In a last ditch effort to shake off the Internet moniker plaguing Russia’s ruling party, a United Russia deputy has actually tried to co-opt it by calling on Russians to “vote for the party of thieves and swindlers” at State Duma elections on December 4.
United Russia deputy Robert Shlegel on December 5 posted a video on YouTube, urging Russians to “Vote for the party of thieves and swindlers…Whatever they call us, we love our country and work together for its good…Vote for United Russia.”
The campaign video comes as United Russia faces a crisis of popularity that could see them lose their constitutional majority on December 5 with various pollsters giving them under 40 percent public approval.
The party has lost support among Russian Internet users and bloggers amid a pervasive anti-United Russia online campaign led by opposition blogger and anti-corruption activist Aleksei Navalny who branded them the “party of thieves and swindlers.”
Speaking to the BBC’s Russian Service, Shlegel claimed the video was his personal initiative and that the money used to pay for it came out of his own pocket. He maintained that it is aimed at patching over the damage inflicted by the Navalny campaign.
“I decided that this particular product was relevant on the eve of the elections,” he said. “It’s an initiative which I think helps destroy the well-established ‘party of thieves and swindlers’ Internet meme. The party is full of good and honest people. This is a party of teachers, doctors, students and businessmen.”
WATCH: Russian deputy Robert Shlegel’s election campaign video for the governing United Russia party.
In a series of animated scenes, the video contends that ten years of United Russia has increased pensions, wages, and economic growth. It also says that the party wants to build more roads and hospitals.
At the time of writing, the clip had garnered over 1,500 views – rather less than the viral opposition videos.
The most recent opposition video – the spectacular, expletive-driven “Okhuyennaya Rossiya” (“F***ing Awesome Russia”) – playfully calls for a Russia without Premier Vladimir Putin, President Dmitry Medvedev, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, gas giant Gazprom, Chief Health Inspector Gennady Onishchenko, ex Nashi leader Vasily Yakemenko and a host of other regime stalwarts.
— Tom Balmforth