Fair Russia leader tells members to quit street protest

Sergei Mironov  (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Klimentyev)
The head of the leftist opposition party Fair Russia says those who support the ‘sectarian’ street protest are no longer welcomed in the party.

We cannot allow our party’s reputation and brand to be used to conduct questionable political experiments,” Sergey Mironov told the Fair Russia conference. “Every party member must make a simple decision right now – whether he is with the social democratic party or with those who dream of the liberal return and simply seek troubles for the nation,” he added.

After starting sharply the Fair Russia chief went on with threats, saying that “if someone finds it difficult to make the choice, the party will definitely decide who to take along” and stressed that the majority of party members must support the initiative.

The statement was clearly aimed at Fair Russia members who took part in the protests that took part after the latest parliamentary and presidential elections. Several Fair Russia MPs organized and led the rallies against the alleged poll violations, while Mironov and other party leaders restricted themselves to critical statements in the media. As a result opinion polls showed that the recognition, if not popularity, of protest leaders have surged – more Russians are aware of the existence of politicians such as Ilya Ponomaryov, and father and son Gudkov.

Mironov, however, was far from praising colleagues for getting popularity points as opposition leaders, instead blaming them for the party’s defeat at the regional elections on the first national elections day.

He also blamed the protest leaders for the split inside Fair Russia, saying that the street opposition had created a ‘sect’ inside the party. The authorities do not distinguish between the ordinary Fair Russia members and the populists who venture into street protests and the whole party is suffering from repression, Mironov added. However, he promised that when the authorities deliver the ‘main blow’ at Fair Russia, the party will endure and will continue to win.The Fair Russia leader also told members that though the party supports the people’s right for assembly and shares the indignation over alleged poll violations, the situation in the country was too unstable to demand the dismantling of the existing state machine.

MP Ilya Ponomaryov – one of the Fair Russia members who support the street opposition – told reporters that he agreed with Mironov’s arguments but disagreed with his conclusions. Ponomaryov said that though the participation in street protests could lead to a loss in popularity, the party should still work in this direction shifting the stress from the capital into the regions.

Another protest leader who is a member of Fair Russia – former MP Gennadiy Gudkov – said he completely disagreed with Mironov. Fair Russia should be proud that four of its members are in the Coordination Council of the informal opposition movement, Gudkov noted, saying that a more radical course will attract more active people to the party.

Fair Russia got over 13 percent of the seats in the State Duma in the December poll for the first time surpassing the populist Liberal Democratic Party, and received approximately the same result in the latest municipal elections. The Pro-Putin United Russia Party firmly dominates, followed by the openly socialist Communist Party of the Russian Federation.