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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

LDPR, Homeland Also Big Winners

The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the Homeland bloc appeared to be among the winners of Sunday's election, showing the broad appeal of both parties' nationalist and anti-oligarch rhetoric among impoverished and disillusioned voters.

LDPR, which has been in the State Duma for the past decade, looked set to greatly increase the size of its faction, while the new Homeland bloc was on course to cross the 5 percent threshold and win a share of the party-list vote in its first time on the ballot.

The strong showing for LDPR and Homeland stems from their success in wresting away a chunk of the protest vote from the Communist Party and from Yabloko, which also has traditionally railed against oligarchic capitalism, said Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Politika think tank.

The Communists were hurt by the amount of mud slung at the party during the campaign, said Nikonov and Nikolai Petrov, a political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center. The Communist Party was attacked by pro-Kremlin parties, and the coverage it received on state-controlled television was largely negative.

The Kremlin either set up or helped promote a number of parties, including Homeland, in an effort to steal votes from the Communist Party or discredit it in the eyes of its traditional electorate.

Nikonov said Homeland was set up by the so-called Family clan, which comprises holdovers from former President Boris Yeltsin's administration.

Homeland co-leader Sergei Glazyev, an economist, chose the immensely rich and unpopular oligarchs as the main targets of his campaign. He called for raising taxes on their oil companies and using the money to increase pensions and public sector wages.

His co-leader Dmitry Rogozin, presidential envoy for Kaliningrad and outspoken hawk, also hit out at the oil barons, but he interspersed his anti-oligarch tirades with calls for a greater Russia and vows to protect the interests of ethnic Russians abroad.

This hard-hitting rhetoric made Homeland so popular that the Kremlin started to become concerned that it would do too well in the elections and move beyond its control. Hence, regular coverage of Homeland on Channel One television came to an end more than a week before the vote.

But even Rogozin's sharp-worded attacks on the oligarchs paled in comparison to Zhirinovsky's televised escapades.

"And no big business. Don't put it in their hands because they will steal it all and take it all out. Medium-sized businesses, perhaps -- but under the control of the special services," Zhirinovsky said during debates on NTV's "Svoboda Slova" program on Friday evening.

Unlike Homeland, LDPR is a veteran of the political scene. Some allege the party was set up by the Kremlin as a manageable opposition to the Soviet Communist Party.

Zhirinovsky has always courted the protest vote with hard-line rhetoric, but his faction almost invariably has voted in line with the Kremlin's wishes on important bills.

The party did poorly in the 1999 elections, winning only 5.98 percent of the vote as large swathes of the protest vote went to the Communists and even to Unity, which the Kremlin had created just two months before the election in an effort to undermine a party backed by powerful governors.

This time, however, access to television coupled with tacit support from the Kremlin allowed Zhirinovsky to expand his share of the protest vote at the expense of the Communist Party, said political analyst Sergei Markov.

"LDPR was backed by its traditional set of voters. But it was pushed further along by huge amounts of money from the Kremlin and TV support," he said.

Nikonov agreed. While the state-controlled television channels were hitting the Communists hard, LDPR and Homeland were left to their own devices and succeeded in getting their messages out, he said.

Given LDPR's record, the faction can be expected to continue to vote in line with the Kremlin's wishes in the new Duma, unless it is swayed by a more generous lobbyist, Nikonov and Petrov said.

Homeland deputies may prove to be more independent in their voting, emboldened by their strong showing in the election, Petrov said.

Nikonov, however, said Homeland's leaders are unlikely to consistently oppose Kremlin-backed bills for fear that they may become the next target of a Kremlin-engineered smear campaign, after the Communists.

Glazyev and Rogozin, who were members of the Communist and pro-Kremlin People's Deputy factions, respectively, in the previous Duma, have so far dodged the question of what alliances Homeland may form in the new Duma.

"We aim to form a new majority in the Duma together with other patriotic forces," Glazyev said at a news conference Thursday, a definition broad enough to describe either the Communists or the People's Party, which has enjoyed the support of the Kremlin's siloviki clan.

Petrov said Homeland is unlikely to ally with any pro-Kremlin faction, although Rogozin may decide to split away to form a partnership with the People's Party, which was formed on the basis of the People's Deputy faction.

More likely, however, Glazyev will ally with those Communists who have lost belief in Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov.

"Glazyev may be seizing the leadership of the left opposition from Zyuganov and, if he plays it right, he may emerge as this opposition's sole candidate for the presidential elections," Petrov said.

Staff Writer Catherine Belton contributed to this report.

Selected Quotes

Boris Nemtsov:

"What is of most significance to me is that there will be a large number of national-socialists in the new Duma, and we have warned about this. ... I don't think that a Duma of this kind can facilitate Russia's progress. ... If our representation in Duma is minimal, a lot of problems will arise for Russia. I am very afraid that we are losing our opportunity."

Sergei Glazyev:

"We will pass laws that enable us to double the country's budget, gross domestic product and the salaries of state employees. The previous Duma majority worked for private interests, now it will focus more on national interests."

Grigory Yavlinsky:

"Homeland took votes away from Zhirinovsky and the Communists. There are voters who are dissatisfied with the work of the Communist Party and who are tired of voting for Zhirinovsky."

Gennady Zyuganov

"You are all participating in a disgusting spectacle that for some reason people are calling an election. This embarrassing farce ... has nothing to do with democracy."

See also Election Special 2003