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Vladimir Zhirinovsky: A clown or a Neo-Fascist?


SAURABH KUMAR SHAHI | Moscow, March 3, 2012 22:56
Tags : moscow elections 2012 | Vladimir Zhirinovsky | boris yeltsin | vladimir putin | Russian elections | soviet union | communist party | liberal democratic party | Israel | Britain | jews |
Imagine a Russian president who is persona non grata (PNG) in half a dozen neighbouring states, aspires annexing all the former Soviet Union republics and promises people bounties ranging from free vodka to 'police state'. Imagine Vladimir Zhirinovsky in Kremlin. 
In an election that is simultaneously being labelled “boring” and “pre-decided”, there is at least someone who makes for an interesting copy. Vladimir Zhirinovsky is not new to the Russian political landscape. In fact, among the fellow contenders his political capital appears to be the oldest. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia that he represents was the first political party to be allowed during the later days of Glasnost. It was variously suggested that the party was the brainchild Communist Party and KGB. Zhirinovsky was its first presidential candidate and has been losing elections since then, with an exception of 2004 when he declined the candidature in favour of his bodyguard. 
An animated nationalist, he is infamous for slandering his political opponents, instigating physical brawls in the parliament and diatribes against the West in general and Jews in particular. His hatred for Israel is only surpassed by his hatred for Britain whom he accuses of every major war that has been fought in the 20th century. Zhirinovsky caters to the right-wing crowd and knows how to offer fodder for domestic consumption. In this regard, he is not different from other right-wing loose heads of Europe. However, what makes him a class apart is the seriousness and conviction with which he makes most of his assertions. Even the choicest mention of such comments can fill a broadsheet; a few nerve-wrecking ones can be quoted here. In the past, he has advocated using tactical nuclear weapons against Chechens, forcibly annexing Alaska from the US and putting the Ukrainians away and legalizing polygamy. 
He is particularly known for giving back to his detractors, verbally and otherwise. When Condoleezza Rice made some sounds about apparent lack of political freedom in Russia, Zhirinovsky suggested that "Condoleezza Rice needs a company of soldiers and needs to be taken to barracks where she would be satisfied." His other detractors have been less fortunate. In the past he has thrashed Mikhail Delyagin in the TV studio amidst a debate and also ignited the Duma when he spit on Rodina party legislator, Andrei Saveliyev. 
But he is also known to walk the talk. In 2006, Zhirinovsky found himself in the centre of world’s attention when he fielded Andrei Lugovoi, wanted by Britain in the poisoning death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, to run on the ticket of Liberal Democratic Party. 
This year, he has come up with a new set of promises that look comparatively, and rather suspiciously, sane. If elected, he promises to turn Russia into a parliamentary republic and reorganise the state on non-ethnic lines. However, he still aspires to declare Russians the chief nationality of the country. On the economic front, he wants to reform the system and focus on infrastructure development but side by side advocated reverse capital outflows and revitalize the army. 
He was looking ok until yesterday when he called one of Russia’s most celebrated singers, Alla Pugachyova, and all other artists, "prostitutes" in a television debate with rival billionaire candidate Mikhail Prokhorov. The singer, who was there in her capacity as Prokhorov’s supporter apparently enquired Zhirinovsky whether he plans to change his “indecent way” or not. In reply, Zhirinovsky asked her to keep quiet and sit down and observed, “I behave in the manner that I consider necessary. I don't need image-makers. No one gave me allowances to create a party, as they have done to Mikhail [Prokhorov] — I created one myself. I was the first to become a presidential candidate, when it was still the Soviet Union. You artists, like prostitutes, lie underneath any leader for money! You all lay under Brezhnev, under Gorbachev, under Yeltsin, under Putin. Tomorrow, I will enter the Kremlin, you will all lie under me, and I will spit on you and wipe my feet on you."
Love him or hate him, the fellow has his base and knows how to keep it intact. Political historians will remember how he gave Yeltsin a run for his money during the previous contest. The jury is still out whether the west rigged that election to defeat Communist party and Zhirinovsky. Although others might not take him very seriously.
“To say that his is a right-winger or a Fascist is to offer him an ideological grounding, however repulsive. I have always considered this fellow a clown and nothing more. A clown who does not operate in decent circle,” asserts political analyst with Kommersant, Oleg Kashin.
People might differ in their opinion of Zhirinovsky but many believe that in more ways than one, he also acts as a safety valve for the emerging Russian brand of neo-fascist sentiments to escape. At the very least, he warms up the political climate in the freezing Moscow.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017