There can be no vacuum in politics, as the place of the departed or departing force is immediately snatched. It is happening in Russia now, where the still warm niche of the KPRF, which split several days ago, has been taken by a new left-wing force.
It is Rodina (Motherland) of Dmitry Rogozin, who was elected chairman at the Tuesday congress of the party. Under the previous charter, the party could have seven co-chairmen but the congress unanimously voted for one-man leadership. "Control of such many-headed parties is ineffective," said Rodina press secretary Sergei Butin. "Besides, we have had a single leader de facto for a long time."
A total of 270 delegates from 63 regions of Russia came for the Rodina congress in Moscow and 257 of them voted for Dmitry Rogozin. The new leader does not make secret of his goals. "The main task is to win parliamentary majority by 2007 and form a government we need," he said.
As for the current government, Mr. Rogozin openly announced that his party would stand in opposition to it and immediately confirmed his pledge by criticizing the government draft law on privileges, which the State Duma (Lower House) approved in the first reading several days ago. The law stipulates the replacement of privileges, many of which Russia inherited from the Soviet Union, with additional monetary payments. So far, the law is being seriously criticized by the public. Before its discussion in the Duma, hundreds of outraged people gathered in front of the parliament building, so that the police had to take additional security measures for the deputies. There were several clashes between the police and groups of young people who demanded that the privileges of their fathers and grandfathers be left intact.
Similar slogans were proclaimed at the Tuesday congress of Rodina, which outlined the foreign policy tasks of the party. The congress was held in a hall with a giant poster with the outlines of the former Soviet Union. "Our goal is the Soviet Union," Dmitry Rogozin told the delegates about the poster. He called for the restoration of the Soviet Union and suggested beginning with the adoption of the self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to the Russian Federation.
Observers believe that such slogans and calls clearly show on which parties Rogozin's party will rely - above all "patriotic" forces fighting for "social justice" or, simply put, the left wing. "We will be happy if the traditional left electorate will vote for us," said Mr. Rogozin.
The force on which Rodina plans to rely is impressive in Russia. In the recent past, the Communist Party, for which the left electorate mostly voted, scored good results at the Duma elections and its candidate Gennady Zyuganov nearly defeated Boris Yeltsin at the 1996 presidential elections, which provoked much ado among pro-market and pro-Western politicians in Russia.
It is true that the left electorate has dwindled in the past eight years, above all because it consisted (and still consists) mostly of senior citizens. But it remains a formidable force, which is why the Communists and other possible rivals for the vacancy watched the Rodina congress with undivided attention.