New liberal party: To be or not to be?

Co-chairman of the Yabloko party Sergei Mitrokhin recording an interview among participants in the rally "For Fair Elections" on Bolotnaya Square (RIA Novosti / Artyom Zhitenev)
Calls by Russia’s former finance minister, Aleksey Kudrin, for the creation of a new right-of-center political force has caused a mixed reaction among politicians.

Kudrin, whose dismissal from his ministerial post made headlines in September, said in an interview with Vedomosti business daily that Russia currently lacks any viable liberal parties. However, he said he thought the situation would soon change, and expressed his readiness to contribute to the process.

Russia’s United Democratic Party, Yabloko – the leading liberal movement and one of the oldest political parties in modern Russia – said that Kudrin’s assertion that a new liberal force is needed are unwarranted.

“I don’t think that we need any other right-of-center party as Yabloko fully covers this segment. Formally, we also have the Right Cause,” the Yabloko co-chairman, Sergey Mitrokhin, told Interfax agency. He believes that the emergence of a new but similar party would only split the political spectrum.

Mitrokhin also noted that he does not consider Kudrin “a powerful political figure who is capable of accumulating serious public and political forces around him.” Therefore, he went on, it is hard to take Kudrin’s political statements seriously.

“If this is yet another Kremlin game, its essence is not clear either. They have already created Right Cause, which got less than 1 per cent at the elections,” Mitrokhin said.

Boris Nemtsov – a prominent opposition leader and co-chairman of the unregistered People’s Freedom Party, also known as Parnas – also pointed out that the very political movement the former minister mentioned already exists. Its name is Parnas. The politician believes that a new Kremlin-sponsored project would fail, in a repeat of the Right Cause fiasco.

Meanwhile, the former leader of Right Cause, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, told the media on Monday that he shares similar views to Kudrin on a range of economic and political issues. However, there are no precise plans considering a new liberal project.

“We will be meeting to discuss this issue,” Prokhorov said.

The leader of the Fair Russia party, Sergey Mironov, is skeptical over prospects for a new movement. The result polled by Right Cause at the December 4 parliamentary elections indicated that the party enjoys little support among the population.

However, the majority United Russia party does not agree with critics, saying that Aleksey Kudrin could consolidate different democratic forces in Russia.

The Deputy Secretary of the presidium of the United Russia party, Yuri Shuvalov, told Itar-Tass on Monday that he has respect for the ex finance chief and “his point of view has a right to exist.” The creation of a right-wing liberal political force in modern Russia is one of the most important tasks facing the country, Shuvalov said.

“I think, as an experienced politician, Kudrin could unite not only the right wing of the Russian electorate, but also unite the active minority which has no one to represent it now,” he observed.

The leader of the Union of Right Forces, Leonid Gozman, also supported Kudrin’s intention.

"I and my comrades in the Union of Right Forces will be glad to assist Aleksey [Kudrin] in his political projects," he told Interfax.