Party leaders outline immediate plans as polling stations close

A journalist walks past a screen showing the first results from voting in Russia's parliamentray election at the Central Electoral Commission in Moscow, December 4, 2011. (REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin)
Leaders of Russia’s political parties have said they will investigate alleged violations at the parliamentary polls and have dismissed the suggestion of a possible broad coalition to oppose the weakened United Russia.

­The leaders of United Russia said they were satisfied with the election results, even though preliminary data showed that support for the ruling party had fallen to less than 50 per cent, making it possible for other parliamentary factions to form coalitions and compete with the parliamentary majority.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who is number one on United Russia’s election list, has congratulated the leaders of the parties who have made it to the State Duma. According to Medvedev’s press secretary, Natalia Timakova, the president called Gennady Zyuganov of the Communist Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the Liberal Democratic Party and Sergey Mironov of Fair Russia and expressed the hope that the four winning parties would organize constructive work in parliament for the benefit of all Russian citizens.

Medvedev had earlier addressed members of United Russia at election headquarters and said that the party should arrange good relations with its partners in the State Duma. “In any case, given the more complex configuration of the State Duma, we will have to enter coalition agreements on separate issues. This is normal, this is parliamentarianism, this is democracy,” Medvedev said.

Boris Gryzlov, the head of the Supreme Council of the United Russia party, told reporters that the result achieved was very important. He pointed out that the ruling parties in the UK, Spain and Portugal had lost their dominance in 2010-2011 elections, but that United Russia had kept its leading position. Gryzlov also said that the lower turnout at the election was caused by the opposition parties’ persistently pushing the idea that “everything is wrong in the country,” so people did not come out to vote. He noted nonetheless that the turnout was over 50 per cent, which “proves the election was legitimate.”

The Communist Party, which came second in the vote with about 20 per cent of the votes, rejected the possibility of long-term coalitions in the new State Duma but acknowledged that short-term consolidation was possible with Fair Russia or the Liberal Democrats. First deputy chairman of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, Ivan Melnikov, said that his party “saw neither possibility, nor sense” in political coalitions in the future State Duma. “As for separate issues, it is possible and necessary to form a consolidated position. We are going to check with the Liberal Democratic Party and Fair Russia – are they as oppositionist as they have declared?” Melnikov said. “As for United Russia, if they maintain their aggressively liberal course, we will not be able to find any common points with them,” the politician added.

Fair Russia also said it did not exclude the possibility of coalitions with the Communist Party and the LDPR, and also hinted at possible union with United Russia. “Vladimir Putin has spoken about the necessity of overcoming social inequality. We agree with this, but everything will depend on what ways they offer. If these ways do not satisfy us, there will be no coalition,” the chairman of the party, Nikolai Levichev, said.

The head of the LDPR faction in the State Duma, Igor Lebedev, said that his party was ready for an alliance with United Russia, but only as equal partners. “We are ready for talks, for sensible dialogue, but only on conditions of equal partners and not as master and servant,” Lebedev said. However, the LDPR official noted that it was too early to talk about alliances before the final election result is disclosed. In a separate statement LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that his party would never enter a coalition with United Russia. “Usually, the LDPR acts independently, it is the weak parties that make coalitions,” Zhirinovsky said.

­United Russia member Dmitry Polikanov told RT that the party’s goal now is to deliver all the reforms it has promised people. “The voters are very much disappointed with the efficiency of the government, especially at local and regional levels. The second thing is that people are very much disappointed with corruption. And the third thing is that people would like to have their living standards improved."

Polikanov noted that the party is changing. “We’ll have learned lessons from the campaign and we will continue to adapt and to be more flexible. We welcome the competition in our country and this election indicates that political reform is going on and the political system is developing.”

­Martin McCauley, a specialist on Russia at the University of London, thinks that if United Russia is to make an alliance with any of the parties, the Liberal Democrat party is a natural partner.

If you look at the last 20 years, the Liberal Democrats have in fact sided with the Yeltsin government and the Putin-Medvedev tandem,” says McCauley. “They vote regularly for the government and for stability and are thus the obvious ally for United Russia.