On the Results of the 2021 Election Campaign and the Tasks of the Party in Consolidating Its Gains
Speech by the First Deputy of the CC CPRF Chairman I.I.Melnikov
October 23, 2021
Permit me to start my report with words of thanks. Thanks to every communist, every supporter, every ally, in general, to absolutely all those who have worked and struggled. We have been and are united by our shared awareness of overdue changes in the interests of the country’s people and its future.
Together we have conducted an arduous and exceedingly important campaign. For the first time in a long time we have brought the left-wing agenda to the very centre of the truly broad public attention. We have become society’s main hope for an end to the monopoly of the party in power. We have unnerved our opponents and made them cross previously unthinkable red lines. We have scored a major moral and political victory. Such victories pave the way towards more serious successes.
The Communist Party had laid the foundation of the struggle in the current elections much earlier than it officially started. In fact, we have conducted three serious preliminary campaigns.
The first campaign was for the change of government in late 2019-early 2020.The government, of course, was dismissed not only due to our pressure, but it was a major factor. The disgraceful pension reform was the last straw, and the CPRF led the popular protest. We assumed a judicious position when the new Cabinet was being formed. We were not in a hurry to express optimism and hope. We withheld our votes. As a result, we were proved right in sharing with society our logical disappointment with the continuity of the liberal course.
The second campaign was in defence of citizens’ rights under the conditions of the pandemic which had broken out. It revealed the dire consequences of the optimization of the healthcare system and the whole social sphere. In fact, all the things thanks to which the country was coping turned out to be what had remained of the Soviet medical system, its approach and its scientific school. At the same time our party opposed numerous abuses in the system of forced isolation and vaccination. It opposed the entrenchment of online education. And in general total digital control over the citizens.
The third campaign was around the new Constitution. While supporting the intention to improve the Main Law, we were the only party to disagree with the way it was done and with what has been done. Our fifteen key amendments which had to do with the vital interests of the majority were cast aside. The sonorous and sound language used to promote the new edition quickly turned into hollow declarations. The really working norms were those aimed at consolidation of power. The year that has passed since then brought it home forcibly to all sober-thinking people.
We entered these elections as a political force that had a consistent and principled stand on every issue, and our position has been vindicated. We entered the election as the only political force which had a fully-fledged comprehensive alternative programme as well as concrete proposals and draft legislation on all the main problems.
We have managed to become a uniting centre for several dozen citizens’ organisations. Rallied around the CPRF was a true patriotic left union, including such important organizations as The Left Front and the movement For a New Socialism. Even those representatives of the patriotic left who did not themselves take part in the elections and were not members of our informal bloc had set aside all their differences and were helping us in our educational work. This help made a difference.
As distinct from the 2016 parliamentary campaign and the “one-day voting “ of recent years we were aware of unprecedented solidarity of the people with us, support for us that was growing week by week, and of a clash of two concepts: the course pursued by power and the course proposed by us. We were aware of a substantial turn in public consciousness, in the absence of which previously many of our efforts did not meet with a strong enough response. That is why before speaking about the official election statistics it is necessary to sum up their implications.
Let us recap the way things developed. On September 9, a week before the start of the voting, the official news agency TASS published a forecast of three sociological companies, VTSIOM, FOM and the Social Marketing Institute. These three services do not even remotely have anything to do with opposition. They are pro-establishment.
They all predicted a turnout of “slightly over 50%,” which it was on paper. They put United Russia’s rating at 29.5% and among those who said they would certainly take part in the vote, at 35%.
Further: just two weeks after the elections, on October 1, VTSIOM announced United Russia’s rating: it was exactly the same as before: 29.5%, while that of the CPRF was 23.3%. Several days later, on October 5, an independent survey announced the results of a poll after the elections: 38% of respondents said they had voted for United Russia and 24% that they had voted for the CPRF.
There is no getting away from the fact that the balance of forces remained stable. But these are practically the same figures that we saw on the CEC screen on September 19 after almost 10% of the votes had been counted: 38.8%to 25%. The same balance, considering the official turnout rate of 51.7%. If we factor in the studies of electoral geographers and mathematicians — their graphs are very convincing – the actual turnout was at least 10% less. Given this, more likely turnout the 38% to 25% ratio would be transformed into 34% to 27%. At least!
The CEC will of course say: this is all fantasy. Yet these figures and arguments have cast-iron logic corroborated by personal feeling of the people’s mood. We can safely draw this political conclusion: power has of course got the State Duma it wanted to get, but the real balance of the public mood is substantially distorted. We were competing practically neck and neck.
This is the underlying result of the campaign on which we can congratulate each other. Of course this is no cause for jubilation insofar as the true mood of the citizens has not yet managed to manifest itself. But we see a trend on which we can build in our future work. This is very important.
As for the official statistics, according to the Central Election Commission, the turnout was about 56.5 million. United Russia won 49.8%, a little over 28 million votes. That is anyway less than in 2016 in percentage terms and in terms of votes. But it again won the constitutional majority thanks to single-mandate candidates.
Our party won 18.93% with almost 11 million votes. The LDPR and Just Russia both won about 7.5% and slightly more than 4 million votes each. Zhirinovsky’s party, which put the stake on out-and-out anti-communism, suffered a debacle against the background of the previous elections: it lost 2.6 million votes, won just 21 seats and dropped to the pitiful position it had in the late 1990s. Just Russia outstripped it in terms of the number of seats thanks to its victories in the election districts, although its overall performance was also poor. The much-touted union with Zakhar Prilepin and Gennady Semigin won them an extra 1% compared with 2016. Among the newcomers to the State Duma is the establishment’s political project The New People which won 5.3% and just under 3 million votes. The remaining parties between them won less than 9%.
We see that even according to official results, we are not only the runners-up, but we are way ahead of all the others. We haven’t had such a lead in the last 20 years. Our percentage has grown by 5.6 compared with the 2016 federal elections. Our Duma Party has increased by 15 members. Our support has grown by 3,640,000 votes. We won 57 seats, of which 9 in single-mandate districts.
In any case this is the best result this century under conditions of a hybrid election system. Moreover, it is even better than the results of the 2007 elections when elections were only by party lists. That is a key indicator of our staying power in adverse conditions. You have to bear in mind that we were up not only against a ruling party, but against a huge administrative hydra.
Let us look at the mechanisms that were used to skew the balance of forces.
First. The elections were again conducted under a new system. No election is conducted without a change of rules that favours the establishment. This time around it was the three-day voting. On the one hand, the first two days did not have the status of an early election. On the other hand, they were not covered by the norms applicable to the voting day. A “legal limbo.” The principle of continuous voting was grossly violated. A break of two nights, by a whole 24 hours, made the work of observers much more difficult and offered a chance to manipulate the ballots. Besides, the fact that voting took place on a weekday gave a chance to control the voting of all the government employees. We have seen the gloomy crowds of people who came to the polling stations and waited in line.
Second. The percentage of “at-home voters” rocketed. In the 2011 and 2016 Duma elections, and in the 2018 presidential elections no more than 7%, or 5 million, voted at home.
In the last elections the figures of at-home voting were 14.4% and 8 million. A record was set in the Jewish Autonomous Area, where more than 35% voted at home. In 33 more regions the figures varied from 15 to 32%. Among them, sadly, were Sebastopol (30%) and Crimea (more than 20%). Alexandr Tarnayev conducted an aggressive campaign, making active use of the popular meetings form, but “dead soles” influenced the final result.
Coronavirus is no excuse. Our comrades everywhere reported that the speed with which these votes were collected defied human physical abilities. And this against the background of the admonitions of the CEC Chairperson Ella Pamfilova in July that the number of at-home votes should not “go off scale.”
Third. The most scandalous and dangerous novelty: online electronic voting. Consider this. When several-days voting is introduced, they cite Western experience. When online voting is introduced the fact that all the advanced countries have rejected this type of voting is ignored. In Russia, it has so far been introduced in seven regions: Kursk, Murmansk, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov and Yaroslavl oblasts as well as Sebastopol and Moscow. The biggest share of such voting was in Moscow: 50%. It was there that the worst fears were confirmed.
Without online voting, in “live voting” at polling stations, the CPRF beat the ruling party in voting by party list by 29.6% to 29.4% and won 6 out of 15 single-mandate districts. However, in the online system, after a pause of many hours, the CPRF was left with a little over 15% and United Russia won in all the districts. Such reversals do not happen. All attempts of dubious “citizens’ election headquarters” to explain them away were unconvincing and absurd.
If the final tally is determined by people working on the Government’s orders, if the vote-counting is opaque for those who take part in the elections, if the outcome is turned upside down then there can be no trust. End of story.
It has to be added that in online voting, one could re-vote several times. Not only was that one more loophole for fraud, but it сreated an uneven playing field because other voters did not have such an opportunity. In spite of various speculations about our position, the CPRF flatly rejects the results of online voting in Moscow.
Fourth. The turnout of course. It is the signal system which reflects the work of all the other technologies and distorts the balance of forces. Defying all the laws of science, an unnatural “pattern” revealed itself: with the increase of turnout the percentage of votes cast for the ruling party grows while for other parties it falls. In the 12 regions where the turnout was less than 40% United Russia won between 29 and 38 %, the same figures as those revealed by opinion polls.But in the 16 regions where official turnout was over 65%, it was between 61 and 95%. Although national republics are traditionally on this lamentable list, the returns in the Bryansk region are outrageous. In the four neighbouring regions the turnout was between 42% and 50% and he ruling party won between 36% and 44%. In the Bryansk region the turnout was almost 69% and United Russia won 64%. We will demand the resignation of the governor, Alexander Bogomaz.
All the regions have their complaints, including about old technologies: ballot-box stuffing, ferrying in of some strange people, manipulations with safe packets, doctoring of protocols. But overall, the Presidium of the CC in its statement singled out as zones of total falsification Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Tyva, Bryansk, Kemerovo, Rostov and Tyumen oblasts and Crimea.
Fifth. The so-called “spoilers” whose aim is always the same: to chip away at our electorate from all sides. The veterans of this business, Communists of Russia and The Pensioners’ Party, made their pitch to voters in the older-age brackets. In addition, two new projects were launched: The New People and The Russian Party for Freedom and Justice. Their aim is to diminish the potential of the CPRF to mobilize democratic protest.
During the course of the debates it was obvious that these parties, rather than speaking about their programmes and the country’s problems, were hammering away at the CPRF. They were putting out the same spiel and singing from the same hymn book.
Another old disease and an obvious evil is the use of lookalikes. It is 2021, but no weapon against this petty and wicked trick has been found. So, somebody benefits from it. People with names identical to those of our candidates have been nominated in Mariy El and Buryatia, and the practice was widespread in Moscow. They had a big impact on the regional elections outcome in the Omsk Oblast. Candidates from other parties have also been targeted. In one of the constituencies in Petersburg there were three candidates by the same name, and it became a caricature of our elections.
Sixth: banning of undesirable candidates. In our case it is notany candidate but Pavel Grudinin for whom millions voted in the 2018 presidential elections and whom the delegates of our Congress named among the three candidate to top our party ticket.
However, he was disqualified from taking part in the elections by a willful decision on the basis of an incoherent document. He was banned but he continued campaigning. Let us thank Pavel Grudinin who has been giving all he had to support the CPRF electoral effort, traveling to the regions and working with the media. Indeed, the campaign in his defence was part of our electoral campaign.
Nikolay Platoshkin was banned long before the start of the campaign. Nevertheless, he worked shoulder to shoulder with us and contributed mightily to our cause, going on the stump, meeting with people.
Seventh: misleading the voters. At first the ruling party put authoritative government ministers, Sergey Shoigu and Sergey Lavrov, at the top of its party ticket. They were drivers of much of their campaign. But then they surrendered their mandates. Okay, let it be the tip of the iceberg. But consider this figure: out of the 126 persons elected under the United Russia list 82 have given up their mandates. Almost two-thirds. Is this normal?
Eighth:Control of the media. More than 60% of all air time in news bulletins was given to the ruling party. Once again, news was mixed with propaganda.
Whereas our comrades, stop watch in hand, were breathless to convey at least some message in the course of debates, the activities of United Russia were highlighted in the coverage of events involving the President and government members. In general, this has always been so. But this time it was so blatant that it leapt out at you. It was taken for granted although the law expressly bans the giving of preference to any electoral association on television with state participation.
In parallel, the work of our activists was disrupted, our campaign products were destroyed or seized and activists were detained. At the grassroots level, a sense is being fostered that any advocacy that does not promote the ruling party is seditious. So, its efficacy is recognized. You can imagine what the results would have been if we had at least half of the opportunities United Russia has to promote itself.
A separate story is propaganda against the CPRF. While previously it was based mainly on anti-Soviet myths, today a new format is based on faking reality.
We all see a spate of faked materials: “allegedly our trailer,” “allegedly our correspondence,” “allegedly our statements,” “allegedly our wreaths laid at monuments to this or that individual,” and so on. In some reports we “are too loyal” and in others we are “two radical.” The hearts of anti-communists of every stripe are bleeding for the CPRF.
Telegram channels have been actively used to disseminate fakes. The ruling party’s hired guns built a veritable factory of fakes for these elections. There has apparently been a change of generations in their camp. All pretense of decency has been thrown to the winds, personal attacks relishing invented sleazy details were launched. The CPRF fought a tough campaign, but our comrades never stooped to such methods and never used such foul epithets. However, the ruling party’s spin doctors, scared of the CPRF’s growing popularity, unloosed a political smear campaign.
We did not try to respond or justify ourselves. We felt that people did not believe the lies and knew why it was happening. In fact, these elections have been a ‘crash test” for the CPRF to reveal its weak spotsandthe damage sustained.We have passed the test without serious damage.
The CPRF Central Staff for elections and the operational headquarters headed by Yuri Afonin concentrated on promoting our programme and supporting regional headquarters. Coordination took place on a daily basis under constant control of the leader of the party and the national –patriotic forces, Gennady Zyuganov, who showed by personal example that work should not stop even for a day.
While the opponents ranted about “aging politicians” he was on the campaign trail meeting with people. He regularly held super-modern video conferences. He secured a regular weekly spot on the popular Komsomolskaya Pravda radio station. He organized and conducted eight in-depth press conferences at the major media platform of TASS. Step-by-step they presented programmatic principles of the electoral association and the whole palette of colourful representatives of our team. Together with the party’s leaders our programme was promoted by Svetlana Savitskaya, Nikolay Platoshkin, Oleg Smolin, Nikolay Bondarenko, Anastasia Udaltsova, Denis Parfyonov, Maria Prusakova, Oleg Mikhailov, and many-many others. Each of them had their own colour, but the colour of their world view was red.
A substantial contribution to equipping the party with strong progammatic ideas was made by Vladimir Kashin, Nikolay Arefyev, and Nikolay Kolomeitsev. They were developed in the course of major forums and dozens of round tables and the experience of our economic managers Andrey Klychkov, Valentina Konovalova, Anatoly Lokot and unique people’s enterprises.
Our activities were all-embracing and multi-faceted. From an appeal to the creative intelligentsia and a massive meeting with cultural workers organized by Sergey Shargunov and Larissa Baranova-Gonchenko to a series of amateur competitions conducted by the CPRF Sports Club.
All the units and services of the party carried out a large amount of work. Dmitry Novikov, Boris Komotsky and Stanislav Anikhovskymade a big contribution to propaganda activities. The CC CPRF Agitation and Propaganda Department prepared cardboard cutouts of banners and leaflets on specific items of our programme, 14 video and 14 audio trailers with our motto: “For the USSR – for a Strong, Just, Socialist Motherland,” with addresses of the party’s leader and visions of the future. Special issues of the newspaper Pravda were coming out regularly from April through September: we managed to issue four waves with a total press run of 35 million copies. The booklet Ten Steps Towards People’s Power with a press run of 5 million copies was very popular. The Red Line channel was working actively. Intellectuals, scientists and experts held discussions in our studio making a major contribution to our work.
Special thanks are due to the organization department and legal service. It carried out complicated and painstaking work to prepare the documents and register our candidates. We thank all those who monitored election results, we had deployed 300 thousand people across the country. Personal thanks are due to the CC CPRF Secretary Alexander Yushchenko who drew number one on the ballot.
A massive effort was mounted on the Internet. The Party’s site and our accounts in the social networks, especially VKontakte, played a big role in disseminating digital materials and enabled us to instantly react to events. Red Telegram channels became more noticeable. The people’s newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya carried topical commentaries. Our comrades were active on television: eleven of them took part in federal debates. Some participants in our regional debates made high-profile appearances on YouTube and Tik-Tok. CPRF State Duma deputies for their part supported the electoral agenda by introducing initiatives: on repealing the pension reform, on making the Unified State Examination optional, on indexation of pensions of working pensioners and so on.
From the financial point of view, we conducted the most effective campaign among all the parties that got into parliament. The LDPR had spent nearly 700 million roubles, United Russia nearly 600 million, Just Russia 542 million, The New People 455 million and the CPRF 178 million
Much of the credit for the fact that we managed to hold our own in the face of a massive deployment of electoral technologies by the administration goes to our regional branches. All the teams of our organizations which contributed to the party’s campaign in the localities and helped the candidates. Modern technology makes it possible to monitor this work at a distance.
If we look at the figures, we see not only better percentages, but victories. We boast four of them: in Mariy El (36%), Yakutia (35%), Nenetsky Autonomous Area (32%), and the Khabarovsk Kray (26.5%). We have won more than 30% in the Ulyanovsk Oblast (33%), Omsk Oblast (31%), Altay Kray (30.5%), the Republic of Altay (30%), almost 30% in Khakassia. In another 14 regions we won between 25% and 30%. In 24 regions, between 20% and 25%.
We recorded the biggest gains in votes compared with 2016 in Moscow (more than 506,000.), Moscow Region (233,000), Krasnodar Kray (180,000), Sverdlovsk Oblast (175,000), the Republic of Tatarstan (131,000), St.Petersburg (122,000) and Rostov Oblast (121,000).
We lost votes only in five regions: in Ingushetia, the Tyumen Oblast, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia and Bashkiria.
In some regions we scored systemic wins across the board, both on the regional level and in single-mandate constituencies. For example, in Omsk Oblast not only 31%, but also wins in constituencies (Oleg Smolin and Andrey Alyokhin). In Samara Oblast 23%, it is in the top ten regions in terms of absolute support, plus two wins in constituencies (Leonid Kalashnikov and Mikhail Matveyev). In Komi we won almost 27%, trailing behind United Russia by just 2.5%, and we won a local constituency into the bargain (Oleg Mikhailov).
Our excellent results in Mariy El (36%), Yakutia (35%), Altay Kray (30.5%) and Irkutsk Oblast (27.8%) have been topped up with the victories in constituencies of Sergey Kazankov, Pyotr Ammosov, Maria Prusakova and Mikhail Schapov. In all these regions we have seized the initiative from the ruling party.
Snatching the initiative is a trend. It is more visible in the regional elections to which the administrators paid somewhat less attention.
We had 39 such campaigns with a big geographical spread. A comparison with the results of the one-day voting in 2016 prompts some interesting conclusions. All in all, we contested 158 sets in these regions, 150 by party list and 8 by constituencies. Now we have 254, of whom 177 by party list and 77 in constituencies. An increase of 96 seats!
We shall have sizeable presence in the Altay Kray (24 seats out of 68), the Lipetsk Oblast (15 seats out of 42), Primorye Kray (14 seats out of 40), the Orenbrug Oblast (12 seats out of 47, Perm Kray (11 seats out of 60), Oryol Oblast (11 seats out of 50), Samara Oblast (10 seats out of 50), Omsk Oblast (10 seats out of 44) and in Sverdlovsk Oblast (9 seats out of 50). In a whole number of regions our presence will not be so large, but the total body of deputies there is not so large, so that the CPRF will carry more weight.
You know that in some regions the total number of deputies was reduced or the balance was changed in favor of single-mandate candidates, or both. We have met this challenge. We gained 27 seats by party list and 69 seats in single-mandate constituencies. The best results by electoral district were registered in the Altay Kray(15 seats), Lipetsk Oblast (12), Primorye Kray (11, of which 8 in Vladivostok). In the vast majority of regions we have made significant gains. The salient examples are Primorye Kray (from 21% to 31%) and Orenburg Oblast (from 20.6% to 29%).
The number of voters who voted for the CPRF has grown in all the 39 regions: plus 1,120,000 (up 32%!).
The growth of the number of votes of course depends on the number of voters. Still, let us name the leaders: Moscow Oblast by 177,000 (53%), Sverdlovsk Oblast by 170,000 (87%) and St.Petersburg by 100,000 (72%).
The biggest growth of the number of those who voted for the CPRF in percentage terms to 2016 was registered in: Sverdlovsk Oblast (87%), Khanty-Mansy Autonomous Area (74%), the Leningrad, Vologda Oblasts and in St.Petersburg more than 70%.
In a number of regions we broke into totally new electoral niches: from 13-15% into comfortable “over 20%“ in the Krasnoyarsk and Kamchatka Krays, Chuvashia, Vologda, Sverdlovsk and Leningrad Oblasts. A new situation has emerged in the Altay Kray where United Russia has lost its majority (31 seats out of 68).
It has to be noted that in some regions the traditional political atmosphere is changing. Many have rightly noted that the CPRF is pushing the LDPR out of the Far East. And not only from there. Look at the regional elections in the Murmansk Oblast. They had 21% and we had 12.3%. Now we have 19.6%, and they have 13.3%. Look at liberal St.Petersburg. Formerly we were behind the LDPR and just 1-2% ahead of Yabloko, The Party of Growth and Just Russia, and today we are in second place way ahead of all others with 17.5%. Even Just Russia and The New People are nowhere near us. Look at the wealthy Khanty-Mansy Autonomous Area. In 2016 we were in third place and now we are in second place (17.2%). Look at the Astrakhan Oblast, historically a Just Russia fiefdom. They used to have 21.5% and now only 16.3% behind us (18.2%).
We are in a unique situation. We have accumulated and mobilized a great amount of popular energy. We have gained trust, and people pin hopes on us. Our party is discussed everywhere and by everyone. We should be very mindful of this in order not to fritter it away, in order to build on it. We cannot afford to stand still: we can either move forward or roll back. If we are to move forward we have to tackle the following tasks.
First. To strengthen unity and discipline. The words are not new, but the context is new. Our opponents see that support for the CPRF is growing. They understand that in our current state the CPRF and its allies have good chances. That is why even after the elections the establishment propaganda is labourng the topic of a split within our party. They invent groups and factions within our party. They target its leader. They tell us when and whom we should dismiss. They stick labels. They lecture us on what a genuine communist should be like.
They would of course like to see our party turn into a branch of the history museum, talk about nothing but international issues, not criticizing anyone and knowing its place. This is the way a party like the LDPR could function because its support has plummeted beyond repair while it continues to be grateful to fate and kowtow to the authorities.
But ours is a Marxist-Leninist, ideological party. Such a party is forever in quest of optimum forms and methods of work under concrete conditions and circumstances, seeks the support of the masses and is obliged to meet their aspirations.
The law On Political Parties forbids interference of state power bodies in the activity of political parties. Perhaps we should think about adding a provision on “state media” with emphasis on non-interference in our statutory issues.
Today we must close our ranks in the face of this vicious onslaught. We should remember that with us each works on tasks in his own area, be it a gubernatorial position or a speaking platform with a microphone in hand, and should strictly conform to the Party Charter and the spirit of comradeship.
Second. Educational work in the midst of allies. Attempts are being made to drive a wedge in this area. While there is good immunity within the party, things are more complicated with the allies. We withstood the first test not without difficulty. Even those media outlets which sympathized with the CPRF in the elections, started grumbling that Zyuganov failed to tell the President about online voting, that the CPRF is happy with everything, that there are active members within the party who could do this thing and that thing, but the party is not letting them. We should throw all this rubbish out of the left-wing agenda and dot every “i”.
The party chairman told the President absolutely everything and it is not for us to teach him in what form to say it. The actual conversation went on the air with a lag. If it had been said in a different way, nothing would have been screened at all. We value all our allies. Together, we held a very meaningful meeting of the Council of Left-Wing Patriotic Forces on October 13. We intend not only to preserve our bloc, but to strengthen it. This is not a gimmick, this is consolidation for the sake of the country.
The CPRF is interested in all the “Red” media outlets and internet channels, all the activists continuing to interact with the party. Both in the centre and on the regional level we should all seek the formats and occasions for this. We should drag the dedicated, bold and interesting people into the limelight. We have become aware what a powerful machine it can be when all act together.
Some trot out the tired cliché that the CPRF is “part of the system.” Let us agree on terminology. If the system is the country, then yes, we are part of the country, we are patriots of our Motherland. We are making our contribution to the cause of defending the national interests of Russia. If we are looking at the political system, then of course we are within the political process.
What, then, is outside the notion of “system?” If it is the underground, obviously, we do not work underground. The CPRF is a parliamentary party which abides by the law and is proceeding within its framework. Acting in this, and not in any other way, we have for almost 30 years maintained the status of the second political force in the country articulating our ideas, educating the new generation of champions of justice, promoting concrete decisions and building up our authority. Where else in the vast spaces of the former USSR or the countries of Eastern Europe does a communist party preserve such positions? Sadly, nowhere.
It is precisely because we stand with both feet on the ground and engage in real politics that we are in the lead. It can be said that we are “within the system” but we are advocating a course that would change the system and replace it with another. In doing so, we combine parliamentary and non-parliamentary forms of work assessing the situation in a cool-headed way and deciding what is appropriate and effective and when.
Third. Strengthening of party structures. Elections offer a good opportunity to see what works and what does not. The better a local branch develops the better the overall results. From that point of view we can single out the Altay, Krasnodar and Primorye Kray branches and the Sverdlovsk Oblast branch. The Mordovian Republic branch of the CPRF has made a serious step forward. But some organizations neglect day-to-day work and have lackluster results.
Each party branch should conduct a thorough analysis of what should be improved for future struggle. Obviously,the electionshave highlighted the exceptional importance of tight control over the course of elections and vote-counting. In some cases a brilliant campaign saw its effect erased by massive vote-rigging at polling stations. The reason was that the party branch, being understaffed or because of organizational problems, failed to put in place a strong enough monitoring system.
The authorities, too, are well aware that where there is monitoring we can and do win. It is not by chance that Ella Pamfilova, the head of the CEC, has several times attacked members of the election commissions with a non-casting vote claiming that they are a destructive force which stages provocations and hinders the work of the election commissions. We can expect an attempt to curtail the powers of non-voting members of the commissions and to forbid political parties to promptly appoint such commission members. This institution may even be liquidated altogether. This means that in future campaigns we will have to defend the results in still more difficult conditions and we will have to exert still bigger efforts to organize election monitoring. Therefore, the task of building up the numerical and organizational strength of party branches and implementation of large-scale programmes of training observers is assuming greater priority.
Let us take advantage of the moment when the party is at the peak of its popularity to recruit new members. We should proceed carefully, not just to tick the box or report to the Central Committee. We need trustworthy activists on whom we can rely. We would like the Leninist Komsomol to be more active in this matter.
All this is particularly important in the regions which will face elections in2022. The nation will watch whether or not the trend of this campaign will continue. The time of gubernatorial elections has not yet been fixed but there is already clarity concerning elections for the regional legislatures. They will be held in 6 regions: North Ossetia, Udmurtia, the Krasnodar Kray, Penza, Saratov and Sakhalin Oblasts. The campaigns in the regional capitals hold out a promise for us. The lineup is interesting: Gorno-Altaisk, Cherkessk, Kyzyl, Barnaul, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Vladivostok, Kirovsk, Kursk, Omsk, Pskov, Tver, and Yaroslavl.
Preparation for these campaigns should be a continuation of our work in the summer. Jubilee dates which will run like a red thread through 2020 will help: the centenary of the formation of the Soviet Union and of the Young Pioneers organization.
Fourth: to stick to our agenda. To consolidate our position,we should immediately join all the discussions of the key socio-economic issues. The country is entering a new crisis phase.
Inflation is smashing records, and is predicted to reach 7.5% by the end of October. Prices are soaring for practically everything. And yet the budget for next year submitted to parliament cuts spending on many key social and economic items. This is what expert analysis shows. We are already being challenged and some other figures are cited. Apparently the projected spending from all the off-budget funds and the budget are summed up to improve the picture somewhat. It is to be noted, however, that formerly they did not even bother to argue with us: let them talk, the budget will be passed anyway without taking into account their opinion and the opinion of voters. Now this approach no longer works. So, we should join the debates in a constructive and substantive manner and build our case.
The news that beginning from next year the Government will raise the housing capital repair tax by 25% has had big resonance and the Labour Ministry has prudently submitted to the State Duma a bill that would change the procedure of measuring the scale of poverty. We know what the scale of poverty is without the Labour Ministry. We should engage with the people still more actively and show that there is an alternative to such approaches.
Our new faction at the State Duma also has a big contribution to make to the implementation of the CPRF Programme. Of the 57 of our members who will work in the 8th Duma 23 are new members. Eight of them have previously been deputies and now they are back. But 15 of them, or almost30% of this CPRF faction, are new faces in the State Duma. They are Andrey Alyokhin, Pyotr Ammosov, Ivan Babich, Evgeny Bessonov, Angelika Glazkova, Maria Drobot, Vladimir Isakov, Georgy Kamnev, Mikhail Matveyev, Oleg Mikhailov, Artyom Prokofiev, Maria Prusakova, Viktor Sobolev, Renat Suleimanov, and Irina Filatova. Let us wish them success.
There are grounds for saying that we have increased not only the number of seats, but also the energy. Our Duma faction has already started work and has made appointments to the commissions. The first reading of the budget is due to start soon and we will definitely not support the capitalist budget. But it is extremely important to prepare strong and meaningful amendments for the second reading. To uphold them in such a way as to make it immediately clear to our voters what they were voting for in the last elections. This feedback should not be lost. It is important to be in constant immediate contact with the socially active audience which supported the candidates and the party. Particular attention should be paid to all-round coverage of their work as deputies.
One of the new challenges is to reveal the true face of The New People. They were swept into parliament on the crest of successful promotional aesthetic and the authority of the former mayor of Yakutsk. But the party did not fall from the Moon. It is headed by a very rich person with roots in the notorious All-Russia People’s Front. Some of them have links with other official social projects. Two “independent candidates,” officially backed by the Mayor of Moscow, have already joined The New People in the Duma. A brotherly gesture from United Russia.
It is already clear that they will exploit the themes of small business, taxes, youth demands and ecology. They have their hands free, they do not decide anything and initially they have a good chance of simulating opposition. We cannot allow them to monopolise any themes. On the contrary, we should be proactive forcing them to take a clear stand on our proposals. Particular attention should be paid to strengthening the financial basis of the regions, which they see as their trump card although we have long been the leaders on this topic.
On the day of the first plenary session the party press carried a policy document of the leader of our party at the Duma titled “The Main Demands of the Time: the Way out of the Impasse, Sustained Development.” It is a serious setting of our position that may be helpful in our work. And not only at the State Duma but also for all our deputies at all levels. From the results of the past elections, there are now 2296 of them. That number of course is times less than that of United Russia, but it is larger than all the other parties combined. Let us make more effective use of this network, all its horizontal and vertical links. We now have 11,523 deputies of various levels across the country.
Fifth. Campaigning for free and fair elections. The key task is to pursue to the logical conclusion all the cases of lawlessness and arbitrary actions. Today there are 356 complaints and submissions pending before courts and law-enforcement bodies. The party chairman has issued instructions to follow all of them through. The CC’s legal unit constantly monitors and, when necessary, renders practical assistance in solving that task.
As for online voting, we must seek its abolition. Our experts have prepared sound methodical material which will be sent to regional branches. Some will present our case in offices at the top, but there needs to be formed grassroots opinion. We will probably prepare an appeal to the Constitutional Court: the use of two different systems in the same federal elections violates the constitutional principle of equality of voters.
Electoral legislation in general is in need of serious work: the package of our specific proposals needs to be addressed with due account of all the problems we have revealed. Some of them have been flagged in legally rigorous language in the dissenting opinion of the CPRF CEC member Evgeny Kolyushin.
Besides, against the background of high-profile persecution of communists, including for so-called “unsanctioned actions,” attention should be paid to regulations on processions and rallies, control of extremism, and the status of deputy, taking into account the flaws in law-enforcement practices we see before our eyes. Gennady Zyuganov has written “An Open Appeal to the President of Russia” listing all the names and cases of persecution of our comrades. We will together defend all of them.
By the same token, we should give thought to initiating legislation to rule out the use and interpretation of various norms proceeding from considerations of political expediency. Parliamentary opposition is not an obscure radical group. It should have special extra safeguards in terms of organizing actions. We may go back to the idea of an express law On Legal Guarantees of Opposition Activity in order to protect our activists and supporters.
The recent days have seen a lively discussion in the media of who has got what posts and offices and whether a new-baked deputy will be independent. To an outsider it may sound merely entertaining. But in fact the country’s future is at stake. Judicious use of resources turned a fishing village a little to the West of us into a country with the highest quality of life (Norway) and a country to the east of Russia (China under the Communist Party leadership) into the world’s number two economy. We want to see a strong, influential country with a people that is proud not only of its history and the power of the state, but also of how it lives.
When we work to strengthen support of the CPRF in elections we are not only fighting for percentages and mandates. We are fighting for the opportunity to work towards these goals, the lofty ideas of justice, which for us are inseparable from the feeling of patriotism.
The 2021 election campaign is over, but a new campaign has already begun: a campaign for living up to the trust the people have put in us. We must do everything we can to live up to their hopes.