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Lawmakers from ruling party giving up their mandates

February 21, 2013, 12:18 UTC+3

Experts do not rule out more resignations in the near future

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Head of the commission for ethics under the State Duma lower house of the Russian parliament Vladimir Pekhtin, suspected of having undeclared property in the United States has given up his mandate for "ethical reasons." Another two United Russia members - Anatoly Lomakin and Vasily Tolstopyatov - stepped down as well. Experts do not rule out more resignations in the near future.

"Three United Russia members have given up their mandates," the Kommersant notes. Head of the State Duma commission for ethics Vladimir Pekhtin who bloggers said has undeclared property in the United States "does not want his name to be used in discrediting the government."

Lawmaker Anatoly Lomakin, who was in the 79th place in Forbes' Russian rating with a capital of 1.2 billion dollars in 2012, could not devote all his time to legislative activities, while Vasily Tolstopyatov is landing a job at Gazprom, according to United Russia insiders.

Party leaders and Kremlin officials predict more resignations, while some lawmakers do not rule out that the State Duma might be dissolved altogether.

The newspaper reminds that last week, reports on the Internet said Pekhtin and his son were co-owners of apartments and a land plot in Florida worth some one million dollars which he had not declared. Pekhtin claimed then that all the property belonged to his son.

Officials at the presidential administration called Vladimir Pekhtin's move "a signal to the elites." "You're either impeccable in government or you have property and bank accounts abroad - but then you're not with government," a source in the presidential administration noted.

The Kremlin believes that not only lawmakers, but also Cabinet and regional administrations officials should consider it. "If the society demands overhaul and unblemished reputation of the authorities, this demand should be met. So the time has come when each should make the decision," the source said.

United Russia members' quitting is "a good move to show that business persons have no business in the State Duma and that lawmakers should get rid of foreign property," political analyst Yevgeny Minchenko told the Kommersant.

"It is the game the Kremlin and Putin personally are playing. Each lawmaker has something that can be used against him, but that does not mean they will be given away in bulk," political scientist Gleb Pavlovsky said. He believes the president will decide for himself who is eligible for security guarantees and who is not, and these guarantees will be more expensive.

Deputy State Duma speaker, secretary of United Russia's General Council Sergei Neverov does not rule out that more lawmakers will step down of their own accord. "We're adopting the law banning bank account abroad. I don't rule out that a number of deputies might have accounts in foreign banks. Other restrictions will be introduced (declaring foreign property and mandatory designation of the source of income). Some people might not want to settle the issue for themselves," Neverov said.

The newspaper's source in United Russia noted the alarming mood in Party members: on the one hand,they wish to keep the Party, and on the other, they have to sacrifice everything for the sake of the rating of the first person. The anti-corruption campaign is the story which gives the largest boost to the rating."

So far, citizens have regarded the high-profile scandals in government not as its normalization, but complete decay of top leadership, Levada Center director Lev Gudkov said, "each campaign undermines confidence in Putin, because so far, cases against corrupted officials have not been soft-pedaled."

The Vedomosti called Vladimir Pekhtin's resignation "unbelievable." Pekhtin's unexpected move, after his statement on voluntary giving up his mandate in the wake of the publication about his undeclared property in Miami, was admired by some while others gloated," the newspaper writes.

Bloggers wonder if giving up the mandate by a United Russia lawmaker, the former head of the State Duma commission for ethics was his own decision or the result of pressing recommendations by his Part colleagues, and whether new resignations of the owners of undeclared property or fake college degree papers will follow. There will surely be new exposes; many people in the Internet community will join the campaign to investigate politicians' activities.

Their number is growing, because team investigations are so exciting! The victory over Pekhtin is probably the largest and exemplary victory of civil resistance over a politician; it will certainly bring more supporters to the movement.

Mostly likely it was not Pekhtin who made the decision but the presidential administration, political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky said, cited by the Novye Izvestia. "His political career has come to an end. They decided to sacrifice Pekhtin. It's rather curious against the background of cleansing in the State Duma. Every day a corrupted official is flung into the field of people's ire. I have a hypothesis that it is not only Navalny (the inventor of the "Party of Swindlers and Thieves" brand) who participates in the campaign to discredit the State Duma, but also the authorities themselves. It seems re-branding and re-formatting of top leadership are in the works; perhaps there will be early elections to the State Duma. And instead of the discredited Party of "Swindlers and Thieves," there will emerge an unblemished and radiant "People's Front."





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