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A Just Russia at crossways

July 18, 2012, 17:14 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

A Just Russia party, one of the four parliamentary parties in the country, is standing at the parting of the ways.

Now this is the only parliamentary party, which is siding with the protest movement by the non-systemic opposition, mainly due to the activity of several deputies, who are taking the most active part in all large manifestations. At the same time, the leadership of the party and most deputies of the protest movement are distancing themselves from such actions. Such straddling position engenders problems. On one hand, many representatives of the party come against leaders of the protest movement, which also involves members of A Just Russia party. On the other hand, regional branches call for transforming the party and working out more oppositional views.

When A Just Russia was created by the Kremlin as the second ruling party, which is designed to force Communists out of the political arena, the party failed to deal with its task. Till its leader Sergei Mironov was chairman of the Federation Council it maintained relationship with the authorities. But when Mironov resigned, members of A Just Russia became more and more oppositional. At present, not a few striking personalities became deputies of the State Duma. Their participation in all large protest actions brought fame to Gennady Gudkov and Dmitry Gudkov, and Ilya Ponomaryov.

The party is now debating its further political future. A source to the JR party told the Izvestia newspaper that regional branches urged the party leadership to assume a tougher position and take a more active party in protest actions.

Now the central committee of the party is collecting proposals from regions. It will be decided on September 22 if JR members become “a party of angry citizens”.

“Rank and file party members express indignation at why the party rests on oars and gives no response about many pressing issues, many people in regions want the party itself and its faction in the State Duma to take part in protest actions,” the source says. If the leadership upholds this policy, A Just Russia has a chance to become a real party of the opposition, it adds.

Ilya Ponomaryov openly stresses the need for changes. He believes that A Just Russia needs to consolidate and lead the protesting electorate. “A Just Russia should become a party, which is opened for all civilian activists, less ideologized and geared for action. We should consolidate angry citizens and must be representatives of this creative group in the Duma,” Ponomaryov explained.

First of all members of the JR youth movement and the party’s branches in major cities favour radical rhetoric. This position was backed in Moscow, St Petersburg, the Moscow region, Samara, Krasnoyarsk and others.

Mainly the youth supports reforms, Dmitry Gudkov says. He recalled that deputy of A Just Russia Valery Zubov was the first to move towards reforming the party. At present, his proposals – to elect the leadership of the party and give more powers to regions – have been backed.

In the capital JR members “are revolutionary minded”. Head of the Moscow branch, deputy Alexander Ageyev said his “supporters seek reforms”.

“We call for taking an active part in mass protest events. Unlike all Russia where views divided fifty-fifty, Moscow is more strived for protest actions and urge its representatives to lead protest actions with clear slogans,” he said.

A Just Russia faction is far from taking a consistent position. JR deputies tried to wreck or delay scandal amendments to the law on rallies. Then in other discussions on high-profile draft laws on non-commercial organizations, on “blacklists” in the Internet and on slander they did not take part in the voting or voted for these amendments.

Many members of the faction are displeased with the participation of their colleagues in protest actions of the opposition. In particular, in her letter to Sergei Mironov Oksana Dmitriyeva came against Dmitry Gudkov’s involvement in the opposition rally in St Petersburg on July 8.

Gennady Gudkov’s protest activities became subject for discussions on the federal level. In the spring the disagreements made public: JR leader Sergei Mironov said Gudkov “has been issued the last warning” due to his participation in protest actions – nobody has given Gudkov authority to take part in protest actions and revolutionary rallies.

On Monday, it became known that Senior Gudkov had not become a member of the JR Moscow Region Council Bureau. In his words, in June he was included in the Council at the last moment on the insistence of his supporters. “On Monday, the issue of including me in the Council’s Bureau was ignored,” Gudkov said.

A Just Russia is surviving the disintegration crisis, political scientists say.

“Where to move further is highly questionable. If Mironov does not take any decision, he will wreck his authority strongly. It will become clear that he does not control the party and that he discredit this political structure before regional leaders,” expert of the Centre for Political Conjecture Dmitry Abzalov said.

The expert believes that until A Just Russia is unable to determine its position on rallies and its regional structure, “in fact it will be a community and not the party”.

“Regions demand that the party radicalize since the middle niche is occupied by United Russia and the social protest is represented by Communist Party,” expert of the Centre for Political Technologies Yelena Pozdnyakova told Itar-Tass. “The leadership of the party cannot support radical rhetoric: if A Just Russia agrees, the Kremlin can impose sanctions,” she said.

In her words, Mironov does not control the situation. “The party discipline remains in the faction, but most members live their lives,” she said.

MOSCOW, July 18