Saturday, April 16, 2022

LDPR, KPRF Lose Ability to Win Protest Votes while Remaining within Putin System

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 7 – The two most important Russian systemic opposition parties are in danger of losing any chance to remain groups are sufficiently opposed to the Kremlin that they can attract the protest votes that have powered them in the past but not so opposed as to threaten reprisals from that quarter, according to the editors of Yekaterinburg’s Politsovet news agency.

            The political decline of the LDPR began even before the death of its apparently irreplaceable leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky. It was the big loser in last year’s Duma elections, and now it has become almost unnecessary because the Kremlin has adopted its foreign policy line in Ukraine and elsewhere, the agency says ( html).

            The situation of the KPRF, the biggest winner in last year’s elections and the second largest party in the country, faces a more complicated but nonetheless more difficult future. It won votes last year because it positioned itself as the main opponent of United Russia, thus picking up young people who followed Aleksey Navalny by engaging in “smart voting.”

            But now it has lost that possibility, Politsovet says, because after some initial controversy, it is supporting Putin on his war in Ukraine in terms that would make any United Russia supporter proud. Thus, it has lost much of its chance to pose as a real opposition party and thus the role it has had in the past. It risks losing the protest vote in the future.

            “Understanding this,” the editors of Politsovet continue, “the communists are trying to find a way out of this ideological dead end, and not without reason given the fall of the standard of living, they, judging from everything, are planning to use that for their own purposes and intensify their left-populist rhetoric.”

But “no one will say thank you to the comm,unists for such ideas,” the agency suggests. On the one hand, the government is moving in exactly the opposite direction toward something like “’a new NEP.’” And on the other, talking about social dissatisfaction won’t be welcomed by the Kremlin because “precisely that represents the main risk for the powers that be.”

If the KPRF adopts that approach, then “pressure on them will only grow for then they will represent a threat not only to United Russia but to political stability as a whole.” And as a result, the communists may find it impossible to remain loyal to the Kremlin but also be enough of an opposition group to continue to win support.

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