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Experts forecast nationalist caucus in next Duma

Experts forecast nationalist caucus in next Duma
Russian nationalists could attract up to 10 percent of the vote in next the parliamentary elections and representation in State Duma would allow them to become even more popular, according to experts attached to Russia’s Public Chamber.

In the near future Russian nationalist parties would be able to successfully compete with the established political parties and in 2016 a nationalist party could get up to 10 percent of the votes, according to the working group for analysis and settlement of ethnic conflict set up within Russia’s top consultative body – the Public Chamber.

The head of the working group, Mikhail Romanov, told Izvestia daily that the analysis was based on interviews with experts, media analysis and public opinion polls. The conclusion was that the nationalist ideas are gaining popularity in Russia.

The official said that at present the nationalists cannot claim any serious public support, but the situation will radically change in the near future.

Presently a united nationalist party could not secure 5 percent of the votes required to pass the election threshold, but in four years up to 10 percent of Russians could cast their votes for politicians with a strong nationalist agenda.

Last fall the Levada Public Opinion Center studied the political preferences of Moscow residents and included the non-existent “Nationalist Party” in the polling sheet. Surprisingly, nationalists ranked second in popularity, losing only to the parliamentary majority United Russia and surpassing the Communist Party, the openly populist Liberal Democratic  Party and veteran liberals Yabloko.

However, experts from the Levada Center said that the nationalists must turn down their aggressiveness if they want to succeed on the political arena.

The last time nationalists occupied parliamentary seats in Russia was after the 2003 elections when the Motherland Party, founded and headed by Dmitry Rogozin got 9 percent of the vote. The party later merged with center-left party Fair Russia and almost completely abandoned the nationalist agenda.

The situation is also complicated by the fact that the Russian authorities are extremely cautious over any nationalist ideas fearing that raising such issues could be dangerous in a multi-ethnic country, like the Russian Federation. Courts give harsh sentences to members of radical nationalist cells and authorities allocate money for public projects promoting tolerance and ethnic peace.

At the same time, some officials often use nationalist rhetoric in their public speeches, like Dmitry Rogozin who is currently Deputy PM in charge of the defense industry. Rogozin has abandoned the Motherland project, but is fully engaged in the Congress of Russian Communities – the organization that protects the rights and interests of ethnic Russians who live abroad.

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