General Manager of the Union of National Strategy Stanislav Belkovsky brought up the subject of Putin's loneliness several times in the course of the past several months. Vip.Lenta.Ru decided to conduct its own investigation of the last weekend's event from a slightly different standpoint.
A new Presidential campaign began on December 11th, 2003 in Russia. There is only one candidate so far. His name is Vladimir Putin. He was nominated by a group of initiative voters who gathered in Moscow's Institute of Steel and Alloy on December 21. The nomination was held in strict accordance with the rules. Representatives from the Central Elections Committee were invited to witness the procedure.
Three days earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin has informed the nation in a televised interview with the public of his decision to run for president in 2004. He also mentioned his desire to run alone, not from any political party. "United Russia", the party associate with the President immediately stated that "Vladimir Putin's decision to run for president by himself as an independent candidate is right." Members of the party intend to support the President nonetheless.
It is a known fact that Putin will not have any problems with supporters. He will face other sort of problems. During the same day when the initiative group of friends nominated Putin to run for president, another political party "Yabloko" decided to refrain from the upcoming elections altogether. The party's leader Grigiry Yavlinsky characterized such decision in the following way. He mentioned a very little chance of having free and honest elections due to the country's current political situation. In order to clarify his initial remark "Yabloko"'s leader has pointed out the absence of independent judicial apparatus, politically independent Mass Media as well as the absence of the ability to finance elections campaigns independently. According to its official statement, "Yabloko" will not support the President. Yavlinsky also allows for a possibility to boycott the upcoming elections.
Other democratic authorities made similar decision. During a meeting held in the museum of Andrey Sakhrov (a significant meeting place for all Russian liberals) on Saturday, December 20th, politicians signed a petition to boycott the elections or to vote "against all". "Based on the results of previous elections held on December 7th, 2003, there is no chance of conducting honest elections…Anyone registering for the upcoming elections as a democrat will be regarded as a participant of Kremlin's political intrigues." The statement was signed by Boris Nemtsov from "Union of Rightists", Valeria Novodvorskaya from "Democratic Union", Elena Bonner from Sakharov's Fund, along with several dozens of rightists.
KPRF's plenum is scheduled for the end of December. Therefore, communists' position regarding the upcoming elections remains unclear. Some sources claim however that communists plan to boycott the elections as well. Secretary of the Central Committee (KPRF) Oleg Kulikov stated in his interview to Gazeta.Ru that "a possibility of such decision is miserably small, but it does exist nonetheless."
After Nemtsov's and Yavlinsky's public announcements, KPRF may just as well boycott the elections. Besides, the party already experiences certain problems with the President. After loosing the elections to the State Duma, Zyuganov probably does not want to be humiliated in a race with a rather obvious outcome. At the same time, Zyuganov is the only well-known communist. Any other candidate will be in need of major advertising and PR. In case communists lose these presidential elections, the results could be devastating for the party. This will result in the party's political death. So boycotting the elections might actually be a rather wise decision.
Additionally, in case Zyuganov refuses to continue, Putin will lose another opponent. Vladimir Zhiorinovsky of LDPR has made a recent announcement, according to which he will participate in the elections only as Zuyganov's main rival. Therefore, if Zyganov refuses, so will Zhirinovsky.
Such situation is less likely to appeal to Putin. Even though he needs to win in the first round, the victory should be legitimate in the eyes of Russians. The elections are not considered legitimate when none of the serious candidates are present. Political bloc "Rodina" will be able to provide needed competition to Putin. Glazyev and Rogozin expressed their desire to support Putin. However, their opinions are likely to change due to current events.
Putin may lose his chair in addition to losing his face in case of boycott. If communists, "SPS" and "Yabloko" unite their efforts and manage to persuade the public to vote "against all", the elections could be cancelled. A minimum of 50% of the entire population is required in order to elect the President. In case "Yabloko", "SPS" and KPRF decide to boycott the elections, 50% of voters will be lost.
It is not surprising that the President has already expressed his opinion regarding such turn of the events. Putin said that boycotting elections is "foolish and harmful, because it may affect country's political and economic life."
The newest Russian history does not remember a case of failed elections in the country. Serbia, however, experienced this problem not once, not twice, but three times. Let's just wait and see. Hopefully, Russia will not follow Serbia's example.