ROAR: “Pamfilova was tired of fighting bureaucracy”

Analysts and politicians have been actively speculating these days on why the former head of the presidential Council for Human Rights and Civil Societies resigned, and who is likely to take the now vacant position.

The former head, Ella Pamfilova, announced her decision on July 30, and the president has accepted her resignation. She was appointed the head of the presidential human rights commission, later transformed into the council, eight years ago.

Pamfilova stressed it was her “personal decision” and said that she wanted to cardinally change the sphere of activity, leaving politics and civil service. The former chairperson also noted she was grateful to the president “for his permanent attention to and care about the activity of the council in general and its concrete proposals.”

However, this decision has provoked speculation among politicians and observers. Secretary of the Union of Journalists Mikhail Fedotov believes there was no pressure regarding Pamfilova’s decision.

“This has been ruled out,” Fedotov told New Izvestia daily. “For those who know Pamfilova, it should be evident that her resignation is her independent decision,” he said, adding that she “will not let anybody knock her down, buy or order her something.” She stepped down because “her good reputation is the most important thing,” he noted.

Pamfilova has proposed economist Aleksandr Auzan as her successor, saying he is a “worthy candidate.” Auzan, the head of the Applied Institutional Economics Department at the Faculty of Economics at Moscow State University, told RIA Novosti he had had “different plans,” but that he was still considering the issue.

Meanwhile, the members of the Liberal Democratic Party have proposed the appointment of their leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the head of the presidential council.

The party leader and State Duma Deputy Speaker Zhirinovsky, commenting on Pamfilova’s resignation, said she had stepped down because of “the pointlessness” of her work in the council and the lack of particular results. “Probably, she simply got tired of working in vain, seeing that her assessments of what is going on do not coincide with those of the other council members and are not backed by them,” he told Interfax. Pamfilova’s position on a number of recent events “found no support,” he added.

"If she is replaced by someone like a well-known human rights activist Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, this will mean that Pamfilova’s human rights efforts fell short of the requirement,” Zhirinovsky said. “If it is someone who is much more malleable and softer, then it means she was pursuing her position too coherently.”

The media speculates that one of the reasons behind the Pamfilova’s resignation could have been her conflict with the pro-Kremlin Nashi (Ours) youth movement. Pamfilova strongly criticized the installation at the Seliger youth camp in which a number of politicians and human rights activists were portrayed wearing Nazi caps. Last week, the members of the movement threatened to file a lawsuit against Pamfilova because of her allegations that they had burned books.

Vedomosti daily assumed the reason behind her resignation was the alleged conflict with the first deputy head of the presidential administration, Vladislav Surkov. Pamfilova’s decision could also have been caused by recent amendments in the legislation regarding the work of security services and anti-terrorism activity, said another daily, Kommersant.

But a member of the presidential council for human rights and the head of the private National Anti-corruption Committee, Kirill Kabanov, believes that Pamfilova was “tired of the struggle with bureaucracy at the state level.”

“The situation had emerged when the president gave orders and demanded their quick execution, but bureaucracy sabotaged them,” Kabanov told Rosbalt news agency. “As [Pamfilova] is a woman of principle, she raises issues rather toughly, and thus conflicts emerged at the bureaucratic level,” he said.

As media are also speculating on possible disagreements between Pamfilova and representatives of the ruling United Russia party, Kabanov does not consider it the reason for her resignation. “We did not discuss the issue of disagreements with United Russia, we rather discussed the issue of recent violations of human rights, including those regarding amending legislation,” he said.

Predicting the possible scenarios, Mikhail Fedotov noted that one of the members of the presidential council could be chosen as its new head. “This could be Auzan,” he told Novye Izvestia.

However, someone else could be appointed, Fedotov said, saying that it is the most likely outcome. “But then, it is absolutely clear that the council’s members should be replaced too,” he added. At the same time, there is a third scenario, the simplest one, he noted. “The council should formally exist even without the chairman, without doing anything.”

The main question now is whether the next chair of the presidential commission will represent “liberals” or the “supporters of stability,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily said. In any case, the position of the council “will be more balanced now,” a source in the State Duma told the paper. This circumstance may become a bad surprise for some radical liberal forces, including those organizing rallies on the 31st day of every 31-day month, the source said.

On July 31, Russian opposition staged several minor rallies across Russia for the tenth time in support of the Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly. None of the events have been permitted by city authorities and participants are routinely dispersed by police.

The rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg on July 31 were not authorized either, and police detained 95 people. In the Russian capital, the rally on Triumfalnaya Square brought together around 200 people, according to estimates by the police. Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and head of the “Left Front” movement Sergey Udaltsov were among those detained. Together with other participants, they were freed the same day.

Opposition activists complained of police’s brutal activities during the dispersal of the rally, and police said an Interior Forces soldier had been injured.

The rally in Moscow was also attended by opposition leader and writer Eduard Limonov and the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alekseyeva.

In Russian cities, 13 rallies were held on July 31, although most of them attracted very few supporters. According to police, the actions were held without breaches of public order.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT