Thursday, May 6, 2010

The UK Election & its PD potential... in Russia

I'm sure many around the world are intently following the 2010 British Elections (still underway at the time of writing), which have already been dubbed as "historic". The interest in the U.S. is understandable: the campaign process, although much shorter, had taken on a strikingly "American" character. More interesting, however, is the "Russian connection", which has, apparently, ignited the interest of the Russian media.

As it turns out, Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader who had been making all the headlines in this election campaign, is a descendant of prominent Russian aristocrats. Clegg, as reported, can trace a direct bloodline to Ignaty Zakrevsky, an attorney general in the imperial Russian senate, and Baroness Moura Budberg, the prominent ("most certainly") double-agent, working for the British and the Soviets after the 1917 Revolution.

But the Russian prominence in the current election doesn't stop there: James Cameron, the Conservative Leader, and David Miliband, Labor's Foreign Secretary, are also mentioned. (Too bad Brown couldn't put out a similarly "exotic" story over the past weeks...!)

So, how does this "revelation" affect Clegg's political outlook? Certainly, his Russian ancestry makes up only a part of his complex identity and the "very mixed" background. But they all mattered. As the Guardian put it, "early awareness of his roots [might have] endowed him with the understanding that politics is full of grey areas and contradictions." Moreover, he has had some extensive experience working on Russia and the post-Soviet region. This, then, gives better context to his party's  internationalist line.

Elections in major countries, especially those involved around the world, always draw attention from other publics (see the Obama case), and although the latter are not the electorate that parties and leaders are trying to charm, they still do matter (to varying degrees). This UK election, seems to hold an even greater potential in terms of excitement and worldwide interest. Now, many Russians (and Ukrainians, since that is where the Zakrevskys lived) can choose a favorite candidate, too, for example!

Given the (so far) uncertain results, a success for Clegg can have major reverberations not only in British-Russian elections, but also among the Russian (and Ukrainian) people. They might even open a museum. And they will most certainly be proud of it.

Will Clegg be proud of it, too, though?


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