Applying corporate technologies in managing political life is the main passion of the current head of the internal political bloc of the presidential administration, Sergei Kiriyenko. The standard procedure for the selection and typification of regional heads, the governor’s talent pool with regular education and training, similar fees for vice governors, management competitions “Leaders of Russia”, KPIs in elections – all this came from the practice of large corporations.
This technocratization (or, more precisely, corporatization) of Russian politics began with the contour closest to the Kremlin – the governor’s one. And then predictably got to the more distant – the party. Corporate governance methods are now being actively implemented in both new and traditional systemic parties – in a few months they will have to guarantee the Kremlin that the next Duma will remain predictable and manageable, regardless of the results of specific political projects.
Games in brands
One of the corporate methods – brand diversification – was introduced by the Kremlin into party construction a year and a half ago. By the start of the parliamentary campaign in Russia, several new niche projects were to appear. The Kremlin considered that the protest mood in Russian society was connected with the fact that some social groups did not have their representatives in parliament – so they decided to provide them.
For the ultra-patriotic Stalinists they created the For Truth party headed by Zakhar Prilepin, for those who care about the environment – the Green Alternative with pictures by Vasya Lozhkin, for not too angry townspeople – the moderately liberal New People, businessman Alexei Nechaev, and so on. Further. New projects were helped to get into several regional legislative assemblies in the 2020 elections, so that they could then participate in the Duma campaign without collecting signatures.
The Kremlin will not mind if some of the new parties even get into the Duma. But the main purpose of their creation was to split the protest vote, and then the votes cast for those who did not overcome the 5% barrier would go to United Russia.
The creation of new structures under the auspices of the Kremlin proceeded more according to the laws of brand management than politics. Each party was allocated a clear niche, each party was assigned its own brand manager from the presidential administration, each of them had its own KPI. Everything is like in large companies, where approximately the same products are sold under different niche brands – eco-friendly, premium, folk.
If it turns out that some of the brands offered to consumers are not popular, then it can be given up for demolition without prejudice to the system as a whole – this has already happened with the Direct Democracy Party, which could not get into any regional legislative assembly.
Some brands can be tried to unite for better survival – this is how Fair Russia, For Truth and Patriots of Russia were united. Neither the difference in ideology, nor the conflicts between the leaders prevented the merger – it is more important for the Kremlin to streamline the lineup of party brands.
Finally, one should not be allowed to undermine the position of others. Therefore, the New People were unequivocally reminded of the need to conduct more restrained and niche campaigning after the party exceeded its KPI and was able to get into four regional legislative assemblies at once in the 2020 elections.
Under external control
Business was not limited to new party projects. Another step towards the corporatization of Russian politics was the introduction of external control not only in new, but also in old systemic parties. Their leadership includes political strategists close to the presidential administration, who, in fact, are now responsible for the operational management of parties, including the distribution of funds, the choice of topics for campaigning and the selection of candidates and heads of departments.
Previously, such decisions were made by party leaders themselves or their people. Something, of course, was agreed in the Kremlin, but, as a rule, on serious issues. Now the parties have external managers who will not allow uncoordinated criticism of the authorities or will immediately stop negotiations with an undesirable candidate so that later there will be no scandals with his removal.
As a result, the systemic parties are finally integrated into the state corporation Rospolitika. Even United Russia, the largest and most independent Kremlin brand, has been assigned a separate external manager, deputy head of the presidential administration’s administration for the State Council, Boris Rappoport.
In the KPRF, which the Kremlin has been campaigning to tame for a long time, the next head is likely to be State Duma deputy Yuri Afonin, a person close to the Kiriyenko technocrats and who has good relations with the presidential administration. He has already received the post of the first deputy of Gennady Zyuganov.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky is unlikely to tolerate external control in the Liberal Democratic Party, but after his departure in the foreseeable future, the party will not be able to survive without the support – and therefore tighter control – from the Kremlin.
The corporate party management system is convenient for the current composition of the Kremlin’s internal political bloc, people with a business mindset. In place of structures with ideology (or at least its semblance), with bright leaders and ambitions, there is a set of brands artificially developed for ideological and social niches. There are few or no well-known politicians in their composition – instead of them, hired brand ambassadors, such as the former mayor of Yakutsk Sardana Avksentieva in New People or Vasily Lozhkin in Green Alternative.
The resulting ruler, if necessary, can be thinned out or, conversely, expanded. You can adjust the positioning and campaign of individual projects. The struggle for power, which is natural for all parties, is excluded from this system; each structure has a target audience and KPIs for working with it. Such parties cease to be a communicator with any part of society, they are offered to be supported simply for a close and pretty shell.
It is significant that the winners of the Kremlin competitions “Leaders of Russia. Politics ”and students of the presidential administration. These are people with similar skills and approaches, who are ready to join any political brand: they need to go to United Russia, they need to go to Fair. For them, the primary thing is the Kremlin’s political corporation itself, and not which of its branches they find themselves in.
Election participants cooperate with such parties only formally, so as not to collect signatures, and the names and attributes of even the largest of them turn out to be unnecessary. United Russia nominees have long tried to hide their ties to the ruling party during the campaign. Now it is the turn of other de-ideologizing parties.
For example, the propaganda of the erudite showman Anatoly Wasserman, who is nominated by the “Fair Russia” in Moscow, is sustained not in Socialist-Revolutionary yellow, but in United Russia blue tones. Last year, in the Irkutsk region, where the positions of the communists are traditionally strong, the candidate for governor from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Mikhail Shchapov, not only tried not to mention which party he was nominating from, but also conceded the party red color in campaigning to the nominee from power, acting governor Igor Kobzev.
Having lost all ideology, ambitions and even significant paraphernalia, parties are becoming one of the weakest structures in Russian politics. In fact, these are just tools, almost completely devoid of subjectivity. The party system is technocratized, finally detached from society and built into the vertical in the form of a state corporation.