Opposition party fails to secure Moscow foothold

Leaders of the Right Cause party submitted applications with the Ministry of Justice on Wednesday that should lead to their acquiring legal status. The party, however, has not yet managed to set up a branch in Moscow.

The three founding parties – Union of Right Forces, Civil force and Democratic Party of Russia – have divided the regions between them – each getting one third. The Pro-presidential Democratic Party is responsible for creating the Moscow branch.

Officials from Right Cause blame businessman Evgeny Chichvarkin, the founder and former co-owner of the largest Russian cell phone company Euroset, who was appointed the head of the Moscow branch for the fiasco.

Chichvarkin has so far failed to comment on the matter. This has provoked comment in the Russian media suggesting Chichvarkin might have fled the country because of the criminal case against Euroset and his former business colleagues.

Euroset was accused in connection with illegally importing cell phones and a criminal case against the company’s management was launched in 2005. In the beginning of September 2008, the firm’s security service vice-president Boris Levin and his deputy Andrey Yermilov were arrested. They were charged with extortion and the abduction of Andrey Vlaskin – a former shipping agent of the company.

Chichvarkin’s lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov insists his client is only a witness in the case.

However the co-chairman of Right Cause, Leonid Gozman, says the party hadn’t changed its mind on the nomination of Chichvarkin for the post of the head of the Moscow’s branch.

The ex-leader of the Democratic Party of Russia, Andrey Bogdanov, says there’s no reason to rush. If the party wants to be elected to the Moscow City Council in 2009, he said, the formation of the Moscow political council must be taken very seriously.

Anyway, the documents to register the new party were submitted to the Ministry of Justice without including paperwork for a Moscow branch. The party is still facing problems setting up branches in the regions.

The new party's background 

The decision to create a new party was taken by former members of the Union of Right Forces, the Democratic Party of Russia and Civil Force in the wake of the collapse of the liberal political movement in Russia in recent years. Right Cause was formed in November last year.

The chairman of the executive committee of the party, Andrey Dunaev, said the “consolidation of three political structures was a difficult process” that was almost complete.

“I hope within a month we will be registered as a political party”, he said.

Right Cause has about 56,000 members with branches in 73 Russian regions. In 46 of them membership exceeds 500 people. Existing legislation decrees that is enough support for the party to exist.

Right Cause is led by three stalwarts of the political scene: Leonid Gozman, the former chairman of Union of Right Forces; Boris Titov, the leader of the social movement Business Russia; and journalist Georgy Bovt.

The creation of a party with a liberal agenda is seen as a must by political analysts who say the new entity will give balance to Russia’s body politic.

The party’s main objectives are the building of a civil society based on democracy and the rule of law. It wants more Russian citizens to participate in political life. It calls for political and public freedom as well and free and fair elections. It wants democratic and liberal reforms and the promotion of the party’s candidates during election campaigns.