Opposition gears up for Duma election

The new Russian opposition People’s Freedom Party (PNS) has held the founding congress of its first regional branch in Moscow. To take part in the parliamentary election in autumn 2011, the party has yet to be registered by the Ministry of Justice.

On Saturday, the leaders of the party, Mikhail Kasyanov, Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Ryzhkov, and Vladimir Milov, along with about 300 supporters gathered in the capital to file membership applications and elect co-chairs of the Moscow branch of the PNS, or “Parnas” as it is also called by the founders.

According to the party leaders, the new political movement can become a true alternative to current power. The People’s Freedom Party is “the only political force that could counter the corrupt leadership” stated Milov, as cited by Kommersant daily.

During the Moscow conference, the new party’s leadership presented 12 legislative initiatives that they would submit first to the lower house, the State Duma, if they get elected.

According to the “Parnas” website, those include a return to four-year terms for president and deputies, which have been extended to six years for the head of state and to five years for legislators. Also, the opposition believes that direct elections of heads of Russian regions and municipal entities should be restored and pass-barriers for political parties and individual candidates taking part in elections should be reduced.

The party also proposes announcing an amnesty for people convicted of political and economic crimes. In addition, the opposition intends to come up with a legislation that would guarantee the implementation of Article 29 of the Russian Constitution, which prohibits censorship in the mass media. Other changes would include liquidation of state corporations and handing over their property to the state. The politicians promise they would also insist on cutting budget spending on maintaining the state apparatus and spend more money on education, health care and science.

Under the law, to get registered a party must have regional branches in more than a half of the country’s 83 constituent units and at least 45,000 members. The plan is to fulfill the requirements by April and then submit the documents for registration to the Ministry of Justice.

The party leaders are quite optimistic and believe that getting a required number of members will not be a problem. One of the “Parnas” co-chairs, former PM Mikhail Kasyanov, told Kommersant daily that there are at least 200 party members in each region. He noted that by the end of March, founding congresses will take part in 57 regions.

In case the new party is denied registration, its leaders are planning to take up to 50,000 supporters out onto the streets on April 16.

In the 2007 parliamentary election, no right-wing party managed to make it to the State Duma. Now the opposition leaders have decided to change their strategy and try to increase their chances by creating a coalition.In September 2010 they signed an agreement to found their new “Parnas” coalition. Its full name is People’s Freedom Party “For a Russia free of outrage and corruption”.Each of its four co-chairs also heads his own political movement:Nemtsov – the Solidarity movement, Milov -“Democratic Choice”, Kasyanov – the People’s Democratic Union. Former State Duma deputy Ryzhkov is the leader of the Republican Party, which was denied registration in 2007.