Veteran Russian opposition leader and founder of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Vladimir Zhirinovsky has long sought to merge several of Russia’s four main parties in order to create a system that can more meaningfully challenge the political status quo while allowing potent economic forces to more easily capture the attention of Russian voters.
Previously, Zhirinovsky proposed a merger of his centre-right LDPR and the incumbent centrist United Russia to form a conservative party while simultaneously proposing a merger of the centre-left Fair Russia party with the Communist Party in order to form a broad based left party. This week however, Zhirinovsky announced that he is in talks with Sergey Mironov the leader of A Fair Russia in order to form a broad based Social Democratic Party of Russia (SDPR). Zhirinovsky stated that he initially sought Communist membership of the broad coalition too but found that the Communists still persist in their highly unlikely ambition of coming to power without a political partnership.
In reality, a would-be SDPR could actually work to the advantage of supporters of both LDPR and A Fair Russia. While the LDPR is normally classed as centre-right, many of its economic policies are in fact social democratic policies with reformist 21st century characteristics. The LDPR’s long standing proposals to nationalise major industries as well as medium and large monopolies, limit interest rates and debt collection while de-regulating over burdened small businesses and start-ups are in line with the progressive populist policies of many new “third way parties” throughout the world. It just so happens that the LDPR have advocated for such proposals for decades. Now Zhirinovsky looks set on capturing global trends in populist politics by forming a new political force to more actively champion his long standing policy proposals.
Likewise, the LDPR, A Fair Russia and the Communists are united in their opposition to the governing United Russia party’s proposals of raising the retirement age – a piece of legislation which has proved deeply unpopular.
Zhirinovsky has stated that in 2024, during the next major Presidential election cycle, the country’s political fortunes will dramatically change. Now, it appears that Zhirinovsky is intent on fostering such a change by creating a new, dynamic and unavoidable political force to challenge the political status quo. This new reality could also bode well for President Vladimir Putin’s proposed domestic economic reforms as many Duma members of the United Russia party seem less keen on reform than on maintaining their own overly entrenched positions. In this sense, an opposition bloc with meaningful ideas could help to work with the current President all the while preparing to propose their own candidate for the 2024 election in which the incumbent is almost certain not to stand.
Russia’s main opposition parties currently have many important ideas to offer, but the recent electoral success of the centrist governing party has prohibited them from uniting in order to force United Russia to take notice. Zhirinovsky’s proposals for a large-scale Social Democratic Party appear to be not only well intentioned, but easily achievable if certain political leaders put their egos aside and consider the bigger picture of uprooting a tired political status quo.