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The Kremlin art of Fakepolitik

by at 15/09/2011 21:40

The strange goings-on at the Right Cause congress in Moscow this week look, on the surface, like part of the Kremlin’s favorite election party game: Fakepolitik.

How does the game work? It’s quite simple, if you know the (unwritten) rules. First, you create a fake party and find someone plausible to lead it.

Then you build it up, or knock it down, depending on how many votes you’d like it to receive and whether you’d like it to enter parliament. You can do this by helping or hindering the party in its application to register, granting it more or less airtime on TV and creating a party program that looks more or less independent of the authorities.

Then there’s the Dirty Tricks Department (always useful in an election season). They can organize all kinds of ‘black PR,’ from raids by law enforcement agencies on businesses connected with the designated party leader, to fa ke or ‘clone’ delegates to party congresses – or even, as a special service, fake or ‘clone’ an entire party congress.

Or all of the above, as happened this last week.

The result? Not just the discrediting of a politician’s chances – in this case, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov – but the discrediting of the whole idea of competitive politics.

However, as always with Russian politics, there is a deeper game afoot. This is not the Fakepolitik the public is shown, but the Realpolitik that decides where power and money really reside.

In Kremlin Realpolitik, Right Cause was used as the underpinning for a second presidential bid by Dmitry Medvedev in 2012. Now it looks like the billionaire backers of a second Medvedev term are losing ground among the Kremlin elite.

The real result is that a new tandem looks more likely: Vladimir Putin returning as president, with Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin taking over Medvedev’s counterbalancing role in the tandem – as prime minister.

Kudrin may not be the liberalizing politician that Medvedev has sought to be, but he is seen as a safe pair of hands that both the Kremlin siloviki and the oligarchs can do business with. Just as importantly, Kudrin is ready to implement a tough austerity program should the economy face a new recession.

Read other articles of the print issue "The Moscow News #71"
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