Staunton, September 24 – The declining popular support for United Russia and the defeat of its candidates for governor in three regions has led some to proclaim that Russia has entered “a new political reality” (znak.com/2018-09-24/kreml_proigral_vybory_eche_v_dvuh_regionah) and others to suggest that Russia is now moving toward a two-party system.
The first indication that the country might move in a direction that Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin has mentioned in the past is the announced cooperation of the KPRF and LDPR in forming governments in two regions and plans to cooperate in a third, the Telegram channel Gray Cardinal says (t.me/seryikardinal/3470).
The two systemic party leaders have followed that up with calls to create a certain Social-Democratic Party of Russia that could compete in the 2019 gubernatorial elections in Bashkortostan, St. Petersburg, Chelyabinsk and other regions and even seek to enter into a coalition government at the center.
Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky, a commentary on the Rex news agency portal which also details the Gray Cardinal posting says, “are insisting on a meeting with President Putin,” confident that their idea enjoys “serious support in the ruling elite of Russia” (iarex.ru/news/60239.html).
The creation of such a party would change both less and more than any brief glance might suggest. On the one hand, because both of the creators are systemic parties and because they are seeking Putin’s approval, they would undoubtedly remain loyal to the Kremlin leader in their new guise just as they have been overwhelmingly loyal to him in the past.
And on the other, such a party might lead to the reformation of United Russia into a right-of-center party, giving Putin the chance to dispense with many of its current leaders and perhaps winning back more popular support by providing a simulacrum of competition, all kept under the control of the Kremlin.
That is certainly what Putin, Zyuganov, Zhirinovsky and Volodin would like to see. But there is a very real possibility that the existence of these two parties could open the way to the kind of competition the Kremlin would oppose and would seek to crush, in much the same way Hitler did with his “night of the long knives” against Ernst Rohm and the SA in 1934.
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