The start of the “People's Primaries 2024”, originally scheduled for Tuesday, designed to determine a single presidential candidate from the left-patriotic opposition, has been postponed. The organizers, represented by the Left Front movement, explained this by the demonstrated interest on the part of law enforcement agencies. The parliamentary opposition distanced itself from the procedure, although some politicians who were among the nominees recognize the usefulness of the action for society as a whole.
The socialist social movement Left Front announced “people’s primaries” for the 2024 presidential elections in October. By November 21, a list of 33 nominees was formed in an application form: nominations could be sent by email. According to the plan, voting for them will be done on a special website, and the Left Front will offer to nominate the winner for president from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. As the leader of the movement, Sergei Udaltsov, told Kommersant, the candidates could have refused to participate: for example, due to “interest on the part of the authorities,” the director of the Kirov Tractor Plant, Sergei Serebryakov, asked to cross out his name.
Another problematic candidate turned out to be the former Minister of Defense of the DPR and ex-FSB officer Igor Strelkov (Girkin), arrested in connection with extremism. “As we announced that he would be on the list, the interest of law enforcement agencies increased in us,” said Mr. Udaltsov. “Representatives of the Center for Combating Extremism contacted the people who deal with our technical support and invited them to a conversation.” The press center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs did not promptly respond to Kommersant’s request.
The attention of the police prompted the organizers to postpone the event so that it would not be recognized as an “extremist event,” explained Sergei Udaltsov: “We decided to move the start, to be on the safe side, to clarify and understand everything so that other participants would not have problems.” The leader of the “Left Front” hopes that “there will be no crime”, the voting will be able to be held and this “will be useful so that the presidential elections are more competitive and the candidate from the left-patriotic opposition is determined not behind the scenes, but taking into account the opinions of the general public.” .
According to the politician, the organizers expect that “several tens of thousands of people” who have been verified by phone number or email will take part in the primaries. Among the supposed favorites, Mr. Udaltsov himself named the director of the Lenin state farm near Moscow Pavel Grudinin (winner of similar “People’s primaries” in 2018 and ex-presidential candidate from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation), Igor Strelkov, Saratov communist Nikolai Bondarenko, head of Khakassia Valentin Konovalov and the former Irkutsk governor, State Duma deputy from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation Sergei Levchenko. “But this is not the ultimate truth, it’s just that visually in the flow that was going on, these names were mentioned more often, so we shouldn’t limit ourselves to these five,” emphasized Sergei Udaltsov.
Nikolai Bondarenko told Kommersant that he “heard” about the plans of the “Left Front” and considers “any initiatives that the opposition proposes regarding society” as “cool” and “correct”: “They will awaken interest in people, involve them in policy so that they try, and do not wait and do not tolerate when everything changes on its own.”
Another member of the list, State Duma deputy Mikhail Delyagin (A Just Russia - For Truth), learned about his “nomination” from a Kommersant correspondent and turned out to be less receptive to the idea. “These idiots Rosa Luxemburg don’t even suspect that A Just Russia nominated Vladimir Putin for president, and that I support this decision - and even more so,” the deputy snapped.
The Communist Party of the Russian Federation initially distanced itself from the idea of the “Left Front”. First Deputy Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation Yuri Afonin, in a conversation with Kommersant, emphasized that the party “does not and will not have any primaries,” since they understand the “artificiality” of such procedures. “We have 13 thousand primary party organizations, through discussions within the region we carry out quiet, non-public work and identify opinions and proposals,” explained the communist. He also added that the party will make a decision on the presidential candidate after mandatory consultation with the allied forces: “This is not PR, like some organizations close to us, but it is their right - they want, let them make some proposals.”
Political scientist Konstantin Kalachev believes that participation in the “People’s Primaries” makes sense for those who are building a political career in the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and are also targeting the 2026 State Duma elections: “This is an opportunity to remind about yourself and get free promotion. On the other hand, it is important not to quarrel with the leadership of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, because they will look quite jealously at these results.” The Communist Party itself can use this vote as a “pressure tool” in order to obtain “guarantees and opportunities” for a future campaign, where it is critical for it to take second place, the expert argues. Judging by how this is happening now, this is “Udaltsov’s private initiative,” but “senior comrades will try to explain to him that actions need to be coordinated,” Mr. Kalachev is sure. “For now, these primaries are more like a suitcase without a handle: it’s hard to carry, it’s a shame to throw it away,” the political scientist sums up.