PolitStartup Project as Gateway to Political Arena

PolitStartup Project as Gateway to Political Arena

United Russia [the ruling political party since the early years of Vladimir Putin's presidency] implements human resources projects to network regional politicians.

For example, PolitStartup provides a platform for specialists in various fields to share their experience.

Project participants have already become deputies of the State Duma, regional parliaments, and executive bodies.

They were also promoted to top government posts.

The lack of social lifts in modern Russia has become one of the most discussed topics and a big rebuke to the ruling establishment of the country. Clannishness and croneyism were blamed for the emerging stagnation. The United Russia party which has been in the overwhelming majority in the federal and regional parliamentary bodies for several consecutive terms has become one of the main targets of criticism. However, it is the ruling party that generates most of the projects that allow politicians who do not belong to its clans to develop their managerial and personal competencies, and as a consequence, to climb the career ladder.

PolitStartup is one of projects of this kind. It has been running for several years as part of United Russia's efforts in the field of education. It fostered hundreds of regional politicians who show great results in elections, increasing their influence and expanding their sphere of responsibility within the federal and regional government bodies. Such well-known personalities as Alexander Karelin, a member of the General Council of the United Russia party, psychologist and sociologist Viktor Potumsky, Head of the Insomar sociological service, Dmitry Orlov, CEO of the Political and Economic Communications Agency, Sergey Perminov, Deputy Secretary of the General Council of the United Russia party and many others become project mentors. The training programs help develop communication skills, strategic thinking, and experience in setting team goals and effective work in the electoral field. The election campaigns to the legislative bodies of the federal, regional and municipal levels that took place in September this year, only underlined the necessity and effectiveness of programs like PolitStartup.

The electoral cycle of 2021 was originally supposed to be a battle not only for votes. For the United Russia party it was a period of struggle for the legitimacy of its leading position in the political system. Rival political groups repeatedly criticized the ruling party for using administrative leverage in election campaigns and for pumping up voting results at the expense of state employees and state-owned enterprises. According to the opponents, the party gained non-competitive advantages due to this. However, this past election cycle gave a chance to United Russia to answer its critics by demonstrating the quality of voter outreach, its ability to build teams at all levels of government, make full use of all available means of communication with the electorate, and get the feedback in clear advantage over competitors in voting results.

According to observers, PoliticalStartup students stood out for their skills in the “fieldwork” with voters using social media and messengers.

They also effectively interacted with voters in electoral districts promoting the federal theses of the all-party election program and addressing local issues to tailor it to the needs of ordinary citizens. Sultan Khamzaev, the leader of the Sober Russia project, was called an example of a politician who showed effective electoral work in the State Duma elections. The combination of a vibrant program and effective interaction with voters enabled him to win election to the federal parliament in a single-mandate constituency. Regional legislative assembly deputy Elena Penzina is one of the notable representatives of United Russia in the Krasnoyarsk territory. She actively uses all features of social media platforms and messengers to interact with the voters, supporting her work as a people's elected representative on these platforms.

The work of Sergei Babin, a deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Orenburg region elected for a second term and a graduate of the PolitStartup 2021 program was praised as well.

Babin's activity on social networks is considered the most effective at the regional level. In addition to the traditional social media such as VK, Odnoklassniki, Facebook and Instagram, he effectively uses Telegram, one of the current trendiest platforms. The service, which has become a full-fledged alternative to the traditional media recently, allows users to voice their position in the broadest possible information field but is not yet fully used by regional politicians. For example, Babin is somewhat of a role model among the representatives of the United Russia in the Orenburg region. His active personal work in the electoral field, a large number of personal meetings that were held with voters, and effective discussion and campaign work did not go unnoticed either.

The development of communication skills is a key focus area of the PolitStartup educational project. On the one hand, effective work in direct contact with the voter can be considered an ordinary event in the election campaign. However, this is exactly this way of interaction that increases both individual result of the candidate, and the general result of a political organization. This explains Babin’s winning his constituency with a clear advantage and the fact that the result of the party in his constituency was in the top five results in the region.

Leaders of the PolitStartup educational project emphasized from very the beginning that they were focused on long-term development of participants and improved competencies. The current outcome during the 2021 election campaign is not the ultimate goal. The project relies on constant interaction between mentors and students and as a result, the public and political status of the participants of the human resources project will continue to rise. So, the appointment of PolitStartup participants to top regional and federal executive posts should not be considered as something exceptional.

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