Receantly the leaders of three Russian parties – Motherland, the Party of Life and the Party of Pensioners – have announced merger plans and their aim to become an opposition force. They agreed in principle that one of the main goals of the new party would be a political fight against United Russia’s Party monopoly on power. However, human rights activists believe that the merger is nothing more than Kremlin´s pet project. They believe that it is the President’s Administration that creates the new united party, which will present no opposition to the present regime. (16-SEP-06)
Text: HRH/Moscow, by Yanina Savenko. Sources: rg.ru; newsru.com; rodina.ru. Photos: rodina.ru
“We support the President’s policy …, but we do not believe that one political party, one political force – the United the Russian Federation – should have the monopoly on implementing the presidential program”, – said Sergey Mironov, the leader of the Party of Life and the Federation Council speaker. According to him, the new party “is ready to offer its own program of activities to accomplish tasks assigned by the President. Moreover, he says, the new alliance will become “the party of majority” because it will “protect interests of the majority of Russian people”.
Absence of the political program
What alarms the human rights watchdogs is the fact that the leaders of Motherland, the Party of Life and the Party of Pensioners didn’t provide details of their future program. They only declared that the new party would “…defend and uphold the interests of the working man and the pensioner.” Taking the first step, the united party is going to organize “The March against Poverty” across the country. The final version of the new party´s name will be approved at its inaugural congress, but for now, it is called “The Union of Confidence: Motherland Pensioners Life.” The constituent congress will take place in November and participants will choose the leader of the new party, which by some estimates, will number about half a million members. Among the ambition of the new Union is to become the country´s largest opposition group after elections in 2007.
Good chance of success
Said Sergey Markov, director of the Institute for Political Research: “by choosing the right strategy the party of Sergey Mironov can in the short time approach the United Russia’s levels of popularity, and even surpass it … [because] … the left-centrist wing of political spectrum enjoys support of 2/3 of Russian electorate, and because ideas of social justice are very popular in the Russian society”. Dmitry Oreshkin, the head of the analytic group “Merkator”, in his turn, said: “Now people consider this party to be artificially created in Kremlin’s test-tube, but it has all the possibilities to be successfully boosted. The project chose an appropriate political niche, first of all, entering into alliance with the Party of Pensioners. As there are about 38 millions pensioners in the Russian Federation, and all of them feel themselves offended”.
Competition with communists
According to analysts, the Kremlin hopes the new party will form the basis of a nominally two-party system in parliament. It will give voters an alternative to United the Russian Federation and siphon off votes from the Communist Party and others while remaining subservient to the presidential administration. Commenting on the Union Gennady Zuganov, the leader of Communist Party said following: “Further cheating of citizens is taking off. The Kremlin sees that the electorate became more left-oriented. In order to take away votes from the communists, the authorities artificially and quickly create new political party, which will play a role of the opposition to the United the Russian Federation.
Pseudo-opposition to Putin
Human rights activists worry about the coming constituent congress and artificial creation of two-party system in the Russian Federation. They believe that in reality the creation of the new big political party represents the pre-election President’s project. According to human rights activists this project aims at the coming elections to the State Duma. The authorities presumably want only two big parties presented in the Duma – pro-Putin’s United the Russian Federation and the new allegedly opposition party of Sergey Mironov. With the Kremlin´s backing, the new party can theoretically gain the kind of financing and media exposure that is enjoyed by the United the Russian Federation. This in turn can make it into a dominant force and almost completely sideline parties that oppose President Putin. The consolidation offers activists new evidence of Kremlin´s intolerance of political pluralism and democratic competition. The concerns of the human rights watchdogs are exacerbated by the worrisome developments that took place in the Russian Federation in the last six years. Since Putin came to power in 2000, his government has established extensive new controls over the news media, industry, political parties and public organizations. To the activists it seems that authorities pretend that the country enjoys democracy, while continuing to infringe on rights and freedoms of citizens.