Judging from what I saw at a recent congress of the Right Cause party, this political force has much potential. This conclusion is based on two things:
1. This is the first time in years that a relatively large right-wing party has been taken over by a young and energetic leader, economically successful and with far-reaching political ambitions.
I don’t think that [Mikhail] Prokhorov was offered the job by any of the party activists. Rather, it was his own idea to come forward as a candidate, although he may well have asked the Kremlin first.
Prokhorov’s beliefs are quite consistent with the party’s philosophy, and his ideas could earn the party many new supporters. His speech at the congress was precise and it revealed his independent and innovative thinking.
2. The falling approval ratings of the incumbent government and the pro-government United Russia party provide new opportunities for Right Cause. By autumn, as the election campaign gains momentum, it will be clear that the People’s Front is nothing more than a series of boisterous meetings, where the entire Russian population has been enrolled at least twice, a distraction with nothing interesting to offer.
The Front’s prospective tally may not even match United Russia’s, provided the election is not rigged.
The Right Cause party could make a surprising showing amid shrinking voter confidence in other key politicians.
The fact that liberalism is virtually non-existent in Russia’s present political landscape offers yet another advantage. I believe that many of those who support PARNAS (Popular Freedom Party) and Yabloko will eventually choose to cast their ballots for Right Cause.
In fact, the decline of confidence in other parties may prove more instrumental in bringing votes to Right Cause than its own political appeal.
I believe the party will soon emerge as a political force to be reckoned with. I expect it will get into the State Duma with 9-11% of the vote. Serious obstacles will arise only if, instead of playing it safe, the party sets itself on a collision course with the Kremlin. The likelihood of this depends on how much authority the party’s regional branches will receive and how close its ties with the electoral base will be. Vehement opposition may just prompt the Kremlin to try to push the party to the margins using administrative resources, which would make the outcome impossible to predict.
Could Right Cause become Dmitry Medvedev’s party? This depends on whether he needs the support of a political party. Judging from the incumbent president’s recent actions, he is not an independent political player at this point. He hopes to be able to run for a second term, but is waiting for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and United Russia to agree to his competing on the campaign trail.
In the event of a serious rift between the president and the ruling party Medvedev could turn to Right Cause to seek assistance in developing his economic program.
I believe we’ll see the framework of alignment for the next presidential election once the parliamentary vote is held. Right Cause’s results will be indicative of just how serious and, most importantly, how realistic Medvedev’s reelection dreams are.
As for the party’s economic program, it appears oriented toward the middle class rather than the business community, which is more appropriate.
The main selling points of Mr. Prokhorov’s discourse include freedom from red tape, free creative initiative, and the promotion of the entrepreneurial spirit.
No specific proposals voiced at the congress have been formalized yet, so it is still too early to discuss them.
But it’s already clear that Right Cause will stand to benefit if it positions itself less as a right-wing party, and more as a party that pursues a right, or a just cause – as opposed to the lawlessness and corruption of the ruling elite. To succeed with such a platform, the party should put common sense, not ideology, at the center of its economic programs.
Vladislav Inozemtsev is Doctor of Economics, Director of the Center for Post-Industrial Studies, editor-in-chief of Svobodnaya Mysl magazine