will replace him.  He contended that for many 
politicians, getting to the top of the KPRF party structure 
represents a livelihood rather than the chance to work for 
social change and that, therefore, there would be no dearth 
of candidates. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
17. (SBU) While trumpeting democratic ideals (free speech and 
press and transparent business climate) and socialist goals 
(housing and health care for all and use of the Stabilization 
Fund for the people), the KPRF message is not resonating with 
voters, despite reputed dissatisfaction with the Government, 
if not Putin per se.  With the establishment of A Just 
Russia, a purported Kremlin creation that parrots much of the 
KPRF's platform, KPRF's future is still dimmer.  Although it 
will likely retain Duma representation, it will probably not 
 
MOSCOW 00012708  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
have a meaningful voice for the foreseeable future. 
BURNS

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