Deputy Duma speaker from Fair Russia may join rival party’s primaries

Aleksandr Babakov (RIA Novosti / Natalia Seliverstova)
Aleksandr Babakov, still silent over a possible change of sides, will reportedly take part in the All-Russia Popular Front’s primaries in the Voronezh Region.

On Tuesday, the front’s official website reported that Babakov will take part in the primaries in the Voronezh Region as an independent candidate. However, the politician has not still confirmed the news of his possible change of sides. This makes it possible for Fair Russia’s leadership to say the rumors are only “a provocation" from their enemies.­

The primaries are being held by the ruling United Russia party and the Popular Front, organized on the initiative of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Politicians who take part in the primaries have to share United Russia’s program, though they are not obliged to be its members.  

Fair Russia considers the ruling party to be its main political rival. After reports surfaced last week that one of Fair Russia’s leaders, Aleksandr Babakov, may join the front, the news has become one of the main political intrigues of the summer.

Babakov, an incumbent State Duma deputy speaker, was one of the creators of Fair Russia, when his Motherland party combined with Sergey Mironov’s Party of Life and the Party of Pensioners in 2006.  

Last week, an open letter attributed to Babakov was published on the internet. It criticized Fair Russia’s leader Mironov and made it clear that Babakov was joining the ranks of United Russia. No subsequent comments were forthcoming from Babakov, and Fair Russia said the letter was a fake.

The party’s leadership wants Babakov to hold consultations on the matter, and has cited possible “psychological pressure” being exerted on the politician that could have forced him to join the front.

Babakov has not yet informed his party of any possible intentions of leaving.   Meanwhile, Andrey Vorobyev, head of United Russia’s central executive committee, said his party “has not forced anyone to join the Popular Front.” He has not confirmed the rumors about Babakov, but said that “if a man has right ideas, then the front’s doors are open to him.”

The lack of information is continuing to fuel the intrigue surrounding Babakov. Even the head of United Russia’s electoral headquarters in Voronezh was surprised that the politician had been registered as a candidate for the primaries. Roman Zhogov told Interfax on Tuesday that the list of candidates had been formed by July 25, and he did not understand how Babakov’s name appeared on the front’s website.

Meanwhile, the primaries are already underway in the Voronezh Region, with the governor, Aleksey Gordeev, currently in the lead.