Yevgeny Minchenko: “There is a complex combination of electoral bases for A Just Russia”
Eight months before the elections to the State Duma, three parties decided to unite on the left political wing — parliamentary A Just Russia, Patriots of Russia, and the new party For Truth, whose leader is now writer Zakhar (Yevgeny) Prilepin. Why did this happen, what will the new force called A Just Russia — For Truth bring in the electoral plan, first of all, to the parliamentary party still under the old name, and whether it is worth writing off Sergey Mironov — well-known Russian political strategist Yevgeny Minchenko argues in the interview with Realnoe Vremya.
“These groups hardly intersect in general”
Mr Minchenko, what do you see in the unification of the three left-wing parties?
Unification is always a process that draws attention to the party, creates a certain logical perception that it is on the rise, and these are important advantages for the new party. Besides, the party definitely has a new, additional number of bright speakers, talking heads of A Just Russia. As for the cons, for A Just Russia, there is a complex combination of the electoral bases of A Just Russia, that is, cautious loyalists, and the base of the party For Truth, whose members are such radical Putinists, radical supporters of Russian foreign activity, and these groups in general are difficult to intersect. Besides, the big problem of the united party is organisational, that is, how will the assets of the parties interact with each other at the regional and federal levels?
And finally, the problem is the current name of the party: A Just Russia — For Truth carries a complexity, because truth and justice are actually different values, different messages, and it will be very difficult for the voter to understand what he or she will vote for.
Why did the association of Mironov and Prilepin followers happen? Whose idea was it: the Kremlin, Mironov?
The left-patriotic flank in Russia is overloaded with various forces, and this unification was suggested, and I think that the Kremlin also looks well at any unification processes. But undoubtedly, A Just Russia, benefits from the unification — the attention of voters will definitely be drawn to it, which will create some movement in its favour.
Can we say that this association will become a kind of salvation of “the ship” of A Just Russia, which was slowly going to the electoral bottom?
A Just Russia at the time of unification with the two parties was on the verge of passing the 5-percent barrier — it could gain a maximum of around 4 percent. What is the difficulty of A Just Russia? By attracting radical politicians from the Prilepin movement, they leave the niche of a decent party and automatically become the party of the second choice, and in this case the New People party becomes the beneficiary — they began to claim the niche of the party of decent people, the party for which it is not shameful to vote, and the party that does not have any negative background.
Please specify — is Fair Russia still being going down as a party or not? Somewhere it is somehow heard, and somewhere it is not.
A Just Russia has several very strong regional branches with prominent figures — we can name here the Chelyabinsk branch with Valery Gartung and the Astrakhan branch with Oleg Shein, and at one time the party attracted a considerable number of regional elites to its ranks, and among them even now there are people who have the skills of public politicians — this is, for example, popular in Yakutia Fedot Tumusov. But in addition to these, there are many bright figures in the party, and I would not deny A Just Russia political subjectivity — from the point of view of regional representation, it is still stronger than For Truth and Patriots of Russia, which are now in crisis after the arrest of Anatoly Bykov, the party leader in the Krasnoyarsk Krai.
“Prilepin is a figure with non-obvious advantages”
Well, there are strong regional branches with prominent leaders, but they are not enough — the rating of A Just Russia in the country is low. What prevented them from approaching the Communist Party, whose positions are not strengthening? There are suggestions that the party led by Mironov has little money, no serious sponsors.
A Just Russia occupies a certain electoral niche — its voters are timid loyalists, that is, they are people who are dissatisfied with the government but do not want to vote for the radical opposition, and this is an electorate, as they say, from the forest to the pine tree, the electorate is random. If we recall their best result in the entire history of the party — the result of the 2011 elections to the same Duma, it was due to the popular call then “Vote for any party except United Russia” — in this history, in this niche, the parties were included without anti-rating — including A Just Russia.
But nevertheless, the anti-rating of A Just Russia is still low — in 2016, they also won seats in the parliament, which means that this is an established political force, although it has problems.
Sergey Mironov expressed confidence that he would remain at the head of the united party, but it did not seem to me that the confidence was one hundred percent. Given the new figure — Zakhar Prilepin, a prominent man, can we assume a replacement for the leader? Mironov considers Prilepin's participation in the events in the Donbas almost heroic.
It would be a mistake — if they put at the head of the party and the list in the Duma elections then someone from the regional charismatics like, for example, Gartung, but Prilepin — in my opinion, this is a figure with non-obvious advantages.
In 2012, political expert Leonid Radzikhovsky called Sergey Mironov a political corpse. Apparently, because he did not support the protests after the elections, especially against the background of the call to hand over the mandates of deputies. Instead, he ran for the president himself, although there were popular candidates in the party who could compete with Putin much more than Mironov — the same Oksana Dmitrieva.
So what? In 2016, A Just Russia won seats to the Duma, and who's the corpse?
It is hard to believe that Mironov was not helped by the Kremlin in the 2016 elections. In several districts, candidates were not nominated not only from the United Russia, but also from the Communist Party, and A Just Russia took the upper hand — the same Tumusov, Aksakov. I just want to understand — how much can Mironov bring to the party in the elections?
Yes, Mironov can play an important role, because Mironov is at least some recognisable face for the party, and if there is an urgent question about choosing the head of the party's list in the Duma elections, it will most likely be Mironov.
Now, as you have noticed, the rating of A Just Russia is low, but after the unification it is difficult to believe that they will not win seats to the Duma. How much can the new A Just Russia win?
It will still be difficult for them because of what I've mentioned at the beginning of the conversation: it is very difficult to combine the values of justice and truth: A Just Russia with a low anti-rating includes people with a high anti-rating.
Will the Kremlin refuse to support the new old force?
As far as I know, a very professional team has joined the party, and I wish them success.
“The radical, anti-Navalny position of the Prilepin followers creates great difficulties”
Many said that For Truth will fight for seats in regional parliaments, the State Duma, just as a party, and then it all ended. Why?
It was clear to me that there would be no campaign For Truth last autumn, when Prilepin began to position For Truth not as a party, but as a movement.
You've noted the radical nature of the Prilepin followers, which is confirmed by their intentions to harshly oppose the supporters of Aleksey Navalny. If radicalism will result in something serious, doesn't it threaten to defeat A Just Russia in the Duma?
That's a problem — Navalny followers also voted for A Just Russia before, as for the alternative of United Russia, respectively, the current radical anti-Navalny position of the Prilepin followers now creates a level of complexity especially for the opposition electorate of A Just Russia.
And finally again about the associations before the start of the Duma campaign. Can we expect the same steps from some of the forces?
I think that the limit has already been exhausted. Of course, it would be logical to unite A Just Russia with the Party of Pensioners, but this, as you can see, did not happen — pensioners go their own way. And on the liberal flank, there is no one to unite.
In recent years, the environmental agenda has started to grow in the country, and we could have expected some kind of unifying congress of eco-parties, but there will not be one?
Of course, we have two environmental parties, but they are absolutely unrecognisable, and now absolutely all parties use the environmental agenda, and the purely environmental party is too narrow a niche.