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Ex-speaker of upper house heads Fair Russia’s faction in State Duma

Ex-speaker of upper house heads Fair Russia’s faction in State Duma
The former chairman of the Federation Council Sergey Mironov has started his work in the lower house and prepared “sharp questions” for the ruling United Russia party.

­Fair Russia deputies on Tuesday unanimously elected Mironov the head of their faction in the parliament. He has replaced Nikolay Levichev, the party’s chairman, who will now concentrate on the preparation for the parliamentary elections.

Mironov recently stepped down as the party’s chairman, but remains Fair Russia’s informal leader. He was recalled from the upper house by deputies of the Legislative Assembly in St. Petersburg in May. But after Deputy Elena Vtorygina abandoned her seat, Mironov was allowed to work in the lower house, thus marking the first case of such transfer in Russia’s political history.

Mironov said he needed the rostrum of the State Duma to criticize policies of the ruling United Party, headed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The former speaker will also work in the Duma’s Committee on Science and Science Technology.  

The ex-speaker is intended to head the list of the party’s candidates during the forthcoming elections to the parliament in December. During his recent meeting with the president, Mironov proposed that the “against all the candidates” option be returned to election ballots. He also said the party has prepared other proposals regarding Russia’s electoral legislation.  

Mironov already led the party list during 2007 elections, but chose to work in the upper house after Fair Russia entered the parliament. Now he says he is fulfilling his duty before the voters. Mironov is certain that until December he will have enough time “to put relevant questions to United Russia.” The deputies of the ruling party “do not like when someone asks sharp questions,” the politician wrote in his blog on Tuesday. “I promise I will not withhold such questions even if my opponents will leave the hall during my speeches.”         

Fair Russia positions itself as a socially-oriented party. Mironov believes that after elections in December the situation in the parliament will change. However, Boris Gryzlov, the Duma speaker and chairman of United Russia’s supreme council, has said that the main task during the elections for the ruling party is to retain majority in the lower house.

United Russia is ready for polemics with Mironov, first deputy speaker of the State Duma Oleg Morozov said on Tuesday. He described the appointment of the formed upper house speaker as the head of a faction as the right belonging to Fair Russia and as expected decision. “Mironov knew that this position in the State Duma would be central for him,” Morozov said. “We welcome the presence of our political opponents in the Duma and will be glad to discuss issues with the head of Fair Russia personally.”

Mironov has repeatedly accused the ruling party of strangling free discussion and attempts to establish a political monopoly. United Russia’s leadership considered his criticism as breaching accords between the two parties.

The new Fair Russia faction’s head will also hardly find allies in two other opposition parties, represented in the parliament – the Communists and the Liberal Democratic Party. Their representatives supported United Russia’s initiative in St. Petersburg to oust Mironov from the upper house. Moreover, the leadership of both parties earlier branded Fair Russia as “an artificial project created to take voters from “real opposition.”

However, Mironov himself insists that now that he has lost the status of the third most important official in the state hierarchy, he will be free to criticize the current government course and decisions of the ruling party.