Lugovoy says he can boost LDPR party s in Duma poll

The campaign for December's Duma elections has come to life with confirmation that Moscow businessman Andrey Lugovoy is to stand for the Liberal Democrats. The former Security Officer, wanted in the UK over the death of Aleksandr Litvinenko, says his popu

LDPR media briefing

Lib Dems’ ‘big gamble’

Libel lawsuit

The election is set for December 2, and a number of changes have taken place, one of the most important being that voters will choose candidates solely from party lists. Starting from this year independent deputies can no longer run on their own. 

The reaction to the change has been rather mixed. Supporters say that it will strengthen the party system, while critics say that it discriminates against those who do not want to join or vote for any political party. 

In addition, the threshold each party needs to cross in order to qualify for parliamentary representation has been raised to 7% of the vote. Previously the threshold was 5%. 

Meanwhile, the major political parties are holding congresses to draw up candidate lists and Andrey Lugovoy has been confirmed as running for the Liberal Democrat Party.

Mr Lugovoy, who receives lots of media attention both in Russia and worldwide, says he originally had no political ambitions, but changed his mind after becoming the centre of a diplomatic row between London and Moscow.

“Firstly, I would like to confirm the words of the Liberal Democrat Party leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who said I will take part in the election campaign as number two,” Andrey Lugovoy stated before going on to say: “I have been involved in politics over the past three months against my wishes. I was a businessman, but no longer, thanks to the disgusting policy of British prosecutors which led to this political hysteria. With the situation being highly politicised by British opponents, I find myself in the midst of a political wave of interest in me.”

“He wanted to join the party and we're happy for him to join us,” commented Vladimir Zhirinovsky, on his part.

If Mr Lugovoy is elected to Parliament, he would automatically become immune to prosecution.

Lib Dems’ ‘big gamble’

Russia's Liberal Democrats leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky had earlier said that Andrey Lugovoy is to be the party’s number two during December's parliamentary elections: “I head the party election list. Andrey Lugovoy will be number two. He is a victim. He came under attack from British intelligence,” Mr Zhirinovsky announced.

The Liberal Democratic Party is in third place for the elections according to a recent poll. Yet it still doesn’t have enough support to pass the new 7% barrier set to enter the State Duma.

Posing as a pro-reform centrist force, the Liberal Democrats are known for making controversial statements to draw public attention. They are also taking an anti-Western stance on various domestic and international issues, including the Litvinenko murder case.

RT’s political commentator Peter Lavelle believes such a move by the Liberal Democrats could have been expected: “The party is taking a big gamble. Historically it’s a party of personalities. Mr Zhirinovsky is very popular here and entertaining. I think the same thing will happen to Mr Lugovoy – he’ll become some kind of magnet.”

LDPR media briefing

To watch the media briefing with Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Andrey Lugovoy please follow the link

Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Andrey Lugovoy were asked numerous questions at the news briefing, about both the party’s policy and its chances of passing the 7% threshold, and about Andrey Lugovoy’s personality and his appearance on the LDPR list and the Litvinenko case.
 
Mr Zhirinovsky was asked about the percentage of votes he thinks his party will gain at the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

“We hope to have 23%, though it might be 20% approximately and I hope that every candidate will contribute to that. Andrey Lugovoy is a famous man at the moment, and being famous is always useful. I speak about fame, not notoriety. I think this fame will contribute to increasing the number of those who will vote for us,” he commented.
 
When asked if it was true that he had discussed Andrey Lugovoy’s candidature with President Putin, LDPR leader insisted,
 
“No, it's the first time that I've heard about that. We don't put forward the Kremlin’s projects. No one from the Kremlin called me to intercede on behalf of Andrey Lugovoy. This question has never been raised at meetings with President Putin.”

On his part, commenting why he chose the Liberal Democratic Party as a platform to seek election to the Duma, Mr Lugovoy said:
 
“This was a conscious decision that my family fully supported. The party is one of the oldest in the country. Of course, there is the Communist Party but their ideology is in steep decline. As for the other parties, some of them remind me of red-tape bureaucracy, oligarchy and political retirees, where it is almost impossible to express yourself. Besides, the Lib Dems have supported me regarding the problems I've had recently, which I very much appreciate.”

Mr Lugovoy also emphasised that he is capable of gaining some extra 2-3% of votes for the Liberal Democratic Party.  
 
Speaking about the UK’s reaction to his decision to stand for election, Andrey Lugovoy stressed that he is not interested in it.
 
“Consciously, I don’t take care what the British newspapers write on the issue. The majority of British journalists behave indelicately. They never change their mind. They write what they want to write, although sometimes it is wrong. Many times I tried to make my position clear but it didn’t help,” Mr Lugovoy explained.
 
Libel lawsuit

Meanwhile, Mr Lugovoy has started legal proceedings against Russian newspaper Kommersant over an article linking him with the murder of Aleksandr Litvinenko. In an article entitled “Boris Berezovsky enrolled as a spy”, the paper described Mr Litvinenko as Mr Lugovoy's victim.

Mr Lugovoy says this is libellous and is seeking 20 million roubles (more than $US 700,000) in compensation and for the statement to be retracted. A court will consider the allegations next week.

The editor-in-chief of Kommersant admits that the newspaper used incorrect wording in referring to the Russian businessman Andrey Lugovoy in the article.