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Russian “Greens” register parties, preparing for elections

August 13, 2012, 16:30 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

The Russian Greens are registering parties, preparing for elections of all levels, after Russian legislation on political parties has been liberalized. Nevertheless, it’s still too early to say that they can be serious rivals to major political parties. Unlike in the West, Russian environmentalists haven’t turned into a serious political force so far. However, the Greens hope to enlist more public support as the civil society develops and people’s environmental consciousness grows.

A congress of the Russian Ecological Party or “The Greens”, held in Moscow last Sunday, nominated a list of candidates to regional elections. The party is planning to occupy its own niche in the country’s political system. Its aim in a perspective is to gain seats in the Russian State Duma and create moderate and constructive opposition to the United Russian Party.

Each of the sixty branches which “The Greens” have in Russian regions has its concrete objectives. Anton Panfilov, the chairman of the Russian Ecological Party, said that the party’s branch in Penza was focused on youth affairs; the party admits more women members in Saratov while the Cossacks are in the center of the party’s activities in the Udmurt Republic. Elections to local parliaments will take place in these regions on October 14 this year.

“The Greens” have nominated lists of candidates in the Penza region, North Ossetia and the Udmurt Republic. The lists of candidates have been approved in the Sakhalin Island. The party will nominate candidates in Krasnodar and Saratov next week. The Russian Ecological Party plans to surpass a 5% vote threshold in the aforesaid regions.

The party has set up a political council that will separate the party’s environmental and political activities. The Greenpeace movement and the WWF have recently been switching to politics and we disagree with them in this respect, Anatoly Panfilov said.

“The Political Council will more likely perform ideological functions. We will invite members of other parties and people who don’t belong to any political party to participate in its work,” Panfilov explained.

He said that the party’s key projects included cooperation with the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources (Rosprirodnadzor) in establishing a public environmental inspectorate.

“Unlike in the past, public inspectors will not be members of voluntary public order squads. They will report directly to the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources and will have the right to make their suggestions. Each Russian region will have about ten public environmental inspectors who will supervise the use of natural resources after a week-long training course.

Panfilov noted that the Russian Ecological Party was not planning to participate in mass opposition actions so far.

“Of course, we are not ready to go to Bolotnaya Square. We need to preserve and expand the party. We don’t want to act with sticks and stones. Our aim is to create constructive opposition and establish proper interaction. This is our stance,” “The Greens” leader said.

Panfilov believes that finances are the party’s main problem.

“We’ve suggested creating environmental funds but this initiative is still on paper. We are going to use leaflets and free air time on regional television channels when we go to elections. We don’t have the same opportunities as the leading parties so far,” Panfilov went on to say.

The Russian Justice Ministry registered the Russian Ecological Party that had emerged from a movement of the same name on June 6 this year. The party has two autonomous organizations: “The Green Patrol” and the Kedr (cedar) environmental movement.

Another Russian environmental party was registered on May 29 this year. The Green Alliance-Popular Party is also planning to run in elections of all levels.

The idea to set up the Green Alliance-Popular Party on the basis of the Green Alternative movement belongs to Oleg Mitvol, the former head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources and the ex-prefect of Moscow’s north administrative district. Mitvol is the chairman of the Central Council of the Green Alliance-Popular Party whose task is to create a European-like Green party which will play a significant role in making political decisions at all levels.

The Green Alliance-Popular Party also plans to participate in regional elections in October.

Unlike in Western countries, the “Green” movement in Russia hasn’t turned into a serious political force yet. The country doesn’t have a truly influential party of nature protectionists. The Greens are not represented in the Russian State Duma. Environmental non-governmental organizations in Russian regions come under harsh economic and administrative pressure on the part of the authorities.

However, despite these rather unfavorable conditions, the “Green” force is developing alongside with the formation of civil society in Russia. It unites independent public environmental organizations, political parties, movements for the protection of environment, societies for the protection of animals’ rights, etc.

There are three directions in the modern Russian “Green” movement. The first unites organizations, clubs and associations who intentionally distance themselves from politics and deal only with their concrete ecological concerns.

The second direction unites parties and organizations (including the Russian Ecological Party) which hope to establish constructive cooperation with the authorities. They fight against concrete manifestations of arbitrary rule on the part of local bureaucrats and participate in election campaigns under environmental mottos.

The third direction tries to position itself as environmental opposition to the authorities. They include both the liberal-minded “Greens” who have set up the Green Russia movement and have affiliated with the Yabloko party and left radicals who have environmental concerns.

Moscow, August 13