06MOSCOW13136, ZHIRINOVSKIY,S LDPR LOOKS TO THE 2007 ELECTIONS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW13136 2006-12-28 15:15 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO5675
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #3136/01 3621515
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 281515Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6125
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 013136 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/RUS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/28/2016 
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PINR SOCI RS
SUBJECT: ZHIRINOVSKIY,S LDPR LOOKS TO THE 2007 ELECTIONS 
 
 
Classified By: POL M/C Alice G. Wells for reason 1.4(b) 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1.  (SBU) December marks the 17th anniversary of the 
establishment of the Liberal Democrat Party of Russia (LDPR). 
 LDPR's lack of any discernible platform is compensated for 
by the indomitable LDPR Chairman Vladimir Zhirinovskiy, whose 
instinct for the outrageous continues to resonate with a 
significant minority of the Russian electorate. Changes in 
the party's leadership, including the exclusion of one Duma 
Deputy, have led some to speculate that the party may be 
losing its luster, but members of LDPR's Duma faction are 
confident that, in the 2007 Duma elections, LDPR will cross 
the seven percent threshold required for continued 
representation. Some in LDPR see the creation of a second 
Kremlin-backed party, Spravedlivaya Rossiya, as a welcome 
move toward a more balanced, multi-party system that could 
collaterally benefit LDPR and other small parties. End 
summary. 
 
------------------------ 
The Man Behind The Party 
------------------------ 
 
2.  (C) While analysts differ about LDPR Chairman Vladimir 
Zhirinovskiy,s intellectual capabilities and many of them 
find his rhetoric distasteful, all admit that his flair for 
publicity remains undiminished. New Director of the Levada 
Center Lev Gudkov in a recent conversation highlighted 
Zhirinovskiy's ability to use outrageous rhetoric to 
camouflage his continued affiliation with the Kremlin. 
Aleksey Mitrofanov, the Deputy Chair of the Duma Committee on 
Constitutional Legislation and State Structure and the 
party's spokesperson, seconded that assessment.  Mitrofanov 
said that Zhirinovskiy,s shrewdness and his ability to 
maintain links with the changing power brokers over the years 
had protected himself and his party from the whims of the 
Kremlin while leaders of other parties had been purged, 
destroyed, or effectively stripped of power.  Gudkov thought 
that Zhirinovskiy continued to stay afloat by helping the 
Kremlin in imperceptible ways.  Among them, Gudkov said, was 
Zhirinovskiy's usefulness in floating Kremlin-concocted 
policy trial balloons that were used to gauge the reaction of 
the population. Both Gudkov and Mitrofanov rejected rumors 
that Zhirinovskiy was contemplating retirement although 
Mitrofanov allowed that there may be "some significant 
changes in the party" following the 2007 and 2008 elections. 
 
------------------------ 
Presidential Aspirations 
------------------------ 
 
3.  (SBU) According to Levada Center surveys, Zhirinovskiy 
ranks second only to Putin in name recognition among 
Russians.  However, Putin is recognized for positive reasons, 
while Zhirinovskiy,s name tends to be linked with the 
negative and/or polarizing things he has said or done. 
Although Zhirinovskiy may secretly harbor the dream of 
becoming President of Russia, our contacts said he would do 
so only in the highly unlikely event he got the nod from the 
Kremlin.  As it is, Zhirinovskiy is comfortable with the 
status quo and, in fact, enjoys playing the diverse roles 
which ensure his party's continued presence on the political 
scene. 
 
------------------------------------------ 
Member Maneuvers: Keeping It In the Family 
------------------------------------------ 
 
4.  (C)  In late November, the media reported that: 
 
-- Nikolai Kuryanovich, one of the party's more radical Duma 
deputies, had been excluded from the party. On his website, 
Kuryanovich claimed that he was expelled because he was 
beginning to "eclipse" Zhirinovskiy.  Mikhail Vinogradov, 
Deputy Director of the Center for Current Politics, told us 
that Zhirinovskiy dumped Kuryanovich because the Kremlin did 
not like his excessively nationalistic rhetoric.  Mitrofanov 
told us that the real reason was Kuryanovich,s unwillingness 
to cancel his participation in the November 4 "Russian 
march," even after ordered to do so by Zhirinovskiy. 
 
-- Yegor Solomatin, one of the party's most influential 
members and its manager of regional and local relations, has 
also recently left the party. The media reported he had left 
to pursue a job in the Federal Audit Chamber.  Solomatin 
refused to comment about his reasons for leaving, or to 
 
MOSCOW 00013136  002 OF 003 
 
 
confirm that Zhirinovskiy and he had disagreed on key issues; 
however, he denied that he had the Audit Chamber in his 
sights. Mitrofanov described Solomatin as irreplaceable, and 
traced his departure to the accumulated strains of 
intra-party sniping.  He admitted that Zhirinovskiy had 
unsuccessfully tried to woo Solomatin back, and that efforts 
to find a successor had to date been in vain.  Mirofanov 
discounted rumors that Zhirinovskiy had appointed his 34 year 
old son Igor Lebedev, a Duma Deputy since 2003, to serve in 
Solomatin,s place. (Contacts describe Lebedev as an unknown 
quantity who has done little in his three years as Duma 
Deputy.)  Mitrofanov predicted that Solomatin might 
eventually
join the "second" Kremlin party, Spravedlivaya 
Rossiya (SR). 
 
-- Sergey Abeltsev, LDPR member and Deputy Chairman of the 
Duma,s Security Committee, is rumored as a possible 
contender for the governorship of Belgorod Region if the term 
of the current governor, Evgeniy Savchenko, is not extended. 
 
-- Maksim Rokhmistrov is rumored to be leaving the party in 
order to pursue a job in the Federal Property Agency.  (Note: 
 Mitrofanov said that rumors of the impending departures of 
Abeltsev and Rokhmistrov were premature.  Some in the media 
predict they will leave in spring 2007.) 
 
-- On December 21, the LDPR website reported that four 
members of the LDPR,s St. Petersburg faction had defected to 
SR. 
 
------------------------------------ 
LDPR Voters:  "Rednecks" and "Stars" 
------------------------------------- 
 
5.  (C) Mitrofanov said that Zhirinovskiy,s style and 
rhetoric consistently attracted a core group of voters whom 
he described as "rednecks who vote." The "rednecks" were 
middle to lower-middle class men who are not well educated, 
but who have strong opinions about how things should be done 
and who want to "make something with their lives."  LDPR's 
"rednecks" are discontented, said Mirtorfanov, and "not very 
smart."  In order to retain their loyalty, Zhirinovskiy 
focuses on the issues that are the source of their 
grievances. That means, he said, that the party has no 
consistent policy, as it must constantly zigzag in its 
efforts to plumb its electorate's discontents. 
 
6.  (C) Mitrofanov  predicted that LDPR would win the seven 
percent of the vote necessary to maintain its seats in the 
2007 Duma elections.  (His prediction tracked with current 
polling from Russia's three major public opinion research 
organizations: the Levada Center, The Foundation of Public 
Opinion (FOM), and the state-controlled All Russia Public 
Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM).)  All three organizations 
maintain that over the past three years support for LDPR has 
remained constant, and ranges from six to eight percent.  The 
recent decision to have Zhirinovskiy head LDPR's party lists 
in the Duma contests should ensure that the party crosses the 
threshold. 
 
------------------------------- 
Party Financing ) Russian Style 
------------------------------- 
 
7.  (C) Mikhail Vinogradov, Deputy Director of the Center for 
Current Politics, told us that the LDPR receives most of its 
financial support by selling spaces on its voter lists to 
well-heeled businessmen who want access in order to be able 
to influence legislation and other decisions.  Vinogradov 
cited several examples of seats that had been sold to the 
likes of businessman Yevgeniy Ivanov and billionaire Suleyman 
Kerimov.  Vinogradov said it would not surprise him if 
Zhirinovskiy had been compensated for helping the Kremlin 
advance its agenda. 
 
------------- 
LDPR,s Future 
------------- 
 
8.  (C) Olga Kryshtanovskaya, Director of the Institute for 
Applied Politics; Tatyana Stanovaya and Yelena Bashkirova of 
the Center for Political Technologies, and Vinogradov were, 
unlike LDPR contacts, not optimistic about the party's 
future.  Since LDPR is a party of "personality," they 
predicted its influence would naturally wane, but admitted 
that their prognosis had little to do with LDPR's prospects 
in 2007.  Vinogradov thought the party might be more 
successful among voters in the long term if it focused on one 
issue of importance: illegal immigration, for example.  He 
suggested that, given Zhirinovskiy,s helpful relationship 
 
MOSCOW 00013136  003 OF 003 
 
 
with the Kremlin, it would not be surprising if LDPR would be 
considered as a possible third party in the Kremlin's 
multi-party initiative. 
 
9. (C) Levada Director Gudkov believed that Zhirinovskiy was 
astute enough to remain aligned with the "powers that be." 
Mitrofanov was optimistic about the future of the party, even 
given the creation of the "second" Kremlin party "A Just 
Russia" (SR).  He believed SR would dilute the monopoly 
currently held by United Russia, allowing the remaining 
parties greater entree into the legislative and governing 
process. (Note:  Mitrofanov told us that since 2003 when 
United Russia consolidated its stranglehold on the Duma, not 
one bill or amendment proposed by LDPR deputies had been 
adopted.) 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
10.  (SBU) LDPR's ability to both allow Russia's "rednecks" 
to vent their unhappiness with the status quo and to aid in 
the implementation of an agenda amenable to the Kremlin 
should ensure that it remains a player, if only a secondary 
one, on the political scene for the foreseeable future.  It 
remains to be seen what inroads "A Just Russia" will make on 
its LDPR's core electorate in 2007.  As with so many other 
hypotheses about developments here, the March regional 
elections should serve as a good indicator of LDPR's 
medium-term prospects. 
BURNS

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