07MOSCOW2471, FOR A JUST RUSSIA: KREMLIN BACKPEDALS ON SUPPORT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW2471 2007-05-25 14:46 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO6936
PP RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #2471/01 1451446
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 251446Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0640
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG PRIORITY 4138
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK PRIORITY 2139
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG PRIORITY 2454

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 002471 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PINR SOCI RS
SUBJECT: FOR A JUST RUSSIA: KREMLIN BACKPEDALS ON SUPPORT 
 
REF: A. MOSCOW 01007 
 
     B. MOSCOW 1023 
     C. MOSCOW 01067 
     D. ST. PETERSBURG 57 
     E. YEKAT 00023 
     F. VLAD 00026 
 
MOSCOW 00002471  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  Since "For A Just Russia's" (SR) more or 
less successful debut in the March 11 regional elections 
(reftels), the Kremlin appears to have reconsidered its 
options and backed away from providing the administrative 
resources including access to national TV airtime that SR 
members expected to receive.  SR critics and supporters alike 
recommend against pigeonholing SR as the "second" Kremlin 
party.  SR's struggle with United Russia (YR) allows it to 
cast itself as an opposition party and possibly improve its 
election results.  SR is focusing on building a larger party 
base, improving its image, developing its platform, and 
consolidating regional leadership.  End summary. 
 
------------------------------- 
Russia's Political Map Redrawn 
------------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) As noted (ref b), "For A Just Russia's" solid 
performance in the March 11 regional elections, a mere four 
months after it was created, put it on Russia's political 
map.  SR finished first in Stavropol, second in four other 
regions and third in yet seven others.  Analysts credited 
SR's good fortune to a general drift to the left and 
President Putin's public support of the party. 
 
------------------------------- 
No Longer Second Kremlin Party 
------------------------------- 
 
3. (SBU) Although the Kremlin gave SR the push it needed to 
get started, analysts and SR party members cautioned against 
labeling it the "second" Kremlin party.  What might have 
started as a Kremlin effort to introduce managed competition 
has evolved considerably since.  Yuriy Korgunyuk of the INDEM 
think tank told us that while it is true that SR is a "Putin 
party," SR is not and has never enjoyed full Kremlin support. 
 Korgunyuk guessed that a strong SR coupled with a 
stronger-than-expected performance by the KPRF would threaten 
YR's majority, which in turn would upset the Kremlin's 
carefully constructed monopoly of power.  Korgunyuk was 
convinced that Putin, Presidential Administration Deputy 
Vladislav Surkov, and others would not allow an SR victory to 
disrupt that fragile balance.  Ekho Moskvy Editor Venediktov 
agrees that the Kremlin is unnerved by the fact that SR is 
developing as an opposition force, attracting disaffected 
elite in the regions.  The Kremlin, he maintained, was 
focused on a smooth transition and the competition between 
the parties now threatened to complicate that process. 
 
----------------------------- 
Party Expansion and Makeover 
----------------------------- 
 
4.  (SBU) SR International Affairs Director Mikhail Demurin 
told us that in the lead up to the December Duma elections SR 
would focus on grassroots efforts, including door-to-door 
campaigning, to build a larger party base and to improve the 
party's image.  The party seems off to a good start.  Shortly 
after the March regional elections, SR Party Chairman Sergey 
Mironov claimed that SR was registering 40,000 new members a 
month.  In April, Duma Deputy and head of SR's Duma faction 
Aleksandr Babakov described those new members as 45 years or 
older, former KPRF members or individuals who have never 
voted before. SR Duma Deputy Oksana Dmitrieva told us that 
SR's party membership comprised dissidents, small 
businessmen, and regional politicians unhappy with YR's 
monopoly of power.  As predicted by Mironov and others, 
several smaller parties have announced their intent to merge 
with SR, including Duma Deputy Gennadiy Gudkov's People Party 
and Duma Deputy Vasiliy Shestakov's United Socialist Party. 
(Shestakov is Putin's former judo instructor.) 
 
5. (SBU) Demurin, Dmitrieva, and others in SR expressed 
concern about the party's lack of access to the national 
media.  Dmitrieva worried that without access to 
administrative resources and the national media SR would 
conduct an "average campaign with average results." 
Dmitrieva's husband, a former Duma Deputy member, predicted 
that national airtime could cost at least one million rubles 
per minute in the lead up to the December Duma elections; to 
expensive for even a party with deeper pockets, like SR. 
 
MOSCOW 00002471  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
 
----------------------- 
21st Century Socialism 
----------------------- 
 
6. (SBU) Demurin told us that the portrayal of SR by media 
and others as "socialist" was inaccurate and that 
"progressive left" was a better fit.  Mironov repeatedly 
refers to himself as
 a "social democrat" and the bulk of the 
amendments proposed by the party to date seem social 
democratic to socialist in tenor.  In aligning itself on the 
left, SR is not alone.  All parties with a chance to enter 
the Duma portray themselves as parties that will guarantee 
social justice for the Russian people on a range of issues 
from health care to education to housing and pensions.  KPRF 
even appears to believe that SR's success has boosted KPRF's 
popularity.  Oleg Kulikov, Secretary of KPRF's Central 
Committee has said, "'For A Just Russia' has been 
rehabilitating Soviet-type socialism." 
 
------------------------------ 
Seeking Popular Personalities 
------------------------------ 
 
7. (SBU) The March 11 results demonstrated that SR can 
organize support, raise funds and create a viable political 
structure and party platform to contest YR's monopoly of 
power but (reftels e and f) the party continues to struggle 
with consolidation of its regional branches.  One of the 
biggest challenges facing SR now, according to Dmitrieva, is 
recruiting "big" names to draw voters on election day. 
Babakov echoed her assessment, telling us that SR needed more 
well-known personalities and activists as candidates for 
mayors and governors in order to succeed.  The party's 
growing pains in solidifying its power base and party 
leadership may not be limited to regional branches.  During a 
recent meeting, Babakov took several swipes at SR Chairman 
Mironov suggesting that all is not well within the party, 
either. 
 
------------------------------------ 
Opposition Strengthens SR's Chances 
------------------------------------ 
 
8. (SBU)  Dmitrieva predicted that SR would come in second in 
the Duma elections, winning 15 percent of the vote.  United 
Russia would win the largest number of seats, followed by SR, 
with KPRF a close third, followed by Zhirinovskiy's LDPR. 
SPS, Dmitrieva said, would not cross the seven percent 
barrier to Duma representation.  (Note:  Russia's three most 
well-known public opinion firms show support for SR hovering 
at 5-6 percent, more or less equal to LDPR's rating but not 
enough at this point to make it into the Duma.) 
 
-------- 
Comment 
-------- 
 
9.  (SBU) At his annual meeting with the press, President 
Putin welcomed competition between YR and SR, but the 
intensity of the jousting may be tempering enthusiasm.  It 
remains to be seen if SR can maximize its opportunity and 
become a viable opposition party.  With limited access to 
administrative resources and TV airtime, without the overt 
support of Putin, and with some Kremlin minions reportedly 
working to sabotage the party's chances, SR will not only 
have to devise a clever, comprehensive strategy for 
differentiating itself from YR, it will also have to 
discipline its regional factions.  Conflicts between YR and 
SR may intensify as the regional elites jockey for position 
on the party lists.  Those struggles could increase interest 
in this overdetermined election process. 
BURNS

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