Parties start media battle ahead of elections

With less than a month to go before the Parliamentary election in Russia, the country's political parties have started their media campaigns. Officially, campaigning began on November 3, but the parties waited until after the Unity Day holiday to dive hea

It’s no secret that, for politicians, television appearances are like oxygen. What is more, some of these appearances will be free of charge, although, according to election law, the parties will each get only three hours of free air time. If they want more, they'll have to pay.

At a time when image is everything, having the right make-up is no less important than finding the right words. Sergei Shishkarev knows all about it. After all, he used to have his own TV channel before joining the United Russia party.

“Our country is very big and, in some parts, television is the only source of communication. It’s cheaper than organising a big net of activists,” he points out.

While television still remains the most coveted medium for politicians, some of them have ventured online to get their message across. The head of the Democratic party says his blog gets more than a thousand hits a day and the best thing about it is that it doesn’t cost a thing.

Nevertheless, it’s still early days for politics in the net. Politically active bloggers account for just 1% of all Russian bloggers.

But electronic communication is not for Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The leader of the Liberal Democrats says he lives in the real world. He would use any means to meet his constituents face-to-face.

“We use trains, planes, boats and cars. We have travelled throughout the country,” the Lib-Dems' chief claims.

Politics is becoming more dangerous. I think this is a message people want to put across – if you come to such an event, then you are risking your life

Maria Gaidar, Da youth movement

Such a grasshopper schedule is not for the Communists. Their leader says they’re courting intelligent voters. That’s why they've just published a collection of political caricatures.

According to Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of Communist Party of Russia, describes some of the caricatures: “This one is about officials fighting for a piece of the budget. This one is about rising prices for food. We are using all forms of propaganda, but everything is within ethical norms. We are not using any dirty tricks.”

Such a high moral standard is something of a novelty. One thing candidates for parliament learned in previous campaigns is that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

This year’s campaign has also got off to a rocky start. It all began as a regular debate between liberal parties. Free drinks helped raise the political temperature and, an hour later, words were replaced by fists.

The fight took place in this night club named after the great Russian writer Nikolai Gogol, who strongly believed in the power of words. But nowadays, if politicians want to have a fighting chance of getting into parliament, they literally have to get it by hook or by crook.

Maria Gaydar of Da youth movement was one of the debate’s participants. She believes the fight was a stunt aimed at discrediting debates as a genre.

“Politics is becoming more dangerous. I think this is a message people want to put across – if you come to such an event, then you are risking your life,” she says.

For the parties involved, however, the risk has paid off. After all, they’ve made it on to TV.