Less than a month prior to the State Duma elections, the ruling United Russia party stands accused of engaging in a dodgy political advertising campaign – all the while its rankings continue to sink.
Popular blogger Oleg Kozyrev has said that he is determined to bring United Russia to justice for using the same billboard design as the Moscow Election Commission. Kozyrev has published several photos that reveal striking similarities between the respective billboards. His readers have agreed that it is hardly possible to tell the party billboards from their almost identical copies issued by an election body that is supposed to be independent by law – unless one takes the trouble to read a small inscription on the latter, which identifies it as having been developed by order of the election commission.
Kozyrev said that he is going to file complaints both against United Russia and the Moscow Election Commission, as well as IMA Consulting, the PR agency which developed the billboard design. The blogger is accusing all three bodies of attempting to “confuse ordinary voters” and is also calling for checks to find out whether the advertising deals involved in creating the posters have been tainted by corruption.
IMA Consulting has refused to comment on the issue, but the Moscow Election Commission has made statements denying any wrongdoing.
“None of the parties involved can be accused of breaking the law, since the PR agency retained the exclusive rights to the designs [it developed for the election commission],” Dmitry Reut, spokesperson for the Moscow Electoral Commission said.
United Russia member Sergei Markin called the use of identical design “a smart trick.” Markin said he sees nothing wrong with the fact that United Russia’s posters are so closely associated with the electoral commission posters. According to Markin, other political parties ought to be equally creative. “The Communist Party and A Just Russia, whose logos are in red and yellow, could develop promotional materials in the McDonald’s style as long as the fast food giant doesn’t mind,” Markin informed.
Other political players were not impressed. “This situation is an example of collusion,” Vadim Solovyov, head of the Communist Party’s legal department, Solovyov added that the Communist Party is submitting a formal complaint to the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation with regard to this issue, and expressed surprise that advertising experts at United Russia have acted so unprofessionally.
This scandal is taking place against the background of United Russia’s sinking ratings, which have fallen to their lowest levels yet. Right now only 40 to 45 percent of Russian voters would cast their ballots for the ruling party, according to FOM and WCIOM polling services, respectively. By contrast, a year ago, United Russia could count on the support of some 50 percent of population.
According to polling data, United Russia’s rivals are receiving increased support: the Communist Party’s ratings have increased from last year’s seven to nine percent to 13 to 14 percent, while the Liberal Democratic Party has gained two percent over the past year.
“People are frustrated with the ruling party’s and the government’s socio-economic policy and their crackdowns on freedom and democracy,” Vadim Solovyov of the Communist Party said. Solovyov believes that the party’s current PR tactics will not win it more votes, and expects massive fraud on election day. According to Solovyov, United Russia will take full advantage of its administrative clout to secure a 226-seat majority in the State Duma.
arious political analysts share Solovyov’s opinion. Vladimir Pribylovsky, the head of the Moscow-based Panorama think tank, said that he has little trust in polling data and official vote results, claiming that present figures reflect only one trend: polling agencies have more freedom in reporting the real state of affairs.
“The only thing that can help United Russia win is to keep Vladimir Churov [the head of the Central Election Commission] in his seat,” Pribylovsky told . “No matter how people vote, it matters who counts the vote.”
According to Pribylovsky, United Russia’s electorate mainly includes bureaucrats and people indoctrinated by television – in order to stay afloat, the party should just continue to pursue its populist policy, which involves passing bills raising salaries and pensions as long as the economy can bear it.