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New liberal parties emerge along with disagreements between liberals

August 03, 2012, 15:18 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

New parties are emerging in the liberal spectrum of the Russian political landscape. The disagreements, which are characteristic for Russian liberals and are fraught with the danger of split, begin to arise immediately.

The RPR-PARNAS party, which was formed as a result of the merger of the Republican Party of Russia (RPR) and the Party of People’s Freedom (PARNAS), was registered in the Justice Ministry on Thursday. Vladimir Ryzhkov became the executive secretary of the political council of the party, Boris Nemtsov and Mikhail Kasyanov – the co-chairmen of the party.

The Russian Justice Ministry has earlier received a request for registration from the opposition party People’s Alliance, which is headed by associates of a well-known oppositionist and leader of the protesting movement Alexei Navalny. The experts do not predict a major success to any of these projects.

The Russian Republican Party was formed back in 1990 and was elected several times to the parliament in blocs and coalitions, but was ousted from a smaller party field and joined the off-system opposition in 2007. Meanwhile, leader of the party and former State Duma Vice-Speaker Vladimir Ryzhkov united with former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov (the Russian People’s Democratic Union) and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov (Solidarity) in a common liberal union – PARNAS. But the party failed to pass the registration. When under the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights the legal status was brought back to RPR, the decision, how the union should avoid bureaucratic barriers to be registered, turned out to be obvious: PARNAS merged with RPR.

RPR-PARNAS hopes to become a centre for uniting all liberal forces. However, the experts doubt that this project will be successful, taking into account a high anti-rating of the leaders of the party, including their low popularity among the participants in the street protesting movement.

The party demanded at its founding congress last June to fulfill the resolutions adopted at the rallies in the Bolotnaya Square and the Sakharov Avenue in December 2011, particularly the release of prisoners of conscience, “a real political reform” and “early parliamentary and presidential elections on the basis of this reform not later than in 2013.”

In the near future RPR-PARNAS is planning to run in regional and municipal elections. The party does not intend to refuse from protest actions either. “We will be participating actively in the protest movement. This is a top priority for the party,” Boris Nemtsov dwelt on the plans of the party.

“They can hope for a maximum of 3-5% of votes at local elections. But this is the top level. Almost all PARNAS leaders have a higher anti-rating than their positive rating in addition to a very high competition between ambitious rightwing leaders, but it is hard to hope for some high percentage,” the Moskovskiye Novosti newspaper quoted Director General of the International Institute of Political Expertise Yevgeny Minchenko as saying.

On Tuesday, the Justice Ministry received the documents for registration from another opposition party – People’s Alliance. Alexei Navalny’s associates, namely head of the foundation for the struggle against corruption Vladimir Ashurkov, coordinator of the Russian Election project Georgy Alburov and independent deputy of the Yekaterinburg city legislature Leonid Volkov headed the party. Navalny does not intend to join either People’s Alliance or any other party, but hails the initiative of his supporters.

Both parties were immediately labelled as “rivalling” parties on the Internet and the blogs. But Boris Nemtsov rejected the way these parties were described. “I know many fellows from People’s Alliance and think that we can cooperate with them calmly, particularly forming a coalition at the elections, making up common lists of candidates and participating in joint protest actions,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the first disagreements have already aroused in RPR-PARNAS over further cooperation with the organizing committee of protest actions.

The party bureau, including Vladimir Ryzhkov and Mikhail Kasyanov, opposed direct elections in the coordinating council of the opposition, warning that “the internal competition between the leaders of the opposition leads to a split.”

On the contrary, Boris Nemtsov supported the initiative. He believes that the election of “the Bolotnaya representatives” will help “to legalize the protest.” He finds the decision of the party bureau wrong. “It is detrimental to the party. If you do not want to participate in the election procedure, you can do so. I do not understand why to restrict your party partisans in this issue,” Nemtsov told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily.

The debates over the system to form the organizing committee raised an Internet discussion on a possible soon split in the opposition.

“Both projects exist in the trial mode now and show that the longer the structuring continues in the opposition, the more the contradictions are becoming obvious that had always existed, but are not noticeable against the background of the common movement,” the RBC daily quoted President of the St. Petersburg Politics Foundation Mikhail Vinogradov as saying. The structuring process leads to division, but there is no clear answer to the question, how this structuring is needed inside the opposition.

“I am afraid that our liberals will engage in fighting with each other as always,” political expert Boris Makarenko said. No created opposition party taken separately has a clear-cut prospect, but there is also no opportunity for their merger today, he said.

Meanwhile, a vigorous construction of different parties, including on the right wing, continues. On Thursday, the Justice Ministry stated about the registration of the 37th party named “Honestly – Man/Justice/Responsibility”. The number of the organizing committees of the parties pending registration is 196.

“The right-wing forces should unite by next elections to the State Duma, otherwise, these elections will be catastrophic for them. However, the democrats will hardly find a common language soon,” the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily quoted Deputy Director General of the Centre of Political Technologies Alexei Makarkin as saying. The expert noted that the unification in Russian reality is possible only around a charismatic leader. “A person, whose rating will reach at least 15-20% is needed, but the rightists have no such politician yet,” he underlined.

MOSCOW, August 3