Crate of brandy for party names – Communist leader dares election chief with bet

Crate of brandy for party names – Communist leader dares election chief with bet
The head of the Russian Communist Party claims he would give the country’s elections boss a crate of brandy if he could name all the parties that had emerged since the simplification of the registration rules.

The unusual suggestion was made after Gennadiy Zyuganov again attacked the minimum threshold of 500 party members introduced in the new rules.

Addressing MPs from the ruling party United Russia Zyuganov said: “I would like us to think about it again – 500 people is not a party, it’s just a gathering of drinking buddies. Now they are excited about the fact that we have 70 or 80 parties. But no one really knows these parties and no one could possess such knowledge,” the Interfax news agency reported.

Central Election Commission chairman Vladimir Churov at a RIA Novosti news conference. (RIA Novosti / Anton Denisov)

Zyuganov attacked new parties with names that resembled those of the established political groups saying it would only cause confusion during the polls.

The Communist leader also suggested moving the single election day from mid-September to late October or March, saying it would give newly-elected officials more time to deal with budget issues.

Zyuganov was not the first or the only leader of an established Russian political party to object to the liberalization of the country’s political system. In February the head of the populist nationalist party LDPR, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, said in a parliamentary speech that the growing number of political parties and increasing competition led to more disgruntled citizens who take to the streets after their candidates fail in elections. To prevent such an outcome the politician suggested urgent changes to introduce stricter requirements for creating a political party, in particular a higher minimum number of supporters.

RIA Novosti/Yuriy Lashov

Opinion polls show that the Russian public has yet to embrace the new system. According to a survey conducted in May by the VTSIOM agency 64 percent of citizens think the current number of political parties in the country was sufficient. Two years ago that figure was 55 percent. Thirty-five percent said that they could not name a party that represented their interests, and 39 percent of Russians confessed that they did not understand what political parties were for.

The political reform benefiting smaller parties was put in place during Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency. The changes included reducing the minimum number of party members from 40,000 to 500. A minimum requirement on regional branches was also dropped, but parties must be present in at least half of Russia’s 85 federal regions.

The reform invigorated Russian political life – new parties started to appear and parties that had merged into larger ones split away. Presently the number of parties registered with the Justice Ministry approaches 80, but only four of them are represented in parliament - the centrist conservative United Russia, center-left Fair Russia, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the populist nationalist Liberal Democratic Party.