“Zhirinovsky has become lazy and wants to enjoy life”
Vladimir Semago about the biggest mistake of the LDPR
“The LDPR will come out of this conflict with Khabarovsk with a negative indicator in the next elections, but this will not be of fundamental importance for them, because this is a party that is already ending its existence. Zhirinovsky is gradually losing his position: he is stalling in his actions and rhetoric, he can not offer the public anything new because the entire political space is filled with President Putin, and, accordingly, other political leaders have no niche left — they will only help correct Putin or help him. The LDPR is a downed pilot, we are seeing the decline of this party," says Vladimir Semago, former State Duma Deputy, politician, journalist and businessman. He spoke about this and the prospects of the Khabarovsk protest in the interview with Realnoe Vremya.
“The key moment was participation in the impeachment of Yeltsin in the spring of 1999"
Mr Semago, can we call the LDPR an opposition, even if it is a systemic one?
The LDPR has never been an opposition in its life, it only declared its opposition based solely on commercial considerations, and this historical trend exists in the party to this day. Initially, at the stage of 1993-1999, the LDPR primarily used its possibilities to trade votes when making decisions in favour of a particular structure — either the government or the opposition, and depending on the proposed “contract”, members of this party could say whether they took this position or another. The Liberal Democrats did not have any other strategy, and we cannot say that it was an opposition party in the 1990s. Opposition to what? Yes, the LDPR could be at odds with the ruling party or the party that won the election (Choice of Russia, United Russia), but they always worked only for reasons of who and for how much to sell their votes.
The key moment for the LDPR was its participation in the impeachment of Boris Yeltsin in the spring of 1999, when the Zhirinovsky followers completely took the position of the Kremlin and did everything for money to prevent the impeachment. They implemented this case — the impeachment did not take place, and after that the cooperation with the Kremlin went for the LDPR on a permanent basis. Later, by the way, the same position, although with not so pronounced mercantile aspects, was taken by the Communist Party, which also began to cooperate with the Kremlin. It also expressed rejection of the power position on some issues, but not on the issues of key nature.
Did Zhirinovsky express his goals and thoughts more often in his rhetoric or did he rather speculate on the moods of the discontented?
Of course, Zhirinovsky had his own position, which he tried to declare — he spoke about the need to restore the Russian Empire, about ending the practice of federalism, about the need to protect the Russians, and so on. He simply took rather primitive political slogans that were in tune with the lumpen and people who were not provided with some benefits, experienced the outbursts of discontent with what was happening in the country, and simply deftly used them. Hence the words that Russians do not need ethnic republics, which do nothing but fatten on the acquisitions of the Russian people (although the Russian people do not exist, as we know, but there is the conditional designation of the multinational ethnic group), and many other things that were good for men on the bench, drinking beer and pouring vodka into glasses.
The LDPR, therefore, simply played a cheap game on the base manifestations of the average type of Russian citizen.
“When the Kremlin doesn't use the Liberal Democrats, they come up with their own themes”
Is the LDPR really so important and necessary for the current Kremlin? Can they do without it?
It is inconvenient for the Kremlin to make this or that statement itself in order to probe the situation in society, and then it calls these “crazy Komsomol members” and they start speaking out about all sorts of topics. When the Kremlin doesn't call them, they come up with their own topics. In any case, the Kremlin evaluates the LDPR. They may decide that the party offers nonsense, or publicly declare that, for example say, “the LDPR offers” the right solution and let's try to formalise it by law.
You must understand that the structure of the party and political system in Russia is homogeneous, there are no opposition parties and there is no systemic or non-systemic opposition. And even Navalny, Khodorkovsky or Kasparov, who would like to change something, are not pure opposition — they are not in the parliament, they are not present at the decision of state issues, their role is unofficial. In Russia, there are only officially designated opposition parties, but these are only “shades of black or white”, and Zhirinovsky's party exists to shade the ruling party.
Even Navalny, Khodorkovsky or Kasparov, who would like to change something, are not pure opposition — they are not in the parliament, they are not present at the decision of state issues, their role is unofficial
What kind of people came and come to the LDPR?
Historically, the LDPR initially consisted of marginals and people who were actively dissatisfied. Besides, the LDPR had a lot of people who always tried to be shocking, political or social. Since Zhirinovsky needed money for political campaigns, people with big money joined his party. Money that they could not declare as legally earned, and because of this, there were many criminal elements in the party who later came under criminal prosecution and received various sentences — hfor example, the Starovoytova case. But there were many people in the LDPR who, like Zhirinovsky, saw that they could make money out of politics.
Later, a clear opportunistic cohort appeared in the LDPR, which united around Zhirinovsky — it used criminal, semi-criminal money, used populist statements and expressions in order to get power in certain regions that could be used for selfish purposes. Here the most striking example is Lenya Markelov (the head of Mari El from 2001 to 2017, who was arrested on charges of receiving a large bribe — editor’s note).
These include Sergey Furgal — he was a businessman, most likely with a semi-criminal past, and almost everyone in Khabarovsk knows about this.
“I am not inclined to say that Furgal had to carry cash to someone in Moscow, but there was definitely an element of disobedience”
What is the reason of such different behaviour of Zhirinovsky after Furgal's arrest you think?
They just told him: “Don't be afraid, we will leave the quota for your LDPR in the province”, and what difference does it make to him from which personalities to pull money for the party? Then they asked him whom he wanted to see as the head of the region, and he said that he had a guy who twice wanted to become mayor of Moscow — a good guy, politically promoted, and let's, they say, put him, because he implicitly obeyed the will of the party leader. Yes, he started yelling “I'm going to start a fire in Khabarovsk Krai!”, but they told him: “What fire? Everything is up to you! What difference does it make to you — Furgal or Murgal? Your man will be there!”
Furgal, apparently, did not share with those with whom it is necessary, incorrectly reacted to the situation — in particular to the calls for cooperation in material terms, and he was punished. I think that Zhirinovsky was probably told: we do not have people in power who do not cooperate, and anyone else who does not cooperate will also face the fate of Furgal. This is my value judgment.
I am not inclined to say that Furgal had to wear someone in Moscow cakes, but this is definitely an element of disobedience, and as a result of this — Moscow's discontent, conflict with Moscow and the military resolution of the conflict
Was Furgal a significant figure for Zhirinovsky?
For Vladimir Zhirinovsky, apart from Vladimir Zhirinovsky and a little bit of his son Igor Lebedev, there are no significant figures. However, there is still the president of the Russian Federation, at the expense of which Zhirinovsky is fed. There are no other factors that deserve attention for Zhirinovsky.
Is it Zhirinovsky's invention that Furgal wanted to resign two days before his arrest?
After the fact, you can say anything you want. You can say that Furgal did not sleep at night and often told his wife that he could not stand the strain, that he was not worthy of the post of governor and that he should resign, that he was going to become Pope, and so on. It is simply pointless to listen to this — there are facts that show that the government removed the person. Not the leader of the LDPR, not a member of the LDPR party, but a person who did not want to negotiate, and he was punished. And this is an example for other governors from the Communist Party or LDPR — or, they say, you work with us, with the Kremlin, or you will have such a story. I am not inclined to say that Furgal had to bring money to someone in Moscow, but this is definitely an element of disobedience, and as a result of this-Moscow's discontent, conflict with Moscow and the military resolution of the conflict.
“There are no individualities in the LDPR. There are people who go to banya with Zhirinovsky”
Wasn’t there someone in the LDPR to replace Furgal who could understand the people in Khabarovsk and who was ready to communicate with them respectfully?
It's true — no one. In the LDPR, there are no individualities at all, there are only people who go to banya with Zhirinovsky. Where did you see a usurper of political power in the party who would educate individuals? Zhirinovsky's son is nothing of himself — he has no authority in the party! When was the last time you listened to a public speech by Zhirinovsky's son, in which he stated or defended something? This is an ordinary kid who loves money and enjoys using it.
Degtyarev is not devoid of any intelligence, like a normal person, but he does not have any conceptuality, ideas, philosophy, civil and political position, he is a pure weather weathercock
How strong a political blow did the party receive after the Furgal incident?
No one in the LDPR sets a task to seize power in the country. In 1993-1994, the party, after its success in the Duma elections, felt ambitious, but Zhirinovsky quickly abandoned this, realising that it was pointless, he did not have all sorts of resources for this, and there were no competent associates to manage the country. And from that moment it became clear that the LDPR will cease to exist at the moment when Zhirinovsky ceases to exist.
Thus, Zhirinovsky does not have any tasks, he has only mercantile tasks, and it is not by chance that all the property of the LDPR belongs to the Zhirinovsky family. And if this fact doesn't mean anything to anyone, then what's the point of us talking about anything?
“We are seeing the decline of the party, and the reason is not even Khabarovsk”
But the LDPR does not want to lose support in the regions. Can we assume that after the story with Khabarovsk, the Far East as “its” region is lost for Zhirinovsky?
No, it's too early to say that. The same Degtyarev has not yet done anything in Khabarovsk. Although, of course, he behaved like a fool, not going out to the people and then starting to say stupid things in his defense that, for example, I will go to the edge to see. Sorry, you have a sore point in the centre of Khabarovsk Krai — continuous rallies, and your task as a smart person was to calm people down. Degtyarev is not a figure who is able to convey to people some correct and reasonable decisions, he is not an independent person and he is not friends with his head.
Zhirinovsky is not a fool, he understands that in his ranks there could be a real criminal or a person prone to crimes, and he does not want to get dirty if the court proves that Furgal was involved in the murders
Perhaps, the LDPR will come out of this conflict with Khabarovsk with some negative indicator in the next elections, but this will not be of fundamental importance for them, because this is a party that is already ending its existence. Look, Zhirinovsky is gradually losing his position: he is stalling in his actions and rhetoric, he can not offer the general public anything new, because the entire political space is filled with President Putin, and, accordingly, other political leaders have no niche left — they will only help correct Putin or help him, and party leaders do not have an independent role. The LDPR is a downed pilot and we are just watching it fade.