TV election debates over porridge

The first televised debates of the parliamentary election campaign have been aired on Russian TV. Most of the party leaders see them as a chance to get their message across, despite the unusual broadcast time. Ten of the eleven parties have agreed to tak

The debates aren't being shown live.  The reason, say TV producers, is technical.  It's not to allow editing after the event,  but because Russia has eleven time zones.  Peak viewing time in Moscow is likely to be bedtime in Vladivostok.

State-owned Channel One has decided to pre-record the debates in a specially-built studio.  It will then broadcast them between 7am and 8am in each time zone.  Channel One producer Natalia Nikonova says they've scheduled the programmes in this slot because viewers at this time are likely to vote on December 2.

“It’s a time when television attracts not only housewives and pensioners but also active working people.” Ms Nikonova said. 

Russian State Duma
Russian State Duma

However, Gennady Semigin from Patriots of Russia sees a disadvantage in the early slot.

“I am not sure that watching the debates in the morning will provide people with a good mood for the day,” Mr Semigin said. 

It's unlikely the first debate of the season will have caused any offence.  The tête-à-tête between the left-wing parties seemed more like a friendly chat than a contest for votes.  They joined forces in criticising the policies of the government.  

Despite having a huge lead in opinion polls, United Russia is taking no chances.  Party member Konstantin Kosachev says United Russia has nothing to gain by getting involved in a verbal confrontation.   

“In this situation, to sit down with another party, which would definitely be much weaker, United Russia would just bring popularity to rivals, which we have no intention of doing,” Mr Kosachev said. 

Ignoring the debates allows United Russia to concentrate on its campaign ads.

President Putin is the face of the United Russia campaign; its motto is an appeal to national pride: “Putin’s plan is Russia's victory.”

“The motto of our campaign is to ensure continuity of reforms and changes in our country which have taken place since 2001, when Mr. Putin came to power,” Kosachev said.

TV debates
TV debates

The Liberal Democratic Party has a less triumphant message. The disaffected have long been the party’s constituency. But this time its ads focus on older voters, who are statistically more likely to vote.

Liberal Democrat leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky says it's time to meet the needs of the elderly.

“The older generation has the biggest problems. Their pensions cannot keep up with the rising prices,” Mr Zhirinovsky said.

The Democratic Party of Russia’s ad says: “It’s the year 2020, three years since Russia joined the European Union. And it’s all good news. Mortgage rates are down to 3%, the EU capital is transferred to St. Petersburg and Russia wins against England in the European Football Cup. All thanks to the Democratic Party.”

“This is very heart-warming news. I’m sure that the majority of Russian people are longing for such events and would like to see them happen even before the year 2020,” Andrey Bogdanov, from the Democratic Party of Russia said. 

Meanwhile, according to the latest poll – THE ELECTORAL RATINGS OF RUSSIAN POLITICAL PARTIES – conducted by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VTSIOM), if the elections took place last weekend, 50% of Russians would have voted for the United Russia party.  Following it is the Communist party with 6%.