Time for everyone to put on their Kremlinologist thinking cap again! Get ready to roll those chicken bones and peer deeply into the tea leaves! The boys in the Kremlin are up to their tricks again.
According to Trud, and reported by Bloomberg, Medvedev has dispatched a “working group” of “experts from Moscow and St. Petersburg” to test the political waters among regional politicos about forming a new party. “We had discussions with local leaders and asked them to enter into a new political formation,” the unnamed source told Trud. The so-called “local leaders” include members of United Russia, Just Russia, and the LDPR. What would the purpose of the supposed “new” party be? To gather together people “who could be helpful in business and the innovation of law making” and participate in Duma elections in 2011. The initiative is said to have the blessing of the gray cardinal Vladislav Surkov. And get this, the leader of this new party would be Mr. Teflon himself, Anatoly Chubias.
Granted, the Trud article provides no concrete sources for this scheme. Whatever is in the works promises to be finalized by the middle of summer. It’s possible. We all know how the Kremlin likes to create political parties, and this current one appears to be part of the general “modernization” plan. That is to say, part of the Kremlin’s long term “political modernization” is the creation of a two party system. Granted, the idea has been floating around for a while now. I even speculated about this possibility waaaay back in 2007. With Medvedev’s gradual coming into his own, perhaps the time is right to bring the idea back.
I’m surprised, however, they are creating this new party from scratch. I always figured that Just Russia would eventually be transformed into Russia’s Democratic Party to offset the Republican Party–United Russia. There was even speculation at one point that Medvedev would join JR just like Putin did UR. But perhaps kicking Just Russia’s Sergei Mironov off his perch is too embarrassing. After all, Mironov has done right be the Kremlin–creating a much needed political scandal here, performing his role of “pocket opposition” there, so why pull the rug out from under the guy. Instead of openly manipulating Just Russia from above, it might be better to let if fade away. That, after all, would be the more “democratic” thing to do.
But the real exciting thing a new party under Medvedev’s patronage suggests is that it would inevitably pit him against Putin in the gentlemanly game of electoral politics. Medvedev would represent the more liberal–in the American sense–liberals and Putin the conservative liberals (which he’s already doing). Elections would become more contested between Leader Coke and Leader Pepsi, but more normalized in the good ol’liberal democratic sense. Squeeze out the margins, subsume those willing to huddle under the big political tent, and hold the political center.
If Plan Two Parties is really serious, I wonder what the mystics of Western Kremlinology will make of it. The future remains fuzzy. Seeking a competent soothsayer, I turned to the Magic Eight Ball. “Magic Eight Ball,” I asked, “Will Medvedev create his own political party?” Magic Eight Ball: “Ask again later.”