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29 Sep, 2007 04:02

Russia's opposition parties upbeat before election

It's show time on Russia's political stage. In a little more than two months voters go to the polls in a parliamentary election. Opposition parties say they’re no longer satisfied being on the sidelines. They say they're ready, willing and able to play.

The threshold for party representation in the new State Duma has been increased to 7%, but opposition parties still believe they can challenge the dominance of the pro-Kremlin United Russia, which enjoys a huge majority in the current Parliament. 

The Communists have come up with some new tricks. They've abandoned their outright rejection of private property.  In fact, the party now positions itself as a defender of small business.  And the new enemy is not the Government, but those who are trying to depose it.  

Party leader Gennady Zyuganov outlined the Communist's new position. 

“Our bourgeoisie is weak and cowardly. That’s why it’s calling on the working class to carry out an 'Orange' revolution – similar to that in Ukraine. In other words, to organise the second coming of oligarchs, which is absolutely unacceptable,” he said. 

Civil Force party leader Mikhail Barshchevsky used to represent the Russian Government in courts as a lawyer. Now he believes it is stifling small business in Russia.  

“An artist who paints street portraits or a vendor who sells souvenirs – they are small businessmen. But neither of them would ever think of dealing with the authorities to get a licence or to pay taxes. Why? Because it’s a headache. But we need to make it easy,” he stressed. 

Fair Russia also portrays itself as an opposition party – a stance that experts say could help it draw voters away from the Communists.  

“For us, socialism is the only way to preserve the country as an important player and make Russia the leader of human civilisation,” said Sergey Mironov, leader of Fair Russia. 

In previous elections,  the right-wing Union of Right Forces failed to get enough votes to win seats in the State Duma.  They say that's changed, and they're set for a breakthrough in the coming poll.  

“Russia’s transition to democracy has halted. We can see how, step by step, Russian people are abandoning powers granted to them by the Constitution and handing them over to bureaucrats. But there are people who are against it,” said Nikita Belykh, the Union of Right Forces party leader. 

The Yabloko, or Apple, party failed to get 5% of the popular vote in previous elections – the minimum then required to enter the Parliament.  Despite the fact that the threshold has been raised to 7% this time, the party’s leader is beaming with optimism. 

“While not being in Parliament, the party has become stronger. Career-makers, come-and-go people and those who come to politics to make money – all of them have left the party. Only those who truly believe in our course have remained. I think we have good prospects,” said Grigory Yavlinsky, the Yabloko party leader.

Parliamentary elections in the Russian Federation will be held on December 2.