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Monday, 27 March, 2000, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Analysis: Communism's enduring appeal
Zyuganov and Cossack supporters: a vote for tradition
Zyuganov and Cossack supporters: a vote for tradition
By BBC News Online's Stephen Mulvey

The strong showing of the communist leader, Gennady Zyuganov, in Russia's presidential election has confounded analysts who predicted he and his party were heading for the dustbin of history.

Mr Zyuganov's result of just under 30% reveals a steady level of support.

It compares with his 32% in the first round of the 1996 presidential election, and results of 23% and 24% for the Communist Party in the parliamentary elections of 1995 and 1999 respectively.

Age factor

It has sometimes been estimated that the proportion of the population that genuinely supported the Communist Party in the days of the Soviet Union was roughly similar - no more than one third of the total.

Older people form the party's cores support
Older people form the party's cores support
Prophets of the Communist Party's demise have not been without arguments to support their case.

They have pointed out that the party's core supporters are an ageing, and therefore supposedly dwindling band, and and also that the party failed to carry forward the momentum from its 1995 election success, when it captured roughly one third of the seats in the Russian parliament.

The party sometimes seemed hesitant in its struggle against the Yeltsin government, disappointing radicals and earning the reputation as a tame opposition.

Meanwhile, the existence of a strong anti-communist vote was demonstrated in the 1996 presidential election, when Boris Yeltsin ran a successful campaign warning voters of the risk, under the Communist Party, of a return to the bloody totalitarian past.


What the stability of the communist vote seems to show is that, despite all these signs that the chances of communist resurgence in Russia are receding, the party will remain a major force as long as Russians remain poor, humiliated and disillusioned with the political alternatives.

Lenin: he's still remembered
Lenin: nostalgia still wins votes
While party activists may be getting older, there is still, it seems. an ample supply of voters, of varying ages, ready to cast a protest vote.

Furthermore, those with nostalgic memories of communist society, and their own youth, in the 60s and 70s will be around for some elections to come.

The big faultlines in Russian politics separate the young from the old, and urban from rural voters - older rural voters are most likely to vote communist.

In the biggest and most prosperous cities, Moscow and St Petersburg, support for reform is particularly strong.

Threat within

The biggest threat for Russian communism is that the economy will begin to regenerate, and that opportunities for small business, and for stable employment in the private sector, will spread from the big cities to towns and even to the former collective farms.

This is likely to be a slow process, if it happens at all.

The Communist Party would be further undermined if the injustices of economic reform to date, which have seen a small group of super-rich tycoons taking control of the most profitable sections of the economy, were eradicated.

The other threat faced by the party comes from within.

At least three candidates who ran against Mr Zyuganov in this election, Aman Tuleyev, Aleksei Podberyozkin and Stanislav Govorukhin, supported him in 1996. Mr Podberyozkin was then one of his closest aides.

Some observers believe Mr Zyuganov hinted on Friday that he is considering resignation.

He said the party was being "flooded" by a new generation, adding: "We have a large reserve - a long bench - and the party will replenish itself."

If he does not resign, there could be further defections. Though they did not apparently harm the Communist Party in this election there's no guarantee that future splits would not have more serious consequences.

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