Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 10, issue 5

Stephen K. Wegren, "The Communist Party of Russia: Rural Support and Implications for the Party System," Party Politics, 10 (September, 2004), 565-582.

Second Paragraph:
This article analyzes the weaknesses in the Russian party system by examining the economic, behavioral, and social characteristics of rural Communist Party supporters. By examining variables that heretofore have not been analyzed, the article concludes that Communist Party electoral strength in the countryside is more tenuous than previously understood. Communist support does not appear to be economically motivated, nor a result of social alienation. The importance of the argument is that if the Communist Party is weak in the countryside, which it has used to re-emerge as a significant political actor, the implications are twofold: (1) reformers have real opportunities to make significant inroads into the rural vote, for which there is already supporting evidence; and (2) if electoral support for the Communist Party further weakens, the party system is weakened. The impact may be a further weakening of the party system, attendant with even more power shifting away from parties to the executive.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Support for political parties by income group (in %)
Table 2. Mean scores for support, satisfaction, and participation among Communist and non-Communist supporters
Table 3. Party Representation (%)

Three of Last Five Paragraphs:
The importance of rural electoral support for the CPRF is threefold. First, although Communist Party members have higher rates of party identifi- cation than other parties (McFaul, 2001b; Wyman et al., 1995), this article has shown that the rural Communist supporter is not particularly distinctive in attitudinal or behavioral attributes. Support for the Communist Party does not appear to be driven by economic need or a sense of alienation. In short, there are limits on how much Communist candidates can exploit the ëmisery of the marketí or play upon specific economic or social consequences thereof. This reality serves to blunt the message of Communist candidates and limits their appeal.

Second, this article suggests that there is a divorce between personal behavior and political support, as shown by individuals who participate in the land market while voting for the Communist Party (which consistently opposed the buying and selling of rural land). It is believed that much of the appeal of the CPRF is ideologically based. To the extent that Communist ideology reflects old values, a crucial question is: at what point do Communist policies become perceived as antiquated or not appropriate for Russiaís future?

Third, the article showed the emerging importance of a non-party preference in the countryside and weak support for the CPRF among different cohorts which are believed to be primary supporters of the CPRF. A ëno partyí preference was shown to exist among the unemployed and among those in poverty. This trend shows that the Communist Party is vulnerable to government policies and may be unable to increase support among ëlosersí during market reforms.