Staunton, Sept. 22 – Now that a regionalist has won a seat in the Duma, albeit as a member of the KPRF (region.expert/1regionalist/), Prague-based commentator Harun Sidorov is asking the logical next question: does the RPSS have a future as a party of national movements? (idelreal.org/a/31471309.html).
The just-completed Duma elections were significant in at least one way, Sidorov writes. For the first time since before Vladimir Putin came to power and banned ethnic and regional parties, a party committed to representing the national movements took part in an all-Russian election.
That was the Russian Party of Freedom and Justice (RPSS), led by Maksim Shevchenko, Damir Iskhakov, and Ruslan Kurbanov. But in terms of votes received, it did not do well, getting only 0.77 percent overall and even fewer in the Muslim majority republics of the North Caucasus and Middle Volga.
There were two reasons for that pattern, Sidorov says. On the one hand, the leaders of these republics, committed to demonstrating their loyalty to Moscow, did everything to ensure that United Russia and no one else did well. But on the other, the RPSS made significant errors that cost it support.
If the new party can do little about the former, it can do a lot about the latter. There are three critical errors it needs to correct. First, it needs to nominate people directly connected with the republics in which they are running. Too often this time around, the new party – it was organized only in April 2021 – used outsiders.
Second, it needs to avoid controversial candidates like the ones it put forward in Tatarstan and Daghestan which cost it votes not only there but in neighboring republics because of the statements and actions its candidates have made. Some of these candidates were truly “toxic” as far as winning votes.
And third, it needs to decide whether to continue to pursue its effort to represent ethnic Russian movements as well. Doing so is possible and may even be useful, but it is a course that requires careful planning as many non-Russians will view a party that promotes ethnic Russian interests as anything but their own.
All these things can be corrected. Indeed, there is a precedent. In 1995, the last time there was such an attempt to form such an alliance among Yury Skokov, Dmitry Rogozin and Aleksandr Lebed who sought to unite the Congress of Russian Communities with the Union of Peoples of Russia.
The latter was an umbrella organization for groups like the Assembly of Peoples of the Volga and Urals, the Assembly of Turkic Peoples, the Association of Finno-Ugric Peoples of Russia, the Ural Bashkir Popular Center, the All-Tatar Social Center (VTOTs), the World Congress of Tatars, the International Circassian Association, the Congress of the Komi People, and the Chuvash National Congress.
That grouping won 4.31 percent of the vote, far better than the RPSS has just done; and its showing helped catapult Aleksandr Lebed to a larger political role in the 1996 presidential elections. Obviously, Russia today is not what it was in 1995; but the showing of this earlier effort suggests that there is room for growth for a well-organized party working in this sector.