Once you have your six "political party" team members--let's say you have a Babkov, a Sliska, and a Khinshtein heading your list, with a Khakamada in reserve--then it's Fantasy Elections Time. How is your political party scored? At the end of each week, add up:
* 1 point for every time your member is quoted praising Putin in print media; 2 points for radio (minus .5 points if it's on Ekho Moskvy); 3 points for television; 4 points for ORT.
* 1 point for every three negative comments against President Bush; 5 points for every thinly-veiled racist outburst coupled with a denunciation of extremism (minus-5 if the racism stands alone).
* 5 points for every photo opportunity with President Putin.
* 10 points for every compliment President Putin gives to your politician (2 points for compliments Putin gives to your politician's real-world political party).
* 1 point for every five minutes that your politician appears on national television; subtract 1 point if your politician is chastised by President Putin in his Kremlin office.
We believe that if Fantasy Russian Elections follows the Fantasy Football trend, that Russians' interest in their elections will skyrocket accordingly. Each participant feels far more involved playing the role of virtual-Surkov than he does as a real-world voter. Fantasy Elections will have the calming, stabilizing effect on the electorate Putin dreams of. Sure, the game may lead to a few broken marriages and a couple of massacres here and there, but that's a small price to pay for stability.
To help you get started on your Fantasy Elections, we're providing below a breakdown of the parties competing (or not) in the Duma elections on December 2.
Just as baseball had its New York Yankees and basketball its Los Angeles Lakers, so the young National Election League has its dominant franchise, the United Russia party. United Russia's innovative playbook is what analysts call the "Landlocked Eurasian Meatgrinder," similar to the Baltimore Ravens of the early 2000s, relying on swarming blitzes by siloviki, and bone-crushing defensive linemen who never let the opponent get past the line of scrimmage. No team can match its unbeatable combination of administrative resources, big business coffers, and positive television coverage.
United Russia grew out of the Unity Party, the third attempt by then-president Boris Yeltsin to create a powerful pro-Kremlin party, and the first pro-Kremlin party that succeeded. In 1999, the Yeltsin "Family" created the "Unity" party as a pro-Putin bloc, headed by Sergei Shoigu and directed by Boris Berezovsky, in order to defeat Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's "Fatherland" party. Unity won, and the thoroughly pimp-slapped Luzhkov joined Unity's ranks in 2001, creating the new all-powerful "Unity Russia" party. In 2002, United Russia named Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, an old Putin comrade from Petersburg, as the party's boss and speaker of the Duma. In the 2003 Duma elections, United Russia fared even better with 37% of the vote, giving it a Constitutional majority in the Duma. In 2005, Gryzlov announced, "The Parliament is not a place for discussion," cementing its populist appeal. In February 2007, Putin said in a press conference, "What's the big deal--everyone knows that I was directly involved in creating United Russia, I helped this political party stand on its own two feet, helped in its creation and in its formation." Eight months later, Vladimir Putin shocked the world by announcing that he was joining the party that he created, and heading its list.
Vladimir Putin. Total control of television coverage. Bottomless finances: United Russia has at least 10 times the funds of its nearest competitor. Just 20 members on its list have a combined worth of $15 billion, including metals magnates Viktor Rashnikov and Andrei Skoch, and supermarket tycoon Vladimir Gruzdev. Other party members include the head of Russia's weapons export monopoly and the head of Russia's railroads. Its youth group Molodaya Gvardia is far and away the strongest youth group of any party's (excepting the banned National-Bolsheviks Party).