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19 Oct, 2009 12:24

ROAR: Opposition returns to “comfortable chairs” after parliament walkout

ROAR: Opposition returns to “comfortable chairs” after parliament walkout

Russian opposition parties in the State Duma will not be able to revise the results of regional elections, but the authorities will pay more attention to them, analysts say.

Three Russian parties – the Communist Party, Fair Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party – walked out of the State Duma on October 14 in protest against allegedly rigged elections. On October 11, regional and municipal elections were held in 75 regions, in which the ruling party United Russia triumphed. It won, in particular, 32 of 35 seats in the Moscow City Duma, while the Communists won the remaining three.

On October 16, the members of Liberal Democratic Party and Fair Russia returned to parliament. The Communists said that they would continue the boycott until all their demands were met.

Viktor Ilyukhin, a leading member of the Communist Party’s faction in the State Duma, believes that the decision to walk out of the parliament “was not about the personal ambitions of politicians.” This is a question about “the forming of politics, so the opposition’s actions are fully justified, and they are supported by the majority of Russians,” he told Regions.ru website.

The opposition parties formulated seven demands, Ilukhin said, and the main one was the meeting with the president. Ilyukhin added that the Communists wanted to recount votes in some Russian regions and to dismiss the head of Central Elections Commission Vladimir Churov.

Commenting on the boycott, Churov called this move “a political action, scheduled for the visit of an important foreign guest,” apparently referring to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to Russia.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to meet the representatives of the three parties on October 27. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the head, but not a member of United Russia, in his turn, said on October 14 that if anyone had doubts about the legitimacy of elections, “they should go to court and provide proof.”

Analysts, however, are certain that the Communists will soon join their colleagues in the parliament. “The CPRF was left alone to defend a package of very tough measures, to the point of cancellation of the elections’ results,” commentator Konstantin Yemelyanov wrote on Politcom.ru website.

Fair Russia returned to the State Duma after saying that it was satisfied by the decision to establish a commission on monitoring electoral legislation. The parliament will also hold hearings with the participation of the head of the Central Elections Commission. “These reasons for ‘A Just Russia’ retreat were obviously ridiculous and it was clear that other opposition parties will also return,” Yemelyanov said.

The parties’ revolt may be advantageous to the country’s leadership. Prime Minister and head of United Russia Vladimir Putin “seems to be interested in giving his party a good shake,” believes Aleksey Mukhin, general director of the Center for Political Information.

The prime minister repeatedly told the United Russia leadership before the election “not to be enthusiastic” about the use of organizational and power resources of regional authorities, the analyst said.

The election’s results are not being annulled, but some governors may be punished in the regions if the cases of fraud are revealed, Mukhin believes. However, he is certain that all deputies will soon return “to their comfortable chairs” after “playing democracy.”

It seems that opposition parties have thought that “the authorities may do without them,” Aleksey Malashenko, analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, thinks. “So, in any case the resentful parties have nothing to lose,” he was quoted by Kommentarii.ru.

The analyst even predicted a “tough confrontation” on the political scene if the parties would not return to parliament, but it has not been the case.

Analyst at the Center for Political Technologies Aleksey Makarkin also believes that the Communists will soon return to business as usual at the State Duma. The Russian leadership has recently paid much attention to the opposition parties in the parliament, Makarkin told RBC.ru website.

“The president met with them to discuss anti-crisis measures, a law was adopted about equal access of all parliamentary parties to mass media,” Makarkin noted. “It is said that the Kremlin ordered not to ban candidates on a far-fetched pretext,” he added.

Makarkin believes that the leadership of the parties reacted to reports sent on the day of voting by their regional activists about violations during the elections. At the same time, he called the Liberal Democratic Party and Fair Russia “quasi-opposition.” The Communists, in his view, are “real opposition” and at the same part an integral part of the current political system.

At the closed meeting after the walkout, the leadership of the State Duma and representatives of opposition parties discussed not only political questions, but also “material interests,” Regnum news agency reported.

“Analysts were not surprised that the members of the Liberal Democratic Party and Fair Russia changed their mind,” Gazeta daily wrote. “It was clear from the beginning that the Kremlin will have problems only with the CPRF,” Tatyana Stanovaya, head of the analytical department of the Center of Political Technologies, told the paper.

She called Fair Russia “the weakest of all parties in the State Duma.” Ratings and results of the elections confirm this, the analyst said. She believes that the crisis seriously undermined positions of that party and ones of Liberal Democratic Party. They were not able “to show their worth and propose variants of fighting the consequences of the crisis,” she added.

Unlike these two parties, “the CPRF has its permanent electorate and clear ideology,” Stanovaya said. “The Communists may permit themselves to make demarches and a tough line,” she added.

“It seems that the Kremlin will conclude an offstage agreement with the CPRF,” Stanovaya said. “However, the Communists will hardly gain something serious,” she added. “If the CPRF secure a revision of the results of the voting somewhere, it will only concern very small towns,” she said.

Member of the Public Chamber, journalist and historian Nikolay Svanidze thinks that the demarche of the three parties was “senseless.” The opposition is simply trying to “justify themselves in the eyes of voters after the defeat,” he told Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily.

The parties that walked out of the Duma will meet with the president, Svanidze said. However, the question is if they have proof of fraud during the elections. “If there is proof, they should go to the prosecutor’s office, and if there is no proof, then it is interesting what the president will tell them,” he added.

Sergey Borisov, RT