ROAR: Russian parties “spend more on themselves than on political struggles”

The Central Election Commission has looked into the coffers of Russia’s political parties.

The Russian parties combined accumulated 4.6 billion roubles ($149,843,966) in 2009, according to the Central Election Commission. Analysts note that the total parties’ budget was 1.3 billion roubles ($42,347,208) more than they had in 2008.

The richest party in the country is the ruling United Russia, which last year accumulated 3.3 billion roubles ($108,702,025). The “poorest” one is the party Right Cause, which is not represented in the Russian parliament, with 11.6 million roubles ($377,867).

United Russia’s revenue was almost that of all six other Russian parties combined, observers stress.

The Fair Russia party received more than 400 million roubles (about $13 million), the Communist Party 300 million ($9,772,432), and the Liberal Democratic party 140 million ($4,560,468). These parties are represented in the State Duma, the lower house of the parliament.

The liberal Yabloko party, which does not have deputies in the Duma, gathered 77.5 million roubles ($2,524,545) last year, while the Patriots of Russia received 46 million roubles ($1,498,439).

Almost 95% of the parties’ revenue is made up of money and the rest is property, member of the Central Election Commission Elvira Ermakova said on May 17. According to her, 62.5% of funds were contributed by citizens and companies.

The four big parties received about 30% of their funds from the federal budget after the parliamentary and presidential elections held in 2007 and 2008. They have the right to state financial assistance as parties represented in the parliament.

According to the results of the inspection, Russian parties spent the most part of their profits received in 2009. So, United Russia spent almost 3.2 billion roubles ($103,750,659), Fair Russia 377.6 million roubles ($12,300,235), the Communists 286.6 million ($9,335,930) and the Liberal Democrats 139.9 million ($4,557,211).

Parties continue to spend more than half of their money on maintaining their regional, ruling bodies and other structures, Vzglyad online newspaper noted. “Only 7% were spent on election campaigns and referendums,” it added. About 2% of funds went for organizing congresses and conferences and 7% on propaganda efforts, international and charity activities.

Membership fees brought only 5% to the parties’ revenue, the media say. However, members of some political parties did not pay any membership fees last year.

After the Central Election Commission studied the parties’ accounts, it became clear that the financial crisis had not influenced them, Vremya Novostey daily said. And incomes of other parties cannot be compared with the “fantastic figures” of United Russia, it added.

As for the parties that were not elected to the parliament in 2007, their budgets seem to be modest compared to those of their more successful competitors. “According to law, the parties having their deputies in the State Duma receive state financial support, or 20 roubles for each vote cast for them during elections,” the paper said.

“As in 2008, parties prefer to spend more funds on themselves than on political struggle,” the paper noted. Public gatherings and maintaining mass media affiliated with the parties take almost 30% of expenditures, it added.

Parties “went through hard times” in 2008, online newspaper said. “Because of the crisis almost all the parties announced cuts in revenue, only United Russia received the same revenue as in the previous year.”

However, during the last year Russian parties improved their financial positions. Fair Russia received 30 million more roubles ($977,243) than in 2008 and the Communists gathered 40 million more ($1,302,991).

However, the Liberal Democratic Party was the only one among the big four whose funds continued to decline, the paper said. Last year the party received almost 100 million roubles ($3,257,477) less than in 2008, it said.

State Duma deputy from the Liberal Democrats Sergey Ivanov told that one of the main reasons for it is that the party no longer asks for membership fees. “Taking into account the economic situation, we have decided not to gather membership fees at the moment,” he said.

Yabloko was the one party that managed to spend more funds in 2009 than it accumulated. The party had money left over from the previous financial year on its accounts, Yabloko’s leader Sergey Mitrokhin explained to the paper. According to him, the liberal party “is coping well with the crisis” and has enough funds to continue working.

Yabloko does not receive state support because the party gained less than 2% of the vote during the last parliamentary elections in 2007.

The Patriots of Russia did not spend 45 million roubles ($1,465,864) of the 46 million roubles they accumulated, which means that the party “is not engaged in any activities at all,” the paper noted.

The Central Election Commission also constantly counts the time the Russian parties receive on television and radio to promote their views. In April this yearm they all had 60 hours and 19 minutes on the state TV channels and 31 hours and 45 minutes on radio stations.

However, if other parties were given almost seven hours each in federal and regional programs of All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, the Liberal Democratic Party received only five hours.

In April, federal TV channels were not as accurate as their colleagues from radio stations, Kommersant daily said. If regional branches guaranteed “equality” covering the activities of parties, the federal channels of All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company deprived the Liberal Democrats of their due share, the daily noted.

The party will be compensated this time in May, Leonid Ivlev, deputy head of the Central Election Commission, told journalists. The commission believes that the equal representation of parties on television and radio is violated if one of them receives 3% more or less time than others, the paper said.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review