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Opposition figurehead Navalny ready to lead party of his supporters

September 16, 2013, 17:49 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, September 16 (Itar-Tass) - Opposition figurehead Aleksey Navalny is prepared to lead the People’s Alliance party his supporters and their colleagues in the Fund for Struggle against Corruption have been trying to establish. Although last summer the Justice Ministry dismissed the application for registering that party, experts believe that this populist-minded politician will go ahead with attempts to assume the reigns of the oppositional movement without reliance on any specific ideology. In any case his political future will depend on the outcome of the criminal proceedings he is currently faced with. And some others, which may probably be in store for him.

“I shall join it, no doubt about that. If I am elected, I shall lead the People’s Alliance,” Navalny said on the Ekho Moskvy radio station last Sunday.

He explained that he had refrained from becoming a member of that party for so long, because he preferred not to create problems for it. “I believe that this party is the closest to me. Yet I stayed out of it for the simple reason I was certain that otherwise it would be denied registration for sure,” Navalny said.

The Justice Ministry made a decision to deny registration to the People’s Alliance on August 3. The officials in charge said the constituent documents contained inaccuracies and conflicting information.

Aleksey Navalny is the most well-known figure in the camp of the out-of-parliament opposition. In Moscow’s recent mayoral election Navalny, the candidate from the liberal party RPR-PARNAS, quite unexpectedly achieved impressive success to have collected 632,697 votes (27.24 percent of the turnout) to have placed second. Everybody is unanimous that this event has turned him into a political figure of federal importance, whereas until just recently he had been referred to as just the main oppositional blogger and enjoyed popularity mostly with the Internet community as a crusader against corruption and a firm critic of the ruling party.

In 2007 Navalny was expelled from the liberal party Yabloko for causing “political harm to the party, in particular, for his nationalist activities.”

Of late, Navalny’s political future was the talk of the town. A great deal will depend on the outcome of the criminal proceedings opened against him, experts say. While recognizing his successes as a politician, they peg his political future, including the intention to lead the Opposition in the Moscow Duma elections next year, to the outcome of the criminal cases.

Navalny participated in the recent election of Moscow’s mayor after being convicted for five years in jail for embezzlement. Besides, the Investigative Committee has resumed the investigation of two more criminal cases against him, so more trials are looming on the horizon.

The question about Navalny’s future may have an answer in the Kirov Regional Court in the near future, when it considers appeals against the sentences earlier passed on him and his business partner Pyotr Ofitserov.

A court in Kirov in July 2013 found Navalny guilty of defrauding the public company Kirovles of 16 million roubles worth of assets and sentenced him to five years in a medium security jail. He was remanded in custody in the courtroom. However, the next day the Kirov Region’s court changed the restrictive measure to a written promise not to leave town. Navalny was set free.

Navalny’s supporters and also the largest human rights organizations have criticized the sentence to have described it as politically motivated. According to a Levada-Center 46% of the polled Russians suspect that the investigations of Navalny’s suspected criminal offenses are in retaliation for his anti-corruption activities.

“A great deal in Navalny’s political future will depend on the results of the criminal cases against him,” the deputy director of the Centre for Political Technologies, Alexey Makarkin has told Itar-Tass. “If the sentence is upheld, then Navalny will not quit politics, but his participation will become indirect. His mission will be not so much as to lead a party, as to unite all oppositional forces.”

Support from just one party for Navalny will surely be too weak, Makarkin said. He will put the stake on creating an oppositional movement, to appeal to the coalition that took shape around him at the elections.

“The Opposition is divided over the issue whether to offer Navalny its backing or not. He is surely contesting the role of the Opposition’s leader. He will take part in the Moscow Duma elections. If he is convicted, he will be supporting some figures,” Makarkin speculates. “At the same time he is reluctant to be associated with some specific ideology. In that case he may lose some of his followers.”

Makarkin sees Navalny as “a populist politician, who wishes to blend ideas acceptable for the liberals and for the nationalists.”

Navalny has some other problems,” says political scientist Boris Makarenko, quoted by the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta. “He is contesting the position of a federal scale politician, who is successful in the eyes of the electorate, he sounds convincing to them (in that sense Navalny should be awarded triple A rating). But a politician must be no less convincing as he builds his relations in the political space, within the political community. Who else in Navalny’s inner circle is well-known to the general public? There are some bloggers, who proved valuable and effective for his company. In the meantime, for the political community they are nobody.”

The analyst is certain that Navalny will need either a party of his own, which would make it possible for him to run in elections on a party ticket, or a party in the figurative sense - a group of followers of some importance in politics: “He was all alone when he launched this campaign, and he has ended it all alone.” Another problem is related with the just-mentioned one, Makarenko says. “Navalny is of great interest to the Internet audience, to a large segment of the Muscovites. But this is about all. He lacks the experience of building relations with anyone of the current politicians, figures of importance in the federal or regional bodies of power. He has attracted the IT business, managers and business people in general. This is it. In resolving this task Navalny is still where he was at the beginning. If he manages to get things going is anyone’s guess at this point.”