Saturday, August 6, 2016

Russian Parties Rely on Newspapers to Reach Most Voters in Local and Regional Elections

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 6 – Generally lacking access to television and radio and confronting an audience that doesn’t use the Internet as much as many people in Moscow think, Russian parties in local and regional elections tend to rely on newspapers of one kind or another to make their appeal to voters, according to Anatoly Tsygankov.

            On the Politika-Karelia portal, he describes the three kinds of newspapers parties in Karelia are using to make their appeals: official party newspapers, others that one or another party controls without acknowledging it, and those controlled by public organizations prepared to cooperate with a particular party in a particular election (

            The first category includes four newspapers, “Leninskaya Pravda” which is the official organ of the KPRF regional organization, “LDPR in Karelia” which is the Liberal Democrats’ outlet, “Patriot Rossii v Karelii,” and “Kommunist Petrozavodsk,” the KPRF paper in the republic capital.

            What is most striking about these publications is that most of the time they are latent, published only infrequently or not at all for months at a time and then quite often and in massive tirages for campaigns. For example, “Leninskaya Pravda” usually comes out in an edition of less than three thousand but during its get out the vote effort can appear in editions of 150,000.

            These are thus placeholders for the parties, unimportant most of the time but critically important for electioneering, Tsygankov says.

            The second group includes papers like two named “Nam vyo yasno,” which is nominally independent of Just Russia but in fact is a party paper with the same address as the party has. These papers often operate in violation of the law: they are supposed to appear only once a year and in limited tirages but they in fact appear more often and in massive print runs.

            And the third group, Tsygankov continues, includes newspaper owned or at least controlled by public organizations which support a particular party during a particular campaign.  Among them is the “Popechitelsky sovet Kukkovki” which is also supposed to appear only once a year in a print run of 13,000 but violates those limits during elections.

            “Practically all the publications mentioned,” the journalist says, “could be called ‘sleepers,’ in that their owners ‘enliven’ them only at a time of political need” such as during elections. In between, they lie fallow, but they are able to get registration because they promise low print runs and issuances of once a year or even less.

            That puts them in a position to emerge like mushrooms after a rain at election time, and because all their pre-election issues are distributed free, these papers constitute an important electoral resource for the parties, one that often flies below the radar screen of government officials seeking to control them.

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