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Communists face second death after voter rejection

Moscow, Dec. 8 (Reuters): Russia’s communist party, banned then reborn in the chaos of the 1990s, faced a second death today after voters spurned nostalgic appeals to the red flag and the Soviet past.

Gennady Zyuganov, party leader for the last decade, accused the Kremlin of fixing results of yesterday’s parliamentary poll and manipulating media to promote President Vladimir Putin’s allies and “silence” the communists.

“You are all participants here in a revolting spectacle which for some reason is called an election,” he declared. His complaints of media bias have the ring of truth. State-run media lauded the pro-Putin United Russia party, which garnered almost 40 per cent of the vote, and gave short shrift to communists.

But Zyuganov’s protests were unlikely to salvage the party in its present form which has surrendered its position as biggest group in the Duma lower house, its share of the vote falling to about 12 per cent from 24 per cent in 1999.

Zyuganov’s embrace of market reforms has always appeared a fraught affair. He failed to convince emerging middle classes to accept him, but in courting wealthy businessmen did enough to alienate core voters, veteran communists and the poor. “My father would tell me there’s nothing like the Soviet Union and never will be,” he told factory workers on a campaign trip to the Volga river industrial town of Tver last week. His father, he said, was right.

Alexander Prokhanov, editor of the pro-communist Zavtra daily, said he now expected “quite dramatic” developments.

“I believe there will be an internal split, an explosion within the communist party, and the powerful, Soviet-style socialist ferment will yield to a faded and flabby social democracy,” he said. The Duma elected yesterday will likely be dominated by United Russia and nationalist allies. The communist party has been under siege by parties Zyuganov says have been set up as part of a plot to siphon off the communist vote.

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