How did Irina Khakamada, the daughter of a Japanese communist, wind up running against Vladimir Putin in the 2004 Russian Presidential election?
The rise of Khakamada in Russian politics was no accident. Khakamada is an economics specialist with an undergraduate degree from the Patrice Lumumba Peoples’ Friendship University and a PHD from Lomonosov Moscow State University. In 1995, Khakamada was named among the Politicians of the XXI Century by Time magazine. A year later, Time also listed her among the 100 Best Known Women in the World. If that wasn’t enough, in 2005 she was part of a collective nomination of 1000 women for the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of their commitment to improving the lives of present and future generations.
As Khakamada’s political accolades gathered on her living room shelf, she threw herself into the deep end and ran for Russian Presidential glory in 2004. Khakamada founded the Our Choice party to provide a democratic alternative to Putin’s right wing, statist party, United Russia.
Khakamada is one of few trailblazing women in Russia to reach great heights on the parliamentary ladder. As recently as last year, data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union named Russia as one of the lowest ranking countries in terms of women’s participation in politics and decision-making. This could be partly attributed to patriarchal nature of Russian society, which is dominated by a traditional view on gender roles.
So, what was it like for Khakamada to run for President amidst a patriarchal political climate? The lead up to the election was not all smooth sailing. At first, her public relations team didn’t know how to publicise her. After a long and arduous brain storming session, they came up with a sure-fire way to gain public empathy. The PR team told Khakamada that staging the kidnapping of her husband and child would be the most effective method of gaining public sympathy. Wait, what? She declined to take part in the stunt.
Prior to the election, Khakamada found it difficult to get her campaign advertisements broadcast at a regular hour. Her adverts were only aired on state-dominated television at an ungodly hour in the morning, when most viewers were still tucked up in bed. Khakamada complained to the station about this early morning time slot but her request fell on deaf ears.
At the end of the day, Khakamada only received 3.8% of the vote, with Putin gaining a big, fat 71%. Despite losing the battle, she is still a trailblazer for women in Russian politics.
All hail Queen Khakamada.
Photo sourced here