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Experts sceptical opposition coalition may take shape

November 17, 2014, 16:48 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
©  ITAR-TASS / Ilya Pitalev

MOSCOW, November 15. /TASS/. Most Russian experts are sceptical about the chances the latest initiative for uniting the liberal opposition may have a success, as all of the previous attempts invariably failed. This time the idea of a wide coalition of oppositional forces For European Choice that would present a common front and participate in parliamentary and presidential elections has been put forward by the Republican Party of Russia — People’s Freedom (more widely known under its Russian acronym RPR-PARNAS) under Boris Nemtsov and Mikhail Kasyanov.

“The call for the consolidation of Russia’s pro-European forces was issued at the party’s conference last Saturday. As its likely allies the RPR-PARNAS mentioned Yabloko, the December 5 Party, the Democratic Choice and the Solidarity movement, as well as the leader of the Open Russia organization, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, head of the unregistered Party of Progress Alexey Navalny and State Duma member Dmitry Gudkov.

According to the initiative’s authors, Khodorkovsky has already declared his support for the idea of a coalition, while coming to terms with Yabloko will be the most daunting task.

A former RPR-PARRNAS co-leader, Vladimir Ryzhkov, who quit the party over rifts with Nemtsov and Kasyanov, has declined to comment on the initiative. “It isn’t worth it,” he told TASS.

One of the former leaders of the Right Forces’ Union, liberal politician Boris Nadezhdin, is sceptical over the coalition plans. “Regrettably, the level of support for the initiative’s authors is very low. It is even lower than support for the European choice in Russia on the average,” he told TASS.

Liberal parties were widely represented in the Russian parliament in the early 1990s, but in the second and third Dumas they took a tiny 10% of seats. Since 2004, none of them has managed to get into the federal parliament. Fragmentation is one of the key features of Russia’s liberal movement. The liberals have tried to unite more than once, but to little avail. The liberal wing saw a sort of renaissance against the backdrop of 2011-2012 protests, but that movement has now dwindled, in particular, after Crimea’s re-unification with Russia, which drew their strong criticism.

“These organizations have low ratings and are going against the mainstream,” says political scientist Alexey Makarkin. Some pragmatic tasks might serve as a real incentive to unification, but there are none. “Coalitions are good when there are clear aims achievable in the near future. All divergence of opinion then may be brushed aside for the time being,” he told the daily Novyie Izvestia.

“Our opposition has so far existed separately from the mass voter,” the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta quotes political scientist Konstantin Kalachyov as saying. “We’ve got to master a language the people understand and to use it to talk to people about the problems that concern them.”

Such a coalition will not be stable, political scientist Dmitry Orlov told the daily Vedomosti. “We have repeatedly seen such short-lived associations come and go. They have never achieved the declared goals.”

Political scientist Boris Makarenko disagrees the failure of this initiative is predetermined only because all of the previous attempts by the liberals to unite failed. Whether they will succeed to create an effective coalition will depend not only on them, but also on the situation in the country,” he told TASS.

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