Smooth-Talking Nationalist Attracts Russian Votes

Christian Lowe, Jackson News Tribune (WY), Jan. 31, 2006

MOSCOW—Dmitry Rogozin is suave, smooth-talking and, his opponents say, a racist. And he is winning over voters the Kremlin wants for itself.

Rogozin’s Rodina (Motherland) party began life three years ago as a Kremlin puppet designed to poach votes from other parties, but now it has turned on its former masters and is striking a chord with its mix of populist economics and anti-immigrant slogans.

Many analysts say Motherland—not the huge Communist party or the pro-Western liberals most commonly identified with Russia’s opposition—is positioned to mount the most serious challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.

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Motherland’s appeal was demonstrated in December in an election for Moscow’s City Council.

It ran a television advertisement portraying dark-skinned immigrants dropping litter and leering at a fair-skinned Russian woman. It ended with the slogan: “Let’s clean the city of rubbish.”

The clip tapped into widespread resentment against the millions of mainly Muslim migrants who come to Russia’s big cities from ex-Soviet republics in search of work.

Motherland missed the ballot after a Moscow court ruled the advertisement incited racial hatred.

But opinion polls showed the party—which has about 30 seats in the 450-seat national parliament—was running in second place, behind the dominant, pro-Kremlin United Russia party.

“(Motherland’s policies) are very, very popular with the Russian people,” said Masha Lipman, an analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center, an independent think tank.

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