Russians will vote for a new president on March 18, with seven challengers facing the incumbent, Vladimir Putin. RT will preview the election this week, starting with a fresh face who has added intrigue to the contest.
He’s backed by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), even though he’s not actually a member. After receiving flak in Russian media over this curious status, Grudinin stated that "it is not important what party certificate you hold, what is important is how you see yourself."
What is his/her background?
When most people think of Communists, images of stoic, austere men in bland suits usually come to mind. However, the millionaire Grudinin defies all those stereotypes, even if his campaign video does see him posing at Vladimir Lenin’s famous Moscow monument.
The Communists were in a bind at the end of 2017, with perennial candidate Gennady Zyuganov, now in his 70s, polling in third behind another veteran, the nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky. With Zyuganov seemingly unwilling to fully relinquish control but the party in desperate need of a fresh face, they’ve opted for a Russian solution to a Russian problem, presumably in a bid to at least come second. So, rather than promoting from inside, they’ve parachuted in a charismatic outsider.
Grudinin is a successful businessman and the majority shareholder in the Lenin State Farm, outside Moscow. The company is famous for presenting itself as an “oasis of socialism,” where workers, and their families, enjoy access to Soviet-esque social programs, almost akin to the Japanese “company man” model. The candidate sees this as a template for Russian corporations, going forward.
Does he have political experience?
Grudinin has been around the fringes of Russian politics for some time. He was elected to the Moscow Region parliament in 1997 and 2002 and was previously involved in United Russia, the party associated with Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev. In 2016, he unsuccessfully ran for the Communists in the federal parliamentary elections. However, last year he won a council seat in his local area, Vidnoye.
What are his/her views?
Grudinin was voted as frontman for a group of “patriotic forces” last year and in recent weeks has been attacking Vladimir Putin’s government on national television. He accuses the current authorities of being slow to tackle corruption and believes this failure means Russian’s living standards are well below where they could reach. He’s also suggested many people close to Putin should be in prison.
What are his/her policies?
Much the same as the usual KPRF pledges. A clampdown on money being hidden abroad, big increases in social spending and higher taxes for the wealthy. Yet, Grudinin offers a softer platform than the usual Communist offering, and some party hardliners have dismissed him as a lightweight European “social democrat.”
Russian tabloid Life News has been bashing Grudinin for some weeks. They’ve accused him of harboring secret bank accounts in Switzerland and Austria. And there have also been revelations about luxury properties in Spain. Furthermore, his status as a multi-millionaire may act as a turn-off for traditional Communist Party voters. At the same time, Grudinin’s expressions of admiration for Stalin have also raised a few eyebrows , in a country deeply divided on the Soviet leader’s legacy.
How is he polling?
Currently at around 7.5 percent, which is a pretty weak showing considering Grudinin offers something different to the status quo. His predecessor Zyuganov scored 17 percent in the 2012 election. The newcomer will hope his rating rises after the debates, which commence this week. Meanwhile, many shrewd pundits believe his final election tally will be significantly higher than polls currently suggest.
What is his likely post-election role?
There has been talk of Grudinin becoming agriculture minister in the next government. But, given his attacks on the current Russian leaders, this may prove fanciful. Instead a good showing may open the door for him to become permanent leader of the Communists.
“Pavel Grudinin – the president that Russia is waiting for.”
Bryan MacDonald, for RT
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