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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Communists Pick The Party's Top 3

The Communists on Saturday picked an anti-Semitic nationalist and an Agrarian to join Gennady Zyuganov at the top of their party list, as they shaped their electoral bloc going into the Dec. 7 parliamentary election.

After a 14-hour congress held on the premises of the agricultural company Rosagropromstroi, which is headed by party financier Viktor Vidmanov, some 300 party members approved the trio.

Zyuganov will be followed on the list by former Krasnodar Governor Nikolai Kondratenko, who is known for his anti-Semitic remarks, and Nikolai Kharitonov, who heads the agro-industry faction in the State Duma.

Also among the top 18 people on the party list are two people connected to the Yukos oil major, a female former cosmonaut, a Nobel laureate, Zyuganov's right-hand man and a party member he once accused of being a Kremlin mole.

A party official who asked not to be named said the vote on the top three spots was not an easy one. "We discussed for hours whether to give Kondratenko the No. 2 spot," he said.

Many party members were against choosing Kondratenko, since they believe that his open anti-Semitism could scare voters away, the official said. "But Zyuganov opted for him, since he believes he is able to attract the nationalist-communist electorate."

After overseeing Krasnodar from 1997 to 2000, Kondratenko chose not to stand for re-election and now represents the region in the Federation Council.

Initially, Zyuganov planned to give the second spot to Zhores Alfyorov, who won the Nobel Prize for physics in 2000. Communist Deputy Alexander Saly told reporters during a break at the congress that Alfyorov, who was given the No. 5 spot instead, refused to be included in the troika since it would have meant full-time party work and no time for his scientific activities.

Almost everyone agreed on Kharitonov for the third spot, since "he will be able to attract the peasant electorate," the party official said.

The official said Zyuganov is pleased by the "Communist-Nationalist-Agrarian troika," believing this could attract a wide spectrum of voters.

The top three names on the party list are important because voters cast ballots for parties based on the first names they see on the ballot.

After the congress, Zyuganov called the Communists' federal list a "democratic" structure since it includes people from different organizations. "Eleven out of the 18 most important people on our federal list are not KPRF members, but they have been actively cooperating with us," he said.

No. 18 on the list is Duma Deputy Speaker Gennady Semigin, often a key player in behind-the-scenes intrigue. A former businessman, he heads the executive committee of the Popular Patriotic Union of Russia, or NPSR, an umbrella group uniting some 15 left-wing political movements, with the Communists as its backbone. In the Duma, Semigin formally represents the Agrarian faction.

Earlier this year, the editors of two left-wing opposition newspapers, Zavtra and Pravda, published a joint article called "Operation: Mole," accusing Semigin of helping Kremlin officials organize a fifth column in the NPSR.

Zyuganov endorsed the article, and the party's leaders issued a resolution admonishing Semigin's committee for overstepping its bounds and abetting the Kremlin's attempts to sow discord.

Zyuganov on Saturday did not hide his displeasure at the choice of Semigin, but he said it was the decision of the congress. "Differences notwithstanding between me and him, we carried out all the needed democratic procedures for the nomination of the candidate."

Party deputy chairman Ivan Melnikov said there were four candidates for the 18th spot and the congress voted for Semigin.

Svetlana Savitskaya, a Communist lawmaker who in 1984 became the first woman to walk in space, was chosen for the No. 4 spot.

Valentin Kuptsov, Zyuganov's first deputy, was given the sixth spot.

The 13th and 14th spots went to two Yukos men, Alexei Kondaurov and Sergei Muravlenko.

Kondaurov is an official aide to the president of Yukos Moscow, a major division within the oil company. A long-time Communist backer, he ran in the fourth spot on the party list in the Far East in the 1999 elections, but did not make it into the Duma.

Muravlenko was chairman of the Yukos board from 1993, before privatization, until resigning the post in June. Last year, he funded Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov's Rebirth of Russia party and was reported to be intending to underwrite the Communists as well.

The Yabloko party, which also held its congress over the weekend, placed three people associated with Yukos in the top 17 spots on its party list. (See story, page 3.)

The Kremlin's attack on Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky is seen in part as payback for his efforts to win influence in the Duma by funding opposition parties. He has acknowledged giving money to Yabloko and has said that other Yukos shareholders may be financing the Communists.

Zyuganov told journalists at the end of the congress that some 270 people were chosen for the federal list and 185 to run in the single-mandate districts. Half of the Duma's 450 seats are chosen on the basis of party lists; the other half by direct vote.

Sergei Glazyev, a member of the Communists' Duma faction but not a member of the party, was invited to the congress, but the party official said he refused to come after being informed that he would not be given the floor.

Glazyev announced plans last month to form his own bloc, which is seen as a Kremlin-backed attempt to takes votes away from the Communists. He invited the Communists to join, but not lead, the bloc.

Seleznyov, another former Communist, announced Saturday that his party will join forces with the pro-Kremlin Party of Life, headed by Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov.

Seleznyov said that if the two parties break the 5 percent barrier to get into the Duma, they will back pro-Kremlin United Russia, since they share the same ideas about social programs and this opens the possibility for "serious dialogue in the Duma," Itar-Tass reported.

Seleznyov said he also has talked to Glazyev about joining their bloc, and so far they have agreed that "after the election they will work together."

Two more parties, the Union of Right Forces and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, will hold their congresses on Monday.

LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky on Sunday named the two others to run with him in the top trio: retired FSB Colonel Pavel Chernov and Zhirinovsky's assistant Alexei Ostrovsky, who has just graduated from the Moscow State Institute for International Relations, or MGIMO.