Staunton, July 16 – A remarkable political transformation has taken place beneath the radar screen of many in Moscow, Aleksandr Baunov says. Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia has been transformed for its original status as the party of empire in the late 1980s and early 1990s to the party of federalism now.
That evolution reflects less a change in Zhirinovsky’s convictions than the pressure of those who vote for his party. They come from distant regions and have voted for the LDPR to protest Moscow and its United Russia Party; and as a result, the party increasingly advocates federalism, the Moscow analyst says (echo.msk.ru/blog/partofair/2677191-echo/).
The LDPR began as a party of empire and “in essence, an anti-federalist” one, the editor of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s portal says. It called for the recovery of Finland and Alaska and advocated a strong central government to rule over the entire country. “This was its identity.”
Now, however, “de facto,” it has become “the party of federalism,” reflecting its electoral strength in the Russian Far East and its victory in Khabarovsk Oblast, a victory Moscow wanted to overturn but is now under pressure to recognize by appointing another LDPR activist governor in place of Sergey Furgal whom it arrested.
The Kremlin can hardly ignore this in Khabarovsk or elsewhere lest it face even more protests, Baunov says. However hobbled they may appear, parties “all the same exist in Russia” and anyone in power who wants to work with a region must at least in part deal with that party which has won the most votes.
This change calls attention to something else, the analyst says. Anti-Kremlin and anti-Putin protests may be anti-Moscow but that is not necessarily the case if Moscow respects the victories of a party which is based in the center but whose electorate is elsewhere. If the Kremlin doesn’t do this, then the LDPR could evolve in yet a more radical way.