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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Luzhkov Finds Fatherland Is Not All Russia




Radiating complacency and optimism with every cell of his corpulent figure, Georgy Boos, the shining boss of Mayor Yury Luzhkov's electoral headquarters, predicted his electoral bloc's prospects at a recent news conference.


The bloc itself, according to Boos, will receive at least 60 percent of the vote and an absolute majority in the State Duma. A certain Sergei Stepashin, a man temporarily resembling the prime minister? Well, perhaps I will give him my sixth place on the party list, if he really begs for it. And his predecessor? Yevgeny Primakov is not a moron, he'll come to us anyway, Boos added.


As for extorting Moscow's businessmen to benefit Fatherland's electoral campaign - we never make individuals give money, Boos said. They come themselves and ask us to take their money. (Well, any godfather in any big city will tell you the same. The mayor in Nikolai Gogol's Inspector General came up with the same theory. This idea perhaps popped into Mr. Boos' mind from the distant memory of his highschool literature course. Mr. Yastrzhembsky would have definitely answered in a more genteel and sophisticated way).


As far as I know, the more seasoned and less presumptuous people in Luzhkov's entourage - those more experienced than Boos, a former lighting salesman - don't seem to share his euphoria about the alliance of Fatherland and All Russia.


In real terms, this alliance means that Fatherland gave up on being a federal party. Luzhkov becomes just one of the regional barons forming a one-time electoral bloc with the pragmatic goal of elbowing their lobbyists into the Duma. By now the presidential hopeful must realize he has made a mistake by donning the Fatherland yoke. As a presidential candidate, he used to enjoy some self-sufficiency. Now he has to drag along into the Duma a bedraggled trail of apparatchiki and bureaucrats, who have lined up in the best of Soviet traditions. "No. 4 is a woman, No. 5 is a peasant, No. 6 is myself," reported Mr. Boos. Now, to prevent an embarrassing outcome at the polls, they have to forge an alliance with All Russia, which is far from representing all Russia. Governors with at least some ideological inclinations are leaning toward other blocs: The leftists with the Communists, the market reformers with Voice of Russia and its allies.


All Russia includes the "centrists," whose only ideology is self-regeneration. Certainly, Ruslan Aushev will bring the bloc 99 percent of Ingushetia's vote, Mintimer Shaimiyev and Murtaza Rakhimov - 90 percent in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. Vladimir Yakovlev, who displayed a strong command of "shady" electoral tricks during last year's St. Petersburg elections, will also contribute. It will be enough to overcome the 5 percent threshold.


But the party list will hardly move substantially further. Where are their mass voters? I can imagine people ready to vote for Gennady Zyuganov or Grigory Yavlinsky, for Alexander Makashov or Yegor Gaidar - people who identify themselves with the views of these politicians. But who, other than obliged subordinates, can be inspired by the bright ideas of Luzhkism-Shaimianism?


Of course, in their "own regions," the bloc will manage to elect a certain number of deputies from single mandate districts who may be able to form a faction in the Duma. But what will they have in common with Luzhkov's interests? Or with those of Fatherland? Or with those of the fatherland?