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16 Oct, 2009 13:13

Russian parliamentary protest lingers into second week

Russian parliamentary protest lingers into second week

The Wednesday walkout of three Russian parliamentary factions waned seriously by the end of the week, with two of three parties deciding to return to their seats on Friday.

The Communists decided to continue the protest until the meeting with president Medvedev, which will not happen for at least a week, if ever.

The protest started on Wednesday when the deputies representing the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Fair Russia party walked out of a parliamentary session in protest of what they said was a rigged election on October 11.

The protest was initiated by the Liberal Democrats – a populist faction with no clear political agenda who are seen by most analysts as political mercenaries for hire. Instead of starting regular parliamentary work, the LDPR deputies started to complain about various violations in regional elections on Sunday. After approximately half an hour, the leader of the faction Vladimir Zhirinovsky announced that his party was not accepting the election’s results, stood up and left the session hall. Other LDPR MPs followed suit.

The United Russia faction tried to calm down the scandal and suggested that they vote for the agenda of the session, but Fair Russia, itself opposition to United Russia, despite having a very similar political stance, said that they would also leave the session if they are not given a say.

After Fair Russia deputies left, the Communist faction, which holds the second largest representation in the State Duma, also announced that they would not stay in parliament until they have a meeting with the President.

According to media reports, after walking out, the opposition deputies agreed to prepare an address to the President and to set up a parliamentary commission that would investigate any wrongdoings at the regional elections.

United Russia hurried to denounce the opponents’ move. State Duma chairman Boris Gryzlov prepared an official statement which said that the sense of responsibility must prevail over emotions. “The elections are over and parliamentary acts make no sense,” the statement read. Gryzlov also announced that the walkout would not affect parliament (United Russia holds more than two thirds of the seats and technically can hold sessions all by itself).

The reply from President Medvedev was more weighted. The presidential press secretary told reporters that Medvedev was not going to meet the opposition leaders in the next 10 days (regardless, the Russian President had already left on a visit to Kazakhstan the day after the Wednesday walkout). On the other hand, the press services of the Communist Party and LDPR said that their leaders had talked to Medvedev over the phone, but did not report the results of these consultations.

On Friday, however, the Liberal Democrats and Fair Russia deputies returned to the parliamentary session (it was the next session after Wednesday, as the State Duma had a break on Thursday). The MPs took their places, but remained silent and, as a result, the session closed unusually early – it was over in just two and a half hours, including the break. The Communist faction said on Friday that they were not going to participate in the session.

The deputy chairman of the party’s central committee told Russia’s Interfax news agency that the Communist Party planned to organize a meeting of its representatives from 15 of Russia’s regions and discuss the elections as well as the plan for future action.

“We will tell our factions in regional legislatures to boycott the work of these bodies until the authorities consider all our demands,” Vladimir Kashin said.

Also on Friday, the leader of the Communist Party hinted at possible reconciliation. “You can tweet in bushes or scream in the back yard, but no one will hear you. And you can use any tribune, join any collective and gather a strong team,” Gennady Zyuganov told Echo Moscow radio station. He ruled out the possibility that the Communists would give up their parliamentary seats as a form of protest, saying that this would lead to the loss of voters’ support.

This means that, sooner or later, the last protesting faction will return to the parliamentary session.

Kirill Bessonov, RT