Russian opposition unites with elections approaching

Opposition parties have created a coalition to take part in the 2011 parliamentary elections and to nominate their presidential candidate in 2012. No right-wing party managed to get into parliament in 2007.

An agreement to create an opposition coalition “For a Russia free of outrage and corruption” was signed in Moscow on Thursday. Later it is planned to found a political party on the base of the coalition in order to take part in the elections.

The unity was founded by the leaders of four democratic opposition political movements – Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov of Solidarity movement, former State Duma deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov, and Mikhail Kasyanov of the People’s Democratic Union and former prime minister (2000-2004), reports RIA Novosti.

The politicians are planning to register the coalition at the Ministry of Justice, Ryzhkov said, adding that all the documents meet the requirements of the law. If the unity is denied registration, he said, the democrats will organize protest rallies similar to those held in support of Article 31 of the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of assembly.


“Everyone knows by now about Article 31,”
he said, adding that they will make people learn Article 13 which guarantees people’s right for multi-party system and associations.

The new unity was to give a media conference on September 16 at RIA Novosti news agency headquarters. However, despite earlier announcements, the event was canceled “for technical reasons,” Gazeta.ru reports. Instead, Echo Moskvy radio station reports, the coalition gathered at the headquarters of the political movement Solidarity, which is led by Boris Nemtsov.

The Right Cause and Yabloko democratic parties wished the new coalition success, but questioned the idea.

It is worth recalling that modern Russia’s oldest right-wing parties – Yabloko and Union of the Right Forces (which later voluntary dissolved and merged with other parties to form the Right Cause party) – spent years trying to unite but in vain.

“Democratic parties already attempted to unite earlier,” political analyst Dmitry Badovsky told Ria Novosti. “As the elections approach, this decision was to be expected. The question is who will irrevocably join the coalition, who will be the organizers and who will be nominated as the sole [presidential] candidate. Previous experience shows that these are the points where coalitions often break up.”

In May 2008, after the opposition failed to nominate its candidate for the presidential election, GZT.ru reminds, the democratic forces made an attempt to unite and create a National Assembly, which did not really yield any meaningful results.

According to Director General of the Center of Political Technologies Igor Bunin, there were two main reasons behind the flop. First, there was “a war between leaders” as both Garry Kasparov and Mikhail Kasyanov pretended to head the coalition. Second – they simply did not have enough money. In addition, very few people actually believed in the unity. Apparently, now the differences have been ironed out.

Lyudmila Alekseeva, the head of Moscow Helsinki Group has welcomed the democrats’ decision, but expressed her doubts over the democratic forces’ presidential candidate chances to win in 2012.

“Up until now, our opposition has never managed to come to a compromise. But there is a first time for everything,” she told Interfax agency. However, reaching an agreement is one thing, while fulfilling it is a completely different story, she went on.

“There is a risk of discord within the opposition when it comes to making a decision on nominating a candidate,” Alekseeva said, adding that she hopes the politicians have learned to overcome their differences.

The human rights watchdog, however, does not have an idea of who a democratic nominee could be. “All of them are respectable people, I do not object to any of them. The question is what their chances are,” she noted.