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Your guide to Russian political parties ahead of the 2021 Parliamentary Election: The Liberal Democratic Party

Who are they?

The terribly misnamed Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) is a far-right populist faction founded in 1989 as the Liberal Democratic Party of the Soviet Union, which lasted until the USSR dissolved. It was founded by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a firebrand politician who still leads the group to this day. Despite its name, the group shares very little in common with European Liberal Democratic parties, instead espousing views more akin to far-right ultranationalists, actively opposing both modern neoliberal capitalism and Soviet-style communism.

How did they do last time?

In 2016, the LDPR vote share came in at 13.14%, leaving them in third place behind United Russia and the Communist Party. The result was an improvement on 2011, when the group finished in 4th with just 11.67%.

However, since 2016, the LDPR has seen some success. For example, in 2018, it won the governorships of both the Khabarovsk and Vladimir Regions, defeating the pro-Putin governing party, United Russia.

How are they likely to perform in 2021? Who supports them?

As in 2016, most analysts believe that the LDPR will again finish some way behind the country’s two most popular factions.

Like most other Russian parties, the LDPR’s level of support varies massively from region to region. The group is known to be wildly popular in the country’s Far East – particularly in Khabarovsk, where now-imprisoned former Governor Sergey Furgal stormed to victory with almost 70% of the vote in 2018. The party also has some support in the center of the country.

What do they believe?

The LDPR is a far-right party, and its leader Zhirinovsky is neither a liberal nor much of a democrat. Many of the faction’s ideas can be described as ultranationalist and socially conservative while remaining somewhat economically interventionist.

The party’s policies are almost entirely centered around views held by Zhirinovsky. At home, the LDPR supports populist ideas, like increasing pensions and the minimum wage, while implementing a tax hike for the super-rich. It also seeks to “protect traditional family values” while supporting “the traditional religions of Russia,” including Christianity.

Its foreign policy views are somewhat more controversial. The party seeks to return all the former territories of the USSR to the control of Moscow. It also wants to dissolve NATO and create an Armed Forces of Europe without the participation of the United States.

Although not in the official manifesto, party leader Zhirinovsky has some other outlandish views, such as restoring the monarchy and changing the country’s name to the Russian Empire. He has also threatened to “shoot and hang” his political opponents.

What else do I need to know?

Despite being part of the systemic opposition – that is, often loyal to the Kremlin – the LDPR has often butted heads with the authorities. Last year, the aforementioned Khabarovsk Governor Furgal was arrested. The former governor was flown to Moscow, where he currently awaits trial on charges of murder from more than 15 years ago. After his detention, Putin fired Furgal, replacing him with another LDPR politician, Mikhail Degtyarev.

Soon after, large protests were held in Khabarovsk, with thousands of people turning up for multiple consecutive weekends. Many locals were furious that federal authorities removed their elected representative and replaced him with a Moscow-based MP with no local experience.

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