07MOSCOW4119, ONCE-PLURALISTIC ALTAY KRAY STARTS TO

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW4119 2007-08-23 04:06 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO7660
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #4119/01 2350406
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 230406Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3150
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2371
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2661
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 4419

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 004119 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SOCI RS
SUBJECT:  ONCE-PLURALISTIC ALTAY KRAY STARTS TO 
CONFORM 
 
REF: 06 MOSCOW 13168 
 
MOSCOW 00004119  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (SBU) During an August 8-11 visit to Altay Kray, we 
found the region's traditional political diversity 
succumbing to the United Russia (YR) political machine 
fueled by the Governor's May 2007 YR party conversion. 
Reflecting the national line-up, YR, For a Just Russia 
(SR), the Communists (KPRF) and the LDPR are expected 
to secure places in the State Duma.  The Communist 
Party and the Agrarian Party still enjoy considerable 
popularity but dwindling votes, while the liberal 
Republican Party of Russia (led by Altay's Vladimir 
Ryzhkov) and Yabloko verge on irrelevancy.  Local 
party leaders complained about their lack of access to 
media outlets and United Russia's abuse of 
administrative resources for campaigning.  End 
Summary. 
 
---------------- 
Election Outlook 
---------------- 
 
2.  (SBU) While local party leaders of all stripes 
expect that YR will get the majority vote in the Kray 
in December, most also expect that LDPR, the Communist 
Party (KPRF), and For A Just Russia (SR) will also win 
seats in the State Duma.  Historically, YR has not 
been as strong in Altay Kray as it has been elsewhere, 
since Altay Kray belongs to the "Red Belt" region 
whose large rural population supported the KPRF and 
the nationally moribund Agrarian Party.  The 
electorate had also supported a broad range of smaller 
parties such as Yabloko, Union of Right Forces (SPS), 
and the Republican Party of Russia (RPR) (reftel). 
 
3.  (SBU) Local party leaders emphasized that Altay 
Kray retained a pluralistic political atmosphere, yet 
the smaller parties now complain of an increasingly 
restrictive field for political action.  Following 
Governor Aleksandr Karlin's move to United Russia in 
May, most of the other members of the Kray 
administration followed.  As a result, in the upcoming 
elections, other parties must contend with a much 
stronger YR, which controls the Kray government and 
its significant administrative resources. 
 
------------------------------------------ 
Administrative Resources and Media Access 
------------------------------------------ 
 
4.  (SBU) The political benefits of incumbency are 
evident in the capital city Barnaul.  YR posted 
several billboards promoting presidential "Priority 
Projects" that prominently featured the YR logo along 
with the name and picture of the Duma deputy from the 
Kray who supported the program.  YR also flaunted its 
access to public events unavailable to the other 
parties, such as the Kray's upcoming 70th anniversary 
celebrations.  According to local YR leaders, public 
works, beautification projects and televised 
celebrations presided over by YR candidates will be 
part of YR's election campaign. 
 
5.  (SBU) All parties with the exception of YR 
expressed difficulty in obtaining access to media. 
The smaller parties claimed that the media self- 
censors so as not to offend an increasingly YR- 
oriented regional government.  At the same time, 
Yabloko, SPS and KPRF indicated that scarce campaign 
funds limit their access to an increasingly expensive 
media market. 
 
6.  (SBU) The local head of SPS, Vladimir Nebalzin, 
said that his party had turned to grass-roots efforts 
such as door-to-door canvassing and distribution of 
thousands of fliers and brochures.  The other parties 
including KPRF and Yabloko indicated they would use 
similar strategies.  Despite its vaunted status as the 
second "party of power", SR seemed to face the same 
hurdles in securing media coverage.  They have used 
their stronger financial backing to produce slick, 
sophisticated campaign materials but do not command 
the resources to begin their campaigns as early as YR 
 
MOSCOW 00004119  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
clearly has. 
 
----------------------------------------- 
United Russia Dismissive of Other Parties 
----------------------------------------- 
 
7.  (SBU) Nikolay Gerasimenko, a Duma deputy and 
leader of Altay Kray's YR branch since June, portrayed 
YR as a Western-style democratic party that was very 
much concerned with the problems of Russia.  He 
described in party-apparatchik style how "Plan Putin" 
was both the core achievement and the basic platform 
of the party for the upcoming campaign.  The plan 
covers such things as health care, education, and 
pensions.  Gerasimenko said that YR expects 30-40 
percent of the vote in the region, but that the 
remaining votes were up for grabs. 
 
8.  (SBU) Gerasimenko was visibly bored when 
discussing his opinions of other parties.  "KPRF is a 
party of the past that offers only criticism," he 
said.  "SPS is the party of big capital, but has 
turned left-wing.  SR promi
ses but YR delivers.  And I 
don't even think about LDPR." 
 
------------------------------------------ 
For a Just Russia: The Official Opposition 
------------------------------------------ 
 
9.  (SBU) For A Just Russia's Aleksandr Shkraba 
acknowledged that his party began as a Kremlin 
project, but claimed that the party represented a 
coherent center-left alternative to United Russia.  SR 
will campaign on this message to tap into Altay Kray's 
historic left-wing support.  Shkraba emphasized his 
party's support of the president by saying that SR was 
the new brand of Putin, "the new opposition for the 
new political system."  Shkraba acknowledged that they 
had accomplished little as a party besides criticizing 
United Russia, which he attributed to SR's need to 
build its party organization after its October 2006 
creation. 
 
-------------------------------------- 
The Democratic Opposition is Depressed 
-------------------------------------- 
 
10.  (SBU) The fate of Barnaul's most famous political 
son, Republican Party of Russia leader Vladimir 
Ryzhkov, has cast a pall on the opposition.  The 
recent Supreme Court decision, affirming the Central 
Election Commission's disqualification of the party, 
effectively killed RPR as a political entity.  Local 
RPR leaders Valeriy Gachman, Andrey Olishevskiy and 
Gennadiy Sheyda said they were uncertain how to move 
forward.  Some members wanted to reconstitute as a 
social movement or NGO and maintain the party's 
structure until it could be re-registered.  Others 
feared losing momentum and activists to SR and SPS. 
Ryzhkov remains personally popular with interlocutors 
agreeing that he would bring considerable local 
advantage to any party list that he joined.  While 
local journalist Svetlana Chistyakova told us that 
Ryzhkov's choice of his next party perch could 
significantly affect the region's voting results, the 
RPR leader has yet to secure alternative political 
party backing, with local SR leader Shkraba 
reinforcing that Ryzhkov would not necessarily be 
welcome on their list. 
 
11.  (SBU) The atmosphere at Yabloko was not much 
better.  Local Yabloko chairman, Aleksandr 
Goncharenko, was pessimistic about Russia's future. 
He saw no independent media outlets to get his message 
out found the population politically lethargic and 
disconnected.  Goncharenko said that Yabloko has not 
been able to draw crowds to recent rallies on local 
issues like it has in the past.  Outside observers 
agree that Yabloko's chances of winning seats in the 
Duma are weak. 
 
------------------------- 
Fading KPRF and Agrarians 
------------------------- 
 
12.  (SBU) Both the Communists and the Agrarian Party 
enjoy a loyal but shrinking electoral base.  The local 
 
MOSCOW 00004119  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
KPRF secretary Petr Nonarin and Political Committee 
member Vladimir Zolotov argued that the KPRF was 
limited because of federal manipulation of and control 
over political parties, but they did not impress us 
with their political dynamism.  Sitting under an 
oversized portrait of Lenin, Nonarin and Zolotov 
attempted to distance the party from the country's 
Communist past.  The Agrarian Party will get some 
political mileage from the support of former Russian 
Minister of Agriculture and current chairman of the 
Altay Kray Soviet of People's Deputies, Aleksandr 
Nazarchuk.  He will lead the party's national three- 
candidate list.  Claiming that the Agrarian Party was 
the "true party of Russia, the party of the peasants," 
Nazarchuk attempted to put a modern spin on the party 
platform by promoting ethanol and bio-fuels programs. 
Both parties are counting on their traditional bases 
of support: the traditional left-wing electorate and 
rural, agricultural workers. 
 
------------------------------ 
Uncertainty on the Party Lists 
------------------------------ 
 
13.  (SBU) The local party machines were all 
developing their regional lists of 12-13 candidates 
for the upcoming elections.  YR is using a system or 
"primaries" that Gerasimenko compared to Western 
political primaries even as he admitted that the 
national party leadership will maintain control over 
the final composition and order of all party lists, 
regardless of the primary results.  Other parties will 
finalize their local lists at party conferences in 
August and September. 
 
14.  (SBU) Press reports have alleged that parties in 
Altay Kray have been selling slots on their party 
lists, with more sure-winner positions going for 
higher prices.  Many party leaders confirmed that the 
practice was widespread, but pointed the finger at 
other parties.  Altay Kray election commissioner 
Sergey Sytykh said that he did not believe that such 
commerce took place, while admitting that the practice 
would be impossible to detect and difficult to stop. 
KPRF leaders said that seat selling was a fact of 
regional and national politics, but only for other 
parties; the KPRF has "never" sold any of its slots. 
 
15. (SBU) Comment: The once-diverse political scene in 
Altay Kray is being converted into yet another version 
of the national model, with United Russia on top and 
other parties scrambling for the remaining pieces. 
The losers in this process Q especially the KPRF and 
Agrarian party Q watch as their support bleeds away, 
but lack a plan to stop or reverse the trend.  End 
Comment. 
 
MELVILLE

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