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Russia: Single Mandate Races Lack Party Support

  • Sophie Lambroschini



In elections for the Russian State Duma held on Sunday, half of the 450 seats are given away to parties based on their overall share of the vote. The other half are determined in races between individual candidates in single mandate districts. In these latter races, a few lucky candidates are parachuted in from their Moscow party headquarters and have the party's active backing. But for hundreds of candidates running for one of the 225 single mandate seats in the Duma, little real support comes from their parties. That's the case for candidates in the Krasnodar region, from where RFE/RL correspondent Sophie Lambroschini filed this report.

Moscow, 20 December 1999 (RFE/RL) -- In communist-dominated Krasnodar, campaigning has little to do with glitzy concerts, big halls, and glossy leaflets. For Duma candidates like actress Lyudmilla Zaytseva and businessman Ildus Salimzhanov, who fought for a seat through a single-mandate district far from the capital, there was one essential question -- will my supporters knock at more apartment doors than the supporters of my opponents?

Zaytseva ran under the Russian All-National Union (ROS) in the Krasnodar region district number 42. The ROS movement is headed by Sergey Baburin, a leftist nationalist who shares many communist views, but fell out with the party. Zaytseva, a former Soviet-era actress, supported Baburin and Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov repeatedly in former elections. This time she wanted to become a deputy herself to, as she puts it, defend the rights of her exploited people. But for this fading star it may also be a last chance of being in the limelight on Kuban village gymnasium stages. Zaytseva told RFE/RL about how she ran her campaign.

"The money that friends gave me, the money I invested, that's 83,000 [rubles], the money that ROS put [on the electoral account] -- that's 160,000 [or some $6,000], my whole pre-electoral fund. That's a miserable [sum] of course. But thanks to people's support and their voluntary approach, their love. The car, the driver, that's Dima, a boy who's helping, he's a friend. Practically volunteer work, as I said. My friend from the village of Kanevskoy, she's known me for ten years as an actress, I went to her. She left her three-year old son and husband who's a kolkhoz worker who doesn't receive any [salary]. A family member helps. I don't have any paid advertisements, I don't stick leaflets on poles. I [just] have a letter to my electors that I put into letterboxes."

Sergey Zauglov, a twenty-two year old political science student, is campaign organizer for Ildus Salimzhanov, a well-to-do businessman who builds garages in Krasnodar. Zauglov explains that although Salimzhanov is running for Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), he tries to do without their active support. He explains that the candidate does not "want to be associated with the LDPR's provocative style".

Running under the LDPR was just a way for Salimzhanov to better his chances. The party helped with a little money transferred to his electoral fund and by providing federal propaganda leaflets. The rest -- finding sponsors, designing and placing advertisements, and the campaigning itself -- was all Zauglov's job. While Salimzhanov is at the office, Zauglov works from the businessman's luxurious leather-upholstered living-room which is registered as the candidate's headquarters. The most difficult part of his job, he says, is placing paid advertisements in local media which is under the control of opposed political forces. He says that most of the electoral fund goes for media expenses.

Zauglov says that while some candidates may spend up to 830,000 rubles -- about $33,000 -- most manage with less, perhaps 250,000 rubles.

Zauglov says that in the campaign he is managing, while much of the money goes to media advertisements, much of the actual effort is expended on door-to-door campaigning. And as is typical, the campaign has to pay people to do that work. Candidate Salimzhanov, for example, pays his activists 500 rubles per 1000 leaflets. But they are obliged to speak to every person they give an ad to.

As for Zauglov, he is waiting neither for a big salary nor for promotion in Zhirnovsky's party. Rather, he says he is running the campaign for the practical experience. Zauglov says that when he's good enough, he will go to work for those he calls "the real democrats".

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