DISSENTER MARCH IN DUMA

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WILL DMITRY MEDVEDEV AGREE TO MEET WITH THE OPPOSITION OR NOT?

Expert: Three Duma factions cannot go back now without a colossal loss of face.


Voting last Sunday echoed in a major scandal in the Duma this Wednesday. The LDPR, CPRF, and Fair Russia demand annulment of results of the October 11 voting, meeting with the president, and resignations of Central Electoral Commission Chairman Vladimir Churov and Duma Chairman Boris Gryzlov. They say they will return to the Duma only when these demands are met.

The first plenary meeting of the Duma this Tuesday began with a scandal. Three factions of the lower house of the parliament left the conference hall in protest against the October 11 election. United Russia’s opponents promised to come back when results of the voting were annulled and the president received the opposition. They also said they wanted Churov out of the Central Electoral Commission and Gryzlov out of the lower house of the parliament.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky announced that the LDPR had averaged 20-30% votes throughout the country but electoral commissions gundecked protocols. As a result, the LDPR found itself out of the Moscow municipal legislature.

The CPRF in its turn demanded annulment of the results in Moscow, Mary El, and Tula, the regions where its observers had recorded countless violations. Nikolai Kharitonov of the CPRF faction added that the heads of the regions where elections had taken place should be relieved of their duties for the time being.

Nikolai Levichev, the head of the Fair Russia faction, said that this party was particularly incensed over elections in Astrakhan (he called the voting there a “criminal takeover”) and Moscow.

Dmitry Medvedev’s reaction to the ‘ demarche is not known yet but his Representative to the Duma Harry Minkh promised it “before very long”.

The ruling party in its turn did not mince words in appraisal of its political adversaries. “There is no need for populist shows anymore,” Gryzlov called out seeing the opposition march out of the Duma.

Lawmakers voted with their feet on two occasions in nine years. In 2000, they objected to Gennadi Seleznev’s chairmanship (the CPRF alone remained in the Duma then). In 2004, they protested against the real estate market legislation. On both occasions, however, lawmakers were back before long.

All of the Duma knows that the intrigue is centered around Medvedev’s decision now.

“Should the president decide against the meeting, there will be no way for the opposition to come back to the Duma without a colossal loss of face and respect which essentially comes down to political weight,” Dmitry Badovsky of the Institute of Social Systems said. “They did say after all they would only come back after a meeting with the president.” Badovsky added that the opposition had to go to the Kremlin with hard evidence, and not with fiery condemnations.

Unlike lawmakers, the president may fear no loss of face or respect from a refusal to meet with factions of the opposition. “No, I do not think that this demarche will bring about anything worthwhile,” to quote Alexander Konovalov of the Center for Strategic Evaluations and Analysis. “At best, the opposition will be granted an audience with Medvedev, but I doubt it. I reckon that some Fair Russia functionary will step forward soon enough and appeal to his colleagues to put and end to this boycott of the Duma.” Konovalov said that the opposition would have fared better by having hard evidence of falsifications compiled and turned over to court.

As a matter of fact, this is probably what Medvedev will recommend. Where Gryzlov is concerned, firing him or leaving him alone is the Duma’s own affair. It is only in the matter of Churov’s resignation that the Kremlin may be appealed to. It was the president itself who removed Churov’s predecessor Alexander Veshnyakov.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky (LDPR): The LDPR faction does not recognize legitimacy of the election and insists on another vote count. Leaving now, we will only come back after a meeting with the president.

Nikolai Levichev (Fair Russia): Let the largest faction of the Duma, one that never listens to others, work on its own and shoulder responsibility for what is happening here. We do not recognize the outcome of elections in Astrakhan and Moscow. We have records of numerous violations elsewhere.

Gennadi Zyuganov (CPRF): No way to remedy this situation without mass protests against the policy that robs people of the right to participate in elections. We want Churov out. We want a meeting with the president as the guarantor.

Vyacheslav Volodin (United Russia): Chalking everything off to violations is wrong. What we are witnessing is hysterics, nothing else.

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