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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Party of Bureaucrats

Russians have a habit of doing things differently, and this includes their manner of forming political parties. It is common practice in the world for parties to give rise to power, but we go at it the opposite way: Those in power have decided to form their own party. This is what follows from the announcement by the head of the president's administration, Sergei Filatov, about the creation of the so-called "presidential party" of a moderate-conservative-democratic bent.


The idea is far from new. Gennady Burbulis had already proposed it last summer, and the president himself has mentioned it in speeches. But that was when the executive and legislative branches of the government were in a state of confrontation, and there was some logic in these announcements. The idea of uniting the reformers against their opponents was justified, given the absence of normal political parties in the country, no matter how controversial the idea was.


However, at that time the idea could not be implemented. Why today, when the internal-political situation in the country has changed completely, have these old plans been revived?


The answer, it seems, can be found in Filatov's statement at the conference of regional presidential representatives. The speech touched on how the president's administration had lost control of the campaign for election to local government organs. This is an important declaration. It testifies to the fact that the president's administration, even after it had won the referendum, soon realized that power was slipping from its hands.


The federal organs of government cannot fail to be concerned by the completely new political situation within the country since the December elections, and by the change in the government. The active formation of real political parties with close ties to the regions has begun.


The new Russian parliament, especially the lower house, is also directly tied to the regions through party factions.


The president and the government have found themselves in a political vacuum, especially since Yegor Gaidar's retirement. It is obvious that in the elections to local government posts, victory will be won by people who are tied to a political party, not to the federal government. And the parties will all be more or less in opposition to the president and to the government. So the executive branch of the federal government, primarily the president, (or, rather, his administration) risks being left out of the game.


It seems that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is well aware of this danger. He has clearly been trying to play an independent role lately, and he seems inclined to dialogue with the parliament. This can hardly be good news for the president's administration.


And so a solution has been found. The creation of some sort of superparty, to unite under the president's banner all those for whom the name of Yeltsin is synonymous with the ideas of "democracy" and "reform." It seems that this time the building of a party is being taken seriously. Word has it that preparations are in full swing, with the active participation of high-level officials in the president's administration.


It is difficult to picture that the ideas expounded by Filatov will find a wide response among the public. But it is certain that, since few high-level and promising politicians will agree to join, the rank and file of the new party will be made up of bureaucrats. This will include the prime minister, who has been backed into a corner: He will either have to leave the government or join the president's party. And so on down the line, right down to provincial clerks. The similarities with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union are almost too obvious too mention.


The sad fate of the Russia's Choice bloc, which suffered defeat primarily because it ran as the government party during the elections, has not, apparently, made an impression upon the ideologists of the president's party. But it is possible that they intend to play by completely different rules. Namely -- to create a new party, not to defend their political views, but simply to try to stay in power.


Does such a party have any chance of success? It is highly unlikely. One could say with certainty that almost all serious parties presently in existence will oppose it, both on the left and the right, since the "president's party" will deny them the possibility of coming to power by democratic means. As for the regions -- having one's own governors in place does not necessarily mean that one controls the provinces. Not to mention the republics, which have created their own presidential parties.


The image of a "government party" is hardly likely to attract the support of voters, either. So the only thing the new party will be able to do is draw from the parties on the right the votes of those for whom Yeltsin stands for democracy and reform. And also, it seems likely, it will aggravate the relationship between the center and the regions, since the central bureaucracy is neither able nor willing to create a full-fledged federation. It is not to the advantage of the central government.


And, consequently, the "president's party" will inevitably try to dissolve all true federal structures, which will, in effect, mean an attempt to dissolve all the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution. The regions will certainly respond to this by trying to escape the control of the center.


Given all of this, it is totally incomprehensible why the creation of a party of bureaucrats is necessary to Boris Yeltsin, who, it seems, has already won his place in the popular consciousness as the father of the nation without a party. There does not seem to be any advantage for him in the creation of such a party. Will we have to blame the "president's circle" for this, too?





Sergei Chugayev is a political observer for Izvestia. He contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.