The post election political lull appears to be over as Russia’s politicians gear up for Medvedev’s presidency. As everyone already knows, Medvedev is expected to nominate Putin as Prime Minister. No one expected any opposition to this, since denying Putin dominance over Russian politics is like preventing tidal wave from hitting the shore. But it seems that Zyuganov’s Communists will make a show of opposition. The KPRF threatens to oppose Putin’s nomination because they haven’t been invited into any discussion about the future cabinet or Putin’s candidacy. According to Zyuganov, any candidate for Prime Minister “has a duty to meet with all [Duma] factions and give his opinion on how he will carry out his administrative and economic duties and how he perceives the administrative system.” Deputies from the other Duma parties, however, don’t see what Zyuganov is griping about. Sure, there might be a custom for an aspiring PM to meet with Duma leaders, says LDPR deputy Igor Lebedev, but “I think that Vladimir Putin can’t be bothered with it.”
The Duma pasted the third reading of a law that places new restrictions on national referendums. According to the Moscow Times, the law abolishes referendums on the federal budget, taxation, treaties and presidential terms. The Communists’ 57 members walked out of the vote. KPRF deputy Alexandr Kulikov stated that the passing the bill meant “we’re asking people to shut up.” United Russia leader Boris Gryzlov touted the bill as as a effort to maintain political stability. “We don’t need any political forces promoting the idea of a referendum, playing on the destabilization of the political situation,” he told reporters.
Gryzlov’s days as United Russia head appeared to be numbered. Putin is expected to be named party leader at its congress on April 14.
Russia’s self-proclaimed oppositions are also making moves and giving ultimatums. Last weekend, oppositionists met at the “The New Agenda for Democratic Movement” conference in St. Petersburg to plot their next move. 200 delegates from 30 regions came together with the to hope of forming a broader united democratic opposition. Until now, Russia’s liberals–Yabloko and Union of Right Forces–have declined joining up with Garry Kasparov’s Other Russia coalition. But given that Yabloko and SPS are on the precipice of political irrelevancy, it seem they need all the friends they can get.
However wide the democratic movement may be, it certainly is in no position to make ultimatums. But that didn’t stop the conference from passing a resolution that informed the Kremlin that they are prepared for a “constructive dialog with the state” and to have “contact with the state” on a variety of questions, namely, “the dismantling of authoritarianism.” Then came the ultimatum to President-elect Medvedev. Their demands were:
A review during the first hundred days after inauguration of all political issues including the Khodorkovsky case, securing the rights of citizens to assemble and demonstrate, the revoking of media censorship, and most important to change the electoral laws and prepare to conduct a special parliamentary election.
Let’s see, the chances of any of these happening are about, well, zero. But you have to give them a gold star for persistence.
The fact that the “orange threat” has been declared over hasn’t stopped the FSB. On Tuesday, FSB director Patrushev accused foreign NGOs of aiding terrorists. “Emissaries of foreign terror and religious extremist organizations, exploiting socio-economic problems and ethnic and religious differences, are trying to conduct recruiting efforts,” Patrushev said. “Individual foreign nongovernmental organizations provide information support to them to a large extent.” No specific NGO was mentioned. Patrushev’s comments were made with the announcement that the number of NGOs operating in Russia has dropped from 600,000 in 2002 to 227,577 in 2007. Human rights activists are expected an additional 15,000 to 20,000 to collapse this year. It seems that Russia’s new NGO registration law is doing its job. 11,000 NGOs were denied registration and another 8,274 were closed by the courts.
Aida Edemariam notes that Antonia Shapovalova’s Nashi wear is part of a wider phenomenon of political panties.
Quibbles about the usefulness of a political statement generally hidden under outergarments notwithstanding, a bit of digging reveals that there is quite a precedent for this kind of thing. In the run-up to the 2004 US election, for example, an outfit called Axis of Eve organised what they called “Operation Depose and Expose”: gaggles of women flashing red, fuschia, black and lavender drawers at TV cameras. It was the slogans that were the point, however. “Weapon of Mass Seduction”, many of them read. “My Cherry for Kerry” and “Expose Bush”. This time round BarelyPolitical.com has got in on the act, selling skimpy red boy-shorts with “OBAMA” written in big white lettering across the back.
And just this February Agent Provocateur, not generally known for its serious political leanings, designed a pair of Guantánamo Bay orange knickers, accessorised with a tiny pair of handcuffs, some fetching black ribbon, and the slogan “Fair trial my arse” curling across the rear. Vivienne Westwood (whose son runs Agent Provocateur) sent some down the catwalk at London Fashion Week. Even Gordon Brown was presented with a pair. The effectiveness of pants in the fight for justice across the world is unrecorded. But cavilling seems churlish. After all, in a healthy – or aspiring – democracy, everyone must do their bit.
In this case, that “bit” includes wearing only a little bit.
Natalia Morar, who was banned from Russia as “a danger to the safety and security of Russia,” has lost her appeal in Russian court. The court gave no reason for denying her appeal to get the ban removed. According to her lawyer Yuri Kostanov, “I have no proof but I suspect the case has a political subtext,” he told reporters. “As far as I understand it, Morar has not done anything subversive. But her activity is journalism and she published a great many political articles, including about VIPs. I cannot exclude that namely these people applied some leverage, and this may be the root cause (for the decision). I cannot rule this out.” No, really, you think?
And finally, it seems that Putin could only contain himself for so long at the NATO-Russia Council last weekend. This is despite the fact that Western diplomats pleaded that he tone down his rhetoric. But apparently Putin could only contain himself for so long. According to reports, Putin “lost his temper” during discussion about Ukraine’s possible NATO entry. One diplomat told Kommersant that at one point Putin turned to Bush and said, “You do understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a state! Part of its territory is in Eastern Europe and considerable part was given to them by us!” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Putin ever made any such statement. Nevertheless, I’m sure that after hearing this, there are many Ukrainians who can’t run into NATO’s arms fast enough.