“And to What Purpose Could Dead Souls Be Put?” PARNAS vs the Justice Ministry

On June 22, 2011, Russia’s Justice Ministry rejected the opposition’s latest attempt to register an official political party. The People’s Freedom Party “For Russia without Lawlessness and Corruption,” otherwise known as PARNAS, was officially turned away for a small handful of reasons.

PARNAS ends before it begins.

The most discussed issue has been the presence of “dead souls” on PARNAS’ member list. The Justice Ministry reports that its investigation revealed forty ineligible individuals on that list: two people in prison, four minors, thirteen deceased, and 21 people who denied being PARNAS members at all. Another 39 people were apparently registered in regions where they aren’t residents. PARNAS claims to have 46,148 members in total. It’s unclear whether or not the government was working from a sample study (and thus parlayed these findings into an indictment against the larger 46 thousand number). Either way, PARNAS leaders have unsurprisingly ridiculed the idea of rejecting their application because of just forty souls.

The Justice Ministry also claims illegalities in PARNAS’ Charter. Citing Article 24.5 of Federal Law 95, “On Political Parties,” the Ministry argued that the charter doesn’t rotate leaders of executive bodies or leaders of regional branches. As it turns out, Articles 26.2 and 34.2 do appear to mandate the rotation of these bodies’ leaders. Why the Justice Ministry thought it could argue otherwise remains a mystery. (One needs only to read the unambiguous text of the Charter to know that there’s no violation of FZ-95.)

The Justice Ministry also alleged that PARNAS committed “inaccuracies and contradictions,” classifying an executive body as a collective board (‘kollegial’nyi’ when it should have been ‘ispolnitel’nyi’) in Article 20 of its Charter. Once again, however, reading the actual text of the section in question reveals that the government simply misreported the content of the document. Article 20 contains no such mistakes.

The most complicated and least understood claim from the Ministry of Justice is that PARNAS violated Article 29.3 of Federal Law 7, “On Nonprofit Organizations,” which stipulates that the formulation and elimination of executive bodies must be the exclusive jurisdiction of the organization’s highest governing body (the “vysshii organ upravleniia,” in this case, a party’s Congress). The government’s rejection highlighted that PARNAS’ “Executive Director” is appointed and dismissed not by the Congress, but by the Federal Political Council (which is a ‘collective governing body’).

Here, superficially at least, the government seems to have a decent case. Read PARNAS’ Charter (excerpted below), and the Ministry’s description of the power structure is indeed accurate:

Article 20. The system of governing and auditing bodies of the party [..]
1. The highest governing body is the Congress. The standing collective governing body of the Party is Federal Political Council.
Article 26. The procedure of formation and organization of the Federal Political Council
1. Members of the Federal Political Council are elected by the Congress. [...]
Article 31. Executive director of the Party
1. The executive director is appointed and dismissed by the Federal Political Council [...].

In light of federal law and the language in the charter, it would be fair to say the Ministry correctly applied FZ-7. With other parties, however, the Ministry has suspiciously refrained from such vigilance.

In his impassioned (some might say ‘vitriolic’) defense of the PARNAS Charter, Boris Nemtsov has repeatedly claimed that the party “copied” its charter language from other, already-registered parties in Russia. So I took a look at charters from the country’s six biggest political parties, and discovered for myself that Nemtsov appears to be telling the truth.

The pattern across all parties seems to be this: the congress elects a standing collective governing body, which in turn elects an executive and/or an executive body.

This process is mirrored most clearly in United Russia, where the standing executive body (the Central Executive Committee) is elected by the standing collective body (the Presidium of the General Council). (See United Russia Charter, Articles 10.1, 11.1, and 11.3.) The Congress is — quite illegally – circumvented.

Yabloko’s Party Bureau elects the Executive Secretary of the Party Bureau (Articles 13.5 and 13.5.2); Pravoe Delo’s Federal Political Council elects the Executive Secretary of the Federal Political Council (Articles 23.1 and 25.1); LDPR’s High Council elects the Central Apparat (Articles 5.8 and 5.16); Spravedlivaia Rossiia’s Presidium of the Central Council elects the Bureau of the Presidium (Articles 20.1 and 20.2.4); and KPRF’s Central Committee elects both the Chairman of the Central Committee and the members of the Presidium of the Central Committee (Article 8.1).

Aleksandr Konovalov, Minister of Justice and Bullseye on Nemtsov's dartboard

United Russia remains the closest comparison because the other parties’ charters are not terribly clear about what constitutes an “executive body” in their organizations. Nevertheless, it’s my interpretation that none of the parties obey Federal Law 7′s provision about Congress’ exclusive jurisdiction over executive bodies. In this respect, everyone seems to have a basically identical charter — PARNAS included. (Anyone wary of this claim is encouraged to visit the links above and comb the documents, too.)

If true, the Justice Ministry’s decision against PARNAS loses the only shred of credibility still clinging. Some will take this to mean that Nemtsov, Milov, and company shouldn’t waste their time on an appeal. Others might consider it an important opportunity to ‘speak truth to power,’ even if all indications are that the state will never allow the party to be registered. In the immediate aftermath of the Ministry’s rejection, journalists, bloggers, and other blowhards rushed to their pens and keyboards in order to vent about either the bloody Putin regime or the sulking liberal democrats.

Now that there’s been some time to reflect, we can try to understand the legal issues on which this story rests. Where we go from there, I am not sure.

50 Comments

  1. Kudos – awesome research, and thorough trouncing of the Justice Ministry’s legal arguments.

    The issue of dead souls is further confirmed as the vital issue, namely – what sample were the 79 ineligible signature drawn from? If it’s say, 1000, then PARNAS is (rightfully) doomed. If it’s 10,000 or the full 46,148 then the rejection is indeed ridiculous.

    More transparency from the Justice Ministry on this issue will be welcome for all parties (even themselves), but if their incompetence on the legal matters is anything to go by this isn’t going to be happening any time soon.

    • On the ‘deal souls’ charge, the Justice Ministry’s rejection letter references Federal Law 95, “On Political Parties,” Article 23. That law doesn’t say anything about acceptable thresholds, so my guess would be that the government is expected to exercise reasonable judgment. I also have no idea if they’re working with a sample study or an analysis of PARNAS’ entire member list. According to the letter, the Federal Migration Service is the state branch that conducted the investigation. This seems to suggest that the investigation was nationwide, meaning that the government combed every inch of the member list.

      Without any discussion of sample groups, it seems only fair to assume that the Justice Ministry’s verdict applies to the entire party. Either way, the legal reasoning is founded exclusively on the 40-79 names listed in the rejection letter. Since the Justice Ministry makes no larger accusations, I think we should assess the reasonableness of the verdict on those grounds.

      • You’re right. The FMS is the body with the data on registration; it’s as simple as sending out the signatures file out to them and asking for confirmation of whether their records match. Of course there will be discrepancies; people move about, not everyone updates their registration status, etc.

        I guess the verdict isn’t reasonable, and may be – as you point out – motivated by the desire to ensure that Right Cause will break the 7% barrier (or at least the 5% barrier to have some minimal representation). Obviously that will be a challenge for Prokhorov, as current poll ratings for that party are at c.1% and he could use some help.

  2. Agree. The Russian government doesn’t need to be so sloppy, as it only promotes the impression that they just phone in their arguments – expecting not be challenged in any way – rather than really exercising due diligence.

    That said, what’s an acceptable threshold of violation; is it truly zero tolerance, or is every group that aspires to form the government permitted an agreed-upon “fudge factor” of 20 dead members? 200? 1000?. This was also sloppy on the part of PARNAS, as they should have taken the time to ensure they were squeaky-clean. It’s certainly possible that a member or two could die between establishing their membership and the handing over of the list, but the number who said their membership was not solicited although they were registered as members is also suspicious.

    Major administration figures don’t actually research constitutional law personally (unless the Russian government is different from every other government on the planet), and the job of formulating the government’s argument is usually delegated. Staffers who came up with the bogus arguments should be fired or otherwise disciplined for embarrassing the government. Meanwhile someone high in the government – the Justice Minister or perhaps the Prime Minister – ought to have a word with the major administration figures and convey that part of their job when they delegate their work is to ensure the answers are accurate. Typically when points of law are involved the brief includes the relevant passages so there will be no doubt, and I’m amazed that wasn’t done.

    In any case, if no substantial violation exists, the government should just drop its objections – since there’s no danger of PARNAS winning anything.

    • I find it a little odd that you highlight the suspiciousness of a few party list errors, instead of focusing on the Justice Ministry’s clearly underhanded methods. Whether or not you buy PARNAS’ accusation that the state pressured individuals to disavow having joined the party, the twenty-one people misidentified as members is statistically insignificant. It’s also meaningless in principle, as any organization with more than forty thousand followers will inevitably attract a few turncoats or commit a handful of record-keeping errors. Until someone proves that the Justice Ministry was actually implying wider irregularities, we have only this small collection of violations to consider.

      Your advice to the Russian government is kind, but it is offered on the ‘bad apple’ premise that “staffers” pulled a fast one on “administration figures.” That is a generous enough theory, but the suddenly broken pattern of ignoring FZ-7, Article 29.3, violations suggests that the Ministry’s administration was itself the moving force behind PARNAS’ rejection. That certainly seems more likely than crediting ‘staffers,’ given the sharp deviation from standard operating procedure.

      If you read the text of the Ministry’s rejection letter, you’ll see that the references to FZ-7 and FZ-95 are accompanied by paraphrases of the relevant legal principles. The problem is more than PARNAS’ charter is too seldom quoted, leaving the government room to promote misinterpretations.

      In any case, if no substantial violation exists, the government should just drop its objections – since there’s no danger of PARNAS winning anything.

      From a legal perspective, whether or not PARNAS is capable of “winning anything” is obviously irrelevant. PARNAS could be the next United Russia and the state wouldn’t be justified in refusing it registration, if its papers are in order.

      From a political perspective, the Kremlin does have something that might be threatened by a registered-PARNAS: namely, the chance to make Pravoe Delo a new minority party in the Duma. This is something Russia’s political technologists have been tossing around, and it seems like a convincing conspiracy theory to me. The only plausible competing theory is that the authorities really are that paranoid.

  3. I recall the 2007 legislative election in Russia. There were THREE pro-democracy parties, namely, SPS, Yabloko and Civilian Power. That time I supported the Civilian Power which is now a part of the Right Cause. It was bitter to see SPS and Civilian Power — parties with essentially the same ideas and support base — fighting against each other at the televised debates. And I remember the feelings I had towards the SPS — the spoilers. The enemies. They wanted the votes that were ours…

    (Meanwhile, I remember how my perception of the SPS changed to the positive side when SPS and the Civilian Power merged.)

    Now, as a member of the Right Cause, I’m divided. As a legality supporter I am opposed to the denial to register the PARNAS. But as a realist, I understand that two parties with the same ideology are too many — and the result would be a net loss. The Absolutely Best Thing To Do is to start criticising the authorities over the PARNAS issue when it’s too late for them to start their campaign. :-)

  4. Indeed, why do I need to be bothered with the PARNAS? I’m a member of a different party. The authorities just made things for us easier — first, by not allowing our potential opponent, second, by creating a great talking point for us — “those bloody authorities, they haven’t allowed an opposition party to take part in the election!” I do hope we won’t be silent about the PARNAS issue.

  5. In fact, I believe the West should see an opportunity in these election as well.

    Of all the seven political parties in Russia, “The Right Cause” is the only one which states goals of peaceful cooperation with the West in its political program.

    I would use the liberty to cite the relevant part here:

    “Мы считаем, что Россия должна следовать европейскому пути развития. В нашей внешней политике мы должны исходить из базового принципа отсутствия военной угрозы со стороны Запада. Россия – часть Европы, часть европейской цивилизации, что подразумевает содействие созданию наиболее благоприятных условий для политического, экономического, военного и гуманитарного сотрудничества. Именно на этом направлении, при максимальном сближении с Евросоюзом, включая скорейшее заключение соглашение о взаимном безвизовом режиме, должны быть сосредоточены основные усилия нашей внешней политики.

    Вместе с тем интересы нашей страны объективно могут противоречить интересам других государств, в том числе и западных. В этом случае мы должны твёрдо отстаивать свою позицию, но не в конфронтации, а в ходе дипломатического диалога, проводя открытую и разумную политику, соблюдая правила и нормы международного права, не допуская резких, непредсказуемых односторонних действий.”

    “We believe that Russia must follow the European path of development. We must base our foreign policy on the fundamental principle of the absense of a military threat from the West. Russia is a part of the Europe, a part of the European civilization, what implies assistance to create the most benefitial prerequisites for political, economical, military and humanitarian cooperation. It’s that direction, with coming much closer together with the European Union, that involves signing the mutual visa-free agreement with the European Union, that the major efforts of our foreign policy must be focused upon.

    That said, interests of our country may objectively contradict interests of other countries, including those of the West. In such a case we are obliged to firmly prove our position — but by the way of a diplomatic dialogue, rather than a confrontation — while carrying out open and reasonable policy, complying with the rules and norms of the International Law, and not admitting vitriolic, unpredictable one-sides actions”.

    (Please, feel free to adjust my very imperfect translation.)

    That said, it’s important to understand that the “Right Cause” and PARNAS are both formed by the people of essentially the same igeology. Both of these parties have a lengthy written history. For example, the “Right Cause” originates from the “Civilian Power” and the “SPS”, while “SPS” originated from the “Democratic Choice” of the 1980s. In the same time, the PARNAS originates from “SPS” and the “Other Russia”. The two parties — PARNAS and the “Right Cause” — are natural competitors.

    For the West, it’s very important to carefully measure the weight it can throw on a side of the PARNAS, and understand just how much can it trust that party.

    The first step in the correct direction would have been to admit that there are TWO pro-democracy parties in Russia, one of which is currently not allowed to take part in the election.

    Surely, the West is going to criticize the Russian Government for its decision in regards of the PARNAS. And indeed, as I said, I hope that we would be doing the same, as it makes a good point in a case for democracy.

    But it would be a mistake for the West to dismiss a possibility to cooperate with the “Right Cause” on a sole supposition that it would somehow worsen the position of the “PARNAS”. As I said, the two parties are natural competitors, and the West hasn’t made any legally binding agreements with any of them. The “Right Cause” was created long ago — in 2008. People who joined it are as honest, as patriotic, and have the same rights as the people who chose the “PARNAS”. The “PARNAS” was treated unfairly, and that doesn’t mean the West can’t deal with anybody else.

    Instead, the West should carefully assess the opportunities related to the “Right Cause”. It may be that “once in a generation” chance.

  6. I’m sorry if I didn’t appear appropriately shocked by the government’s actions, and certainly didn’t mean to suggest the minor irregularities should be the focus. Likewise, in the matter of the legal sloppiness, it was not my intent to argue an act of faith for the staffers I still believe likely did the bulk of the donkey work, nor that they “pulled a fast one” on the good government figures. Rather, that sort of indifferent work appears to be what they believe is expected of them. Perhaps it is. However, I just didn’t buy the implication that irregularities should be tolerated if they’re “statistically insignificant”.

    As far as the accusations that the government pressured individuals to renounce their party membership – ha ha. I’ve noticed that whatever party Boris Nemtsov decides to grace with his presence is beset by the most egregious interference by the government; they really must fear him. Perhaps deep down they know that Russians secretly would love a Nemtsov government, so secretly that nobody knows but him. Seriously, Nemtsov ALWAYS cries that he didn’t get a fair shake, and to him, a fair shake seems to consist of the government simply abdicating in his favour.

    Anyway, I originally agreed with you completely; that coming up with garbage legal reasons that are easily unraveled (not to belittle your research, but they must have known legal scholars would be all over it looking for impropriety) merely provides grist for the mill that churns out anti-Russian ridicule. It’s hard to substantiate that you’re a country of laws when you just kind of reach into a bag and pull out a legal argument, and it’s not a standard that’d be accepted anywhere that calls itself democratic. I wonder why they were so obviously lazy.

    And to friend Evgeny, below – a foreign policy based on the absence of a military threat from the country that has the world’s biggest military forces, that spends more on it than the next 10 countries combined and that has shown no reluctance at all to use it. Can’t imagine why people wouldn’t jump to support that platform.

  7. Mark,

    The military program of the “Right Cause” is based on reliance on the nuclear weapons to maintain strategic stability, and on the mobile military, capable to deal simultaneously with two local conflicts at Russia’s borders.

    Anyway, 1) It’s not any much likely that the West will ever launch a full-scale offensive against Russia, 2) Even if that happens, it would be simply impractical to stop it with conventional forces.

    IMHO.

    But even if the Russia’a people won’t support reducing the size of the military forces, it’s a question that deserves to be publicly debated.

  8. Okay, that’s certainly fair; a public debate should be part of major decisions that affect the country. But where the public debate has fallen down in the west is (1) deliberate disinformation introduced by the government to prevent the electorate making an informed decision (as has happened in Canada with the introduction of the Goods & Services Tax (GST), for example), and (2) a lazy electorate that does not trouble to inform itself fully before making important decisions, and consequently making them based on easily-manipulated emotion rather than pragmatism. The government – or the party introducing the debate – has a duty to present the issue honestly, but the people also have a duty to educate themselves before making a decision that can have far-reaching implications.

    You’re probably right that there’s little danger of a full-scale military invasion of Russia by the U.S., but that shouldn’t suggest there is no military threat from that quarter. U.S. foreign policy tailored for remote countries that lie too far from the U.S. mainland to be conveniently threatened by home-based forces favours a strategy of encirclement with U.S. or allied military bases, and encouragement through non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) of protest or separatist movements within the country. Nuclear deterrent forces in such circumstances are an unwieldy instrument for power projection, like using a steamroller to crack a walnut. In the absence of huge conventional forces and the money to maintain them, a sensible alternative is an alliance with a nearby major power, who can be convinced efforts to destabilize your country constitute efforts to create a problem for them. Considering China relies heavily on Russia for energy it needs to continue development, and that Russia’s supply to China is only likely to increase, China might be a good choice in the context of a counterfoil to western meddling. That’s assuming you don’t see the west as an eventual partner; and it might be – you’d have to evaluate offers based on national interests, because no other country is going to take those into account for you unless it would serve theirs also. Considering the west’s strenuous efforts to keep Russia out of international organizations such as the WTO and to expand NATO to the edge of Russia’s doorstep, I’d recommend you think that over very carefully.

  9. Mark, first and foremost, you shouldn’t mistake my viewpoint with the point of view of the majority of my compatriots. Not that those are distinctively different — rather than that, I’m almost entirely clueless about what does an “Average Russian” think about domestic and international politics. Surely, I talk to some people and can compare my and their views, but there’s no real way to get the real information about support of these or those ideas in the society until the December 2011 election.

    My basic understanding is, that unless you are a celebrity, you are free to express your point of view in Russia. It’s a sort of a paradox, because those who complain about the lack of free press in Russia do not have their own idea to share, while those who have such an idea manage to find their audience despite whatever.

    What do I mean to say is: well, definitely I’ve heard opinions similar to the one you have sounded. On the other hand, healthy economy is not less important than the sound military, and in no way should economy be sacrificed for the sake of the military. What if the plan of Americans is to threaten Russia into building up its military forces, while the primary focus of Russia’s efforts should be its economy? (It’s almost a joke.)

    While battling “color revolutions” with nukes is insane, fighting them with potential of conventional military forces to cause troubles worldwide is hardly cost-effective. Also, I would differentiate attempts at overthrowing the government from peaceful protests.

    Nuclear deterrent forces are in no way an instrument of power projection, but a means to prevent a full-scale offensive. In that respect, the Russian military do a good job by understanding their exact sphere of responsibility, and not crossing it, ever. I’m a Russian lieutenant of reserve, so I know a little bit what did folks in the uniform think, oh, 2 years ago.

    By the way, Russia was normally never isolated from the outside world. Check a couple of bios. I’m ashamed I can’t readily name a dozen or a hundred:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabian_Gottlieb_von_Bellingshausen
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francesco_Bartolomeo_Rastrelli

  10. It’s difficult for the government of a country whose electorate is satisfied with the progress the country is making – with the government’s stated direction for it and with the standard of living it provides – to be overthrown by a colour revolution, or any other. People who are pretty happy with what they have are hard to rouse to revolutionary fury. Moreover, any party who would stir the electorate to restlessness must be able to offer something better, in a manner that indicates it is both able and willing to keep its promises.

    Who can do that? Who among the political choices available today can credibly promise to provide a better lifestyle for Russians while devising and executing reforms? Anyone? Crickets chirping. As Anatoly pointed out earlier, the Communists are the next-most-powerful party, after United Russia. Surely to God, as much as it might despise Putin, the west does not want to see Russia ruled by the Communists? How would placing the world’s largest energy producer in the hands of the Communist Party be in anyone’s best interests? If the liberals got hold of it, their likely strategy would be to quickly privatize it and sell much of it off to foreign investors. Under normal circumstances that might not be a bad plan, as investors are reluctant to jeopardize the company bottom line in exchange for stirring up revolt. But gaining control of the Russian state might be worth it. Yeltsin remains a figure of almost mythic popularity in the west – do you think his mass privatizations were good for Russia? A handful of obscenely wealthy oligarchs certainly do. Don’t forget who was his deputy prime minister.

    Additionally, selling off interests in energy companies is what you do when you need somebody’s skill to get your industry producing more efficiently so you can increase your output. While Russia could certainly improve its rickety infrastructure and definitely needs to do more in the way of environmental stewardship, it’s already the top producer with the technology it has, and producing more would likely have the effect of depressing prices. Consumers would like that, but there’s little in it to like for an energy producer – particularly one that is not very diversified.

    If the national cash reserves continue to rise or at least remain stable and the national debt remains insignificant, plans to go to a volunteer or partly-volunteer military should be brought forward. Eliminating or reducing conscription will pay dividends in trained and motivated forces in a relatively short time, provided their pay is competitive with the civilian wage scale and they are offered some benefits like subsidized housing, perhaps military discounts by auto retailers, that sort of thing. The forces will still not be large, because the population can’t support an enormous all-volunteer military. But the quality of the troops who make the military a career rather than spending the last two of their three years or whatever thinking about leaving it will be better.

    There are a couple of good articles in the most recent Oriental Review, if you haven’t already seen it, on global politics and Russia, here:

    http://orientalreview.org/

    It’s been very interesting talking with you, and I wish you well.

  11. Mark, thanks for an interesting conversation and I wish you well, too.

    I simply don’t understand the purpose of a would-be color revolution in Russia. We have a pro-democracy liberal party — the “Right Cause”. With its ups and downs, the party exists since 2008. If you want to support the democracy, you only need to vote for it. There’s no reason to go color. How many votes will it get — depends on us, but the result will be final and fair.

    By the way, I have just now realized what does the term “color revolution” stand for. It’s a liberal jihad. What’s a jihad? If a Muslim in a non-Muslim country isn’t allowed to profess his religion, first, he must ask for a permission to do it. If, and only if, the authorities of his country do not allow him to do that, should he take weapons in hand and fight for his rights.

    Well, same with the “color revolutions”.

    In a way, I find it logical that the U.S. and the Muslim world have problems with each other — ready to fight, but with different views on which ideals to fight for…

    • “By the way, I have just now realized what does the term “color revolution” stand for. It’s a liberal jihad.”

      Well, not exactly. A “colour revolution” is simply the catchy title awarded to civil unrest events that were inspired by democracy advocacy groups originating outside the country of concern, but which media coverage describe as “grass-roots movements” by “an oppressed people who have had enough”.

      The role of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) in regime-change movements was examined in an essay by American-educated Vice-Dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs, Sreeram Chaulia. There’s an interesting review of it here;

      http://www.newdemocratnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=390:democratisation-ngos-and-colour-revolutions&catid=1:comment&Itemid=44

      Dr. Chaulia quotes “Clash of Civilizations” author Samuel Huntington’s “The Third Wave of Democratization”: “American international NGOs (“Ingos”) were prominent mechanisms through which this causal link between superpower foreign policy interests and regime change worked out in many transitions from authoritarian rule in the twenty-one-year-long “third wave”.

      Dr. Chaulia further focuses on the role of American-sponsored advocacy NGO’s in achieving national foreign-policy goals; “The principal argument is that the main and direct causes of the colour revolutions were United States foreign-policy interests (strategic expansion, energy security and the war on terrorism) as they were serviced by Ingos. Without the intervention of these US-sponsored Ingos, the political landscapes in countries like Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan would not have been repainted in new colours.”

      The colour revolution in Kyrgyzstan (I’m glad I won’t have to type that again anytime soon), sometimes known as the “pink” revolution or “tulip” revolution so as not to be confused with Georgia’s “rose revolution”, brought Kurmanbek Bakiev to power. Once installed, he promptly reversed his promise to evict the U.S. forces stationed there, persuaded by a U.S. offer to triple the rent and add on $100 Million in aid. Although he took power on an agend of democratization and economic growth, he achieved neither.

      http://www.bne.eu/story2040

      The Guardian reported 40 people killed by Bakiyev’s riot police, after the President banned the opposition party and ordered media outlets closed. The pink revolution was largely a failure, in the sense that its goals were not aschieved in any measurable way.

      The orange revolution in Ukraine was likewise broadly a failure, bringing Viktor Yushchenko to power only to usher in endless squabbling with his Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoschenko, and resulting in the withholding by the IMF of a $16.4 Billion loan because the Yushchenko administration had backslid on promises to implement fiscal restraint. During the Yushchenko presidency, the corruption rating as determined by Transparency International – which is typically very forgiving of “emerging democracies” – steadily worsened. Foreign Direct Investment consistently underperformed: in short, nothing that was supposed to happen, happened.

      The rose revolution brought Mikheil Saakashvili to power, and his thuggish deployment of riot police to break up opposition demonstrations in 2008 resulted in some 500 people injured. This was reprised this year, in May, when riot police were again used to break up opposition demonstrations. Things appear less than sweet in the democratic land of milk and honey.

      According to Chaulia and Huntington (who died on Christmas Eve 2008), these revolutions were all spearheaded by American NGO’s, who “rarely promote human rights and democracy in a region when they do not suit [the U.S's] grander foreign-policy objectives.”

      This is a rather dim view of U.S. interference in the civil affairs of foreign governments, and overlooks the genuine motive of the United States to be a force for good in many instances. However, the fact remains that NGO’s often are funded directly by corporations via the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agenda, and have been found in the past to pursue ideological goals at least as much as humanitarian ones. Human Rights Watch is only one example, although investigation has been mostly limited to allegations that it has an anti-Israeli bias. NGO’s typically have a much lower profile than, say, military forces, but they can be both extremely partisan and reliable tools of foreign policy.

      • Well, actually I have meant the following piece from that book:

        [QUOTE]
        “They’re knocking my house down. What the hell am I doing in the pub, Ford?”
        “It hardly makes any difference at this stage,” said Ford, “let them have their fun.”
        [/QUOTE]

        Given the scale of problems we face at the moment, “color revolutions” might be a problem not actually deserving the fullest of our attention.

        • The best time to introduce a colour revolution is when the country is beset by problems, as its chances of gaining momentum are greatly assisted by public discontent. Vladimir Putin was one of the few world leaders (among those countries that might be attractive targets) to see NGO’s in the context of their potential to destabilize the government, and to take steps to mandate increased oversight of their activities, particularly their funding;

          http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4664974.stm

          This brought a great outcry that Putin the Authoritarian was repressing the freedom of NGO’s to carry out their humanitarian work. Not as far as I can see, although Kevin knows a great deal more about Russian law than I.

          • Mark, how can I help you?

            You clearly have a point. If you would like to address the Russian audience, I can translate your article for Inoforum.ru. An easy way to contact me is:
            filatovev (at) mail (dot) ru

            Or, you can go through our official front door:
            http://inoforum.ru/proektu_nuzhny

            Whichever suits you better.

            I’m not sure that fits your own definition of your mission, but you are welcome to stop by and share your views at the IF, and may be stay for longer if you like. :)

      • I’d have to read the essay, this sounds like the usual third worldist clap trap, which is typical of thinkers in India under the tutelage of the Soviet Union for so long, and not taking indigenous movements in communist countries seriously, because they didn’t fit their Marxist class-based analysis. The INGOs didn’t create these movements; they existed on their own without them, and they only helped them, and one could argue, not even sufficiently, as they tended to fail. They didn’t fail because they were concocted from outside; they failed because the post-Soviet states are pretty tenacious beasts and their decades-long authoritarian and corrupt practices are hard to eradicate.

        The idea that the INGOs involved in these countries are financed by corporations doesn’t stand up to scrutiny whatsoever. Those involved in overseas work tend to be of either the GONGO type, with government funding like NED or USAID-created entities, or they are private and funded by Soros, MacArthur, Ford, etc. I don’t see any significant *corporate* funding of overseas entities and I’d have to read the paper to see what on earth he’s talking about. Human Rights Watch was funded mainly for many years by foundations and private donors and had no significant corporate support; in later years it got support from new-age corporations like Skype and wealthy individual donors and of course had the recent $100 million gift from Soros. I doubt you could make the case for HRW really assisting colour revolutions, however, as they monitor and report on conditions but they do little aiding or training of local groups. That is the profile of other organizations.

        Again, this idea that NGOs are merely available to be utilitarian “tools of foreign policy” comes from the third worldist mind, projecting how things work in more authoritarian countries of the third world and the Soviet pupils especially, where in fact governments do run the so-called NGOs.

    • Why do colour revolutions frighten you so, Evgeny? They don’t always succeed, and even when they do, the entrenched commies always ensure that they revert back to the previous commie bureaucracy — the liberties never last for long. Oh, you fear they might succeed in going further some day?

      • Catherine:

        “Why do colour revolutions frighten you so, Evgeny?” It’s a violation of the idea of the state as a social contract. As a citizen of Russia I have a right to vote and to be elected. My vote is only one in about 100,000,000 others. But it is equal to all other votes. If a color revolution happens, that means voices of some people will have greater significance than the mine — so, my voice will mean less. I do not agree to have less rights than I have now.

        • But the state isn’t a social contract, Evgeny, in Russia or in other post-Soviet states. The elections have not been free — OSCE declared them as “falling short” and they have many obvious constraints. The media is not free. There is a climate of impunity in Russia for the killing of journalists, lawyers, and human rights activists. NGOs are heavily restricted, and parties, which is what this thread is about.

          Only in your mind could there be a social contract when in fact there isn’t in any true and meaningful sense. Perhaps *your* particular gang or group being in power that you find amicable is a social contract *for you* — it isn’t for many others.

          In Serbia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, elsewhere, there wasn’t any social contract and any free elections and free media either. That’s why social movements got started to try to bring those things about. You act as if colour revolutions are merely wrenched into place by nefarious foreign forces against the will of the people. Yet colour revolutions are indigenous, and you seem unprepared to admit them, and to find the fact of their foreign funding to discredit them or make them irrelevant. This seems to me merely to be reverse thinking of the Soviet model for overthrowing Western governments by such things as funding Western peace movements. Maybe they realized these movements would never exist to the extent they did without “Moscow gold,” so they imagine cynically that it’s the same case with movements in their own country.

          The foreign aid the colour movements receive is never significant, as these Western governments tend to aid mainly their own consultants and to reward only mild programs that don’t involve street demonstrations. They existed and continue to exist on their own, and that is why they present a challenge not only to their governments but the West, that has to decide to help them or no, and to which degree.

          You pretend that there are some viable and functioning institutions of democracy such as your own “social contract” would be disrupted. But I can only ask you the question of the Tibetan, to the Chinese official who claims that communism brings about development: “For whom?”

          If parties can’t get registered, people can’t demonstrate, as in Russia, then whose social contract is that?! It doesn’t seem likely a colour revolution would get started there any time soon, but if it did, and it’s quite possible in some areas, that wouldn’t be somehow undemocratically, like Bolsheviks, undoing some liberal democratic state, but would be about trying to bring one into conditions with better human rights compliance.

          Your argument seems concocted, and I wonder if you really believe it yourself or you are just being contrarian.

          • Catherine, first of all, thank you for responding.

            Second, why do you care about press freedom, quality of elections and freedom of NGOs to operate, while you do not care about the quality of education, national healthcare and national technological advancement?

            What makes the first set of problems superiour to the second set of problems for you?

            Please, answer. It’s very interesting for me. I hope to understand you better. If I understood you better I could possibly provide a more suitable answer for you.

            • Evgeny, you’re presumably a young man if you’re chatting on the Internet, and not a retired Soviet major or something, right?

              So why do you still hark back to these very tired Soviet memes that economic and social rights are more important than civil and political rights?

              They aren’t, as time and again has been proven, in fact by the failed Soviet “experiment” itself. And even Russian diplomats conceded this in Vienna at the UN conference on these issues in 1995, although of course they were more independent then.

              You can’t have good education, health care, and technological advancement *without” press freedom, freedom for civic associations, and fair elections. These are very basic concepts of liberal democracy that seem alien to you, and I can’t fathom why. It ought to be obvious in our day and age that without the free flow of people, ideas, goods, and services you cannot have technological advancement. Closed societies don’t technological advance. If they succeed for a while by force and fiat and investment, they fall behind rapidly later. You have merely to compare the concepts and realities of Silicon Valley and Skolkovo. Without press freedom, you can never have a good health system because you could never expose corruption and mismanagement or challenge pharmaceutical companies or report epidemics accurately or 100 other things.

              These rights are designed as intertwined for a reason, but the notion that you can first pile up economic and social achievements and then layer on press freedom and NGOs later is one of those unfounded fallacies of the secret-police states of the post-Soviet space that they use to keep in power. Kazakhstan is particularly adapt at this tendentious and insincere argument. Russia had already perfected it and wheels it out on occasion but less and less in international fora. I guess it remains for that Soviet meme to have splintered and lodged in the minds of many post-Soviets like yourself.

              What’s really the question is why you can honestly believe that economic achievements can be achieved by planned socialist top-down command governments, or worse, communist-style oppression, when every experience in the world shows that press freedom and civic engagement are needed not to mention elections and one might add a free economy.

              Your argument isn’t new; it’s very old and tired and discredited. Why it shows up again in your generation is the puzzle. I guess you just haven’t been exposed to enough visible alternatives.

              • Indeed, I’m 25, and I have fully read your message twice.

                “These are very basic concepts of liberal democracy that seem alien to you, and I can’t fathom why.”

                Because in the house of a Thaoist Sage there’s no place for a bucket full of crap.

                • You know, you don’t have to lurching around looking for exotic faux Buddhist sort of anecdotes, you can mine your own rich Russian language and come up with gems like “Don’t intrude into another’s monastery with your charter”.

                  As for your lovely Thaoist home, gosh, what happened to that “Our Common European Home” that Gorbachev used to speak of? Bring back Gorby, eh? You’ve forgotten your humanistic European values I guess.

                  Only 25! and I bet you’ve never read Sakharov or Solzhenitsyn. I can send you a good set of essays of Sakharov’s put out by the EU in Russian if you like, email me at catfitzny@yahoo.com

                  • I’ve got as far as the middle of the second book of the “Archipelag” (where it became plain boring) and Sakharov used to be my hero when I was young. Ahmatova’s “Requiem” is great.

                    But.

                    One of the European values is not intruding into man’s private quarters. What I believe into and how I act is my responsibility and mine only. It’s called “liberty of thought” and it’s essential for me.

                    I’ve told you Sakharov was my hero. That man was put into a psychiatric clinique because he stood for his speech freedom and liberty of thought.

                    But you, liberal democratic activists, have forgot that your set of views is also an ideology. And by imposing it on a person you look just as appalling as the commies who tortured Sakharov.

                    I don’t believe in anything and I enjoy that state of mind.

                    But anybody who tries to impose one’s set of views on me should remember that there’s no place for a bucket full of crap in Thaoist Sage’s house.

                  • As someone has nailed it, a liberal is a person who respects points of view of other people, while a liberast is a person who believes his/her point of view is the only correct one and feels free to impose it on others.

                    Do you see the difference, Catherine?

          • Catherine, I believe you actually have some values. But before imposing your values on me, please, let me tell you a parable about Rauati Xentari and Thaoist Sage.

            Parable about Rauati Xentari and Thaoist Sage.

            Возле дома просветленного Горного Даоса приземлилась серебристая летающая тарелка. Шлюз медленно открылся. Яркий белый свет залил лужайку у дома. Из света показалась неестественно тощая и высокая фигура.

            Рауати Ксентари, достойный сын расы Ксентари, вошел в дом Даоса и прямо с порога спросил: “Что ты отдашь мне взамен на все тайны строения Вселенной?”
            Мудрец сидел профилем к своему гостю и созерцал стоящее перед ним жестяное ведро. Не поворачиваясь к пришельцу он спокойно произнес: “Вот это ведро с говном.”
            Инопланетянин крепко задумался.
            “Но почему?”, наконец спросил он. Мудрец медленно повернулся к гостю и строго посмотрел в его огромные темные глаза.
            “Потому что в доме Горного Даоса”, изрёк он с прижимом, “не место ведру с говном!”

            В тот же вечер Рауати Ксентари стал его учеником.

            • I’m happy to “impose my values,” dear, because they enable more pluralism and freedom than yours, and when you’re busy imposing your particular set of outdated and worn Soviet notions for God knows what reason, I’ll push back.

              Yes, these old discredited ideas of the Soviet Union are a bucket of shit but apparently they’ve been elevated to Wisdom of the Ages status in your book.

              • Я не свой ни белому, ни черному,
                И напора, бьющего ключом,
                Не терплю. Не верю изреченному
                И не признаюсь себе ни в чем.

                (Дмитрий Быков, “Сумерки Империи”)

                From the same piece of poetry:

                Мы застали сумерки империи,
                Дряхлость, осыпанье стиля вамп.
                Вот откуда наше недоверие
                К мертвенности слишком ярких ламп,
                К честности, способной душу вытрясти,
                К ясности открытого лица,
                Незашторенности, неприкрытости,
                Договоренности до конца.

      • The idea of the Color revolutions is that they intend to restrict my rights to elect (by overthrowing the elected Government) and my speech freedom (by instituting anti-authoritorian propaganda), so that in the end I would ostensibly get more rights (when Russia is all that white and fluffy true democracy).

        The caveat is, that we in Russia had periods of time when rights of the people were restricted in the name of some supreme goal which would make everybody happy in the end. It did not work. And I don’t have any illusions that this new attempt would be any more successful.

        I believe, that once you refuse of your rights, it’s extremely hard to win them back. That’s why I object color revolutions in Russia and I will use my rights to protest peacefully against them. The problem with the color revolutions is not the goals, but the methods suggested to achieve those goals.

        Remember which road is paved with good intentions.

  12. Mark,

    There was a fun recent article in the Russian press about radical Islam in Russia:

    http://ivanovo.kp.ru/print/article/25679/838539

    Ваххабизм в России и его составляющая террор – это прежде всего большой криминальный бизнес, по отношению к исламу ничего не имеющий, кроме издевательского цинизма. Схема бизнеса очень проста. Работают различные банды, задача которых – нести пропаганду в арабские нефтяные страны о том, что в России преследуют мусульман! Под это дело в арабских странах собирается много денег для защиты братьев-единоверцев. Только Саудовская Аравия жертвует до 40 миллионов долларов в год. Но россказни о преследовании мусульман надобно подкреплять. Нужны реальные мученики за веру – убитые и посаженные в тюрьму. На роль мучеников нужны кретины.

    Replace radical Islam for radical Liberalism, Saudi Arabia for the United States, and you’ll get the idea of the nature of color revolutions…

  13. There’s a fantastic new article at Russian “Vzglyad” about PARNAS:

    http://vz.ru/politics/2011/7/2/504230.html

    It incorporates three evidences each of which has a potential to alter the current narrative:

    1) Leader of a regional branch of PARNAS, Andrey Pivovarov, leaves the party making some interesting claims apropos of real and faked members:

    “Q: Вас лично просили, скажем так, обеспечить необходимые документы и подписи любой ценой?”

    “A: От Петербурга хотели за три месяца получить 3 тыс. членов новой никому не известной оппозиционной партии. Реально нам удалось собрать порядка 600, что, видимо, сильно разочаровало Москву, но «рисовать» результат мы не стали. В укор мне ставилось, что в других регионах собирают по 1,5 тыс. членов — только я почему-то никогда не слышал о пикетах количеством больше десяти человек.

    Если говорить о документах, которые собирались в Петербурге, я абсолютно уверен, что все в порядке. Численный состав регионального отделения может быть и не столь велик, но достаточен, чтобы пройти все законные и незаконные проверки. Поэтому я в сложном положении – тот, кто действовал честно – не рекордсмен, а, значит, теряет позиции. Просто на определенном этапе пришло осознание что задача стоит не в реальной регистрации а личном пиаре руководства на отказе в регистрации. Но если бы мы реально смогли достучаться до людей, тогда в ответ отказ в регистрации – на улицу вышли бы не пара сотен – а десятки тысяч человек. Вот только такая ли цель стояла у руководства организации вопрос. Ведь 50 тыс. членов — это реальная сила, которая может в случае чего устроить и настоящие выборы руководства, а надо ли это — большой вопрос.”

    http://infox.ru/authority/party/2011/07/01/Pivovarov__politiku_.phtml

    2) A journalist claims that a deputy leader of a regional branch of PARNAS in Hakassia is also a deputy leader of the regional organized crime.

    http://rukhakasia.livejournal.com/174934.html?mode=reply

    3) Maksim Petrovich, a member of the political council of PARNAS, makes some intriguing claims about American money serving to instill a “twitter revolution” (like that in Libya) in Russia:

    “Q: Можно об этих документах поподробнее?”

    “A: Вот так называемый “Договор пожертвования”. По нему некоммерческая корпорация “Международный республиканский институт” (США) в РФ жертвует Фонду поддержки молодежных инициатив “Образ будущего” 240 тысяч рублей. Деньги предназначены (как указано в “Дополнении к договору пожертвования”) на проведение “круглого стола” под названием “Конференция: iWeekend: Новые
    технологии для гражданского общества” 23—24 октября 2010 года в Москве. Я присутствовал на этом мероприятии и могу сказать, что за фасадом развития информтехнологий, в частности, ознакомления активистов молодежных движений (в том числе такого радикального, как “Оборона”) с возможностями Интернета скрываются определенные планы. Например, как использовать современные средства связи (и прежде всего Интернет), чтобы собрать в нужное время и в нужном месте толпу и устроить акцию, как мне видится, нечто вроде “твиттерной революции”. Как это произошло, например, в Ливии. Прямо об этом, конечно, не говорилось, но совершенно конкретно подразумевалось.

    У меня нет никаких сомнений в том, что в любой цивилизованной стране политиков, получающих деньги из-за рубежа, не только с позором удалили бы из публичной сферы общества, но и подвергли бы уголовному преследованию. Не за идеи, разумеется, а по сугубо уголовным статьям. Ибо сокрытие доходов, а тем более получение финансирования из-за рубежа на ведение политической деятельности карается в западных странах самым жестким образом.”

    http://www.mk.ru/politics/article/2011/07/01/602169-oppozitsioner-obrushilsya-na-kolleg.html

    ———————–

    The bottom line is: OMG.

    • and so?

      Doesn’t change the principle of the matter, and if you poke at a lot of other parties, you’ll find organized crime, including some of the state’s own number one very organized criminals.

  14. Pingback: Russia: Parnas; Prokhorov; Tandem · Global Voices

  15. This is appalling stuff, as usual, and filled with the usual Fisking.

    Only 40 out of 40,000 plus registered is an entirely negligible number and it shouldn’t be taken seriously at all. With some names very common, it’s also easy to make mistakes about their provenance.

    As for the arcane governing issues, one could pose the question whether this is a just law in the first place that gets down into such weeds as to how parties should govern themselves. It’s excessive and intrusive on the government’s part. I’ve seen this with the NGO law, as well.

    What’s truly amazing is the lengths that pro-Putin bloggers like AGT will go to, to justify what is clearly an oppressive and anti-democratic act designed to keep down the opposition before elections — the net effect here is to say “yes, the government has a case that this party is rightfully rejected”.

    The extraordinary amount of time and energy spent on nit-picking research only amounts to a form of lawfare, and it’s lawfare in the interests of undermining the true rule of law.

    It doesn’t seem to occur to AGT to declare the law itself as unjust, rather than merely to concede that perhaps PARNAS has a case, if it copied charters from other parties, and all of them are technically in violation of this nerdy, intrusive Kremlin interference in their universal right to political association.

    These aren’t “legal” issues — they are issues like Colbert’s truthiness — it’s not authentic rule of law but harassment.

    • Cathy, did you even read my post? I’m hardly defending the Kremlin here, let alone Putin (whom I mention exactly once, in passing). Your comment suggests that you either skimmed or misunderstood what I wrote. Take another look, lazybones.

      I’m not interested in declaring laws “unjust.” AGT is an outlet for research and analysis, not your whiny brand of moralizing. One is perfectly free to think that political party registration laws are too strict in Russia. The factor most important to PARNAS’ rejection, however, seems to be unfair enforcement. Whatever you think about “lawfare,” it’s something Russians have to deal with on a daily basis. If only for that reason, it’s worth studying.

  16. Yes, dear, I read through your post carefully, twice. You’re trying to feign fake “even-handedness” by pointing out that the grounds that PARNAS was rejected could have been invoked on other parties. And you’re engaging in your usual very gingerly acknowledgement that gosh, maybe the Russian government is too finicky.

    But I saw what you did there.

    You engaged in that Fisking in order to make the (facetious) point about the 40 members “in violation” and to burn in the point that no one would contest the rejection on the grounds of violation of the regulation on governance. In other words, ultimately to dismiss the party as unviable and as in violation, really, anyway. Law is law, eh?

    But…It’s more than fine to state as a factual matter that Russian laws affecting parties are overly restrictive and intrusive — indeed, it’s the sort of intellectual judgement that is the hallmark of a rational mind, by contrast with an ideologized hysterical mind.

    There’s nothing “whiny” about pointing out the facts of the matter: the Kremlin doesn’t want competition and gins up technicalities like this, like the principle “Byl by chelovek, a delo naydyotsya”.

    On Twitter, on your blog, elsewhere, you’ve been obsessed with this new party. Does it threaten you in some way?

    Gosh, why do you think this unfair enforcement only applies here?!

    • There’s nothing fake or distracting about pointing out that the Justice Ministry could/should have rejected all other parties’ registration for similar reasons. This was precisely what Nemtsov told Ekho Moskvy immediately after PARNAS ran into its current trouble. I certainly don’t encourage the ‘dead souls’ grounds for rejection. As I stated above:

      “[…] the twenty-one people misidentified as members is statistically insignificant. It’s also meaningless in principle, as any organization with more than forty thousand followers will inevitably attract a few turncoats or commit a handful of record-keeping errors.”

      In other words, I’ve argued that the only technical (legal) justification for denying PARNAS’ registration (the charter issues) is widely unenforced. I have no idea why you’ve interpreted this to mean I support the Justice Ministry’s decision. Clearly I don’t.

      I’m not convinced that Russian registration laws are “overly restrictive and intrusive.” If that’s the opinion of “a rational mind,” I’ve yet to see the rationale explaining it. The problem is equal enforcement, which clearly doesn’t exist.

      Once again, you bizarrely make this a personal thing. I’ve been “obsessed” with PARNAS on Twitter, my blog, and “elsewhere” (???) — hence I’m threatened? AGT is a Russia watching blog. PARNAS was a major news event. So I wrote a post about it. End of story.

      • No, it’s entirely fake. Because you don’t really believe that now, do you. Because all you’re doing is pointing out how arbitrary the Russian state is, but not calling it out, not subjecting it to the slightest bit of judgement. If a party doesn’t get registered in these arbitrary circumstances, well, they must not have the right hook up or be the right sort.

        Indeed, Russian laws are overly intrusive. Have you ever been a member of a Russian organization or followed how their boards work? I have. And of course now, among the restrictions is that foreigners can no longer be board members, which is preposterous and xenophobic.

        An organization that can’t have a smaller body elect its chief officers, especially financial and program officers, is a body that is subject in the Russian conditions to fake and manipulated democracy. For example, if the class of subjects of who can come to an annual meeting is “anybody” or “whoever the state can infiltrate” or “divisive factions,” then the people who procure the assets for the organizations and provide the essential content for its work are subjected to either stray, sectarian, or state-manipulated forces that “elect” others who depart from the organization’s mission. That’s very deliberate.

        The problem isn’t just equal enforcement; the problem is bad law. It’s oppressive to demand that organizations form annual meetings with larger bodies of people from which the chief officers are elected. That’s one model, and it works for some types of organizations, but it’s one people should be able to freely chose or not, as in the Russian setting it can be heavily manipulated.

  17. Most people who aren’t Kremlin-supporters look at the rejection of this party and say “that’s wrong”. You’re unable to say that. In fact, your earliest tweets were saying things like “Well, what if in fact they didn’t comply with the law?” If you didn’t intend to flag their violation with the dead souls, why are you parsing it in such detail.

    It’s not your *writing* about PARNAS that is a problem — it’s your writing about it *with a huge bias against it* from the start. And that’s just plain odd. Of course Russia’s laws are overly restrictive when they have this much intrusiveness into the governance of NGOs and parties, and when they create laws that favour only the most rigidly state-controlled entities. That should be obvious.

    • Detail is my business. You’re clearly bored by it, which is why I’m puzzled that you read AGT at all.

      “Most people” doesn’t interest me. In the polemics of Russian politics, many cynics of the opposition saw the rejection of PARNAS as an intentionally botched registration effort, designed to fail to avoid an elections blowout but maintain the appearance of state persecution. Many cynics of the authorities saw it as the state suppressing independent opposition. I looked at the legal facts to examine the issue without “of course” assumptions.

      You still haven’t explained why the law is overly intrusive. PARNAS wasn’t denied registration because it failed to live up to the accepted standards: it was rejected because the state arbitrarily changed the standard.

      The law doesn’t favor state-supported parties. The enforcement does. That is the whole point here, man.

      • I’m busy with other things so I don’t take as much time as I should countering all your pro-Kremlin propaganda, but it is a task more people should take up.

        I don’t buy this “intentionally botched” stuff. That’s the old Soviet concept of dissidents deliberately becoming whiney victims to appeal to Western sympathies that distracts from Soviet oppression — and the same model is continued by the Russian heirs of the system.

        If you have only 40 people out of 40,000 rejected, that sure doesn’t look like you deliberately botched your own application. If you follow the same model for elections that half a dozen other registered parties follow de-facto in “violation” of the law (an unjust law), that hardly looks like self-sabotage.

        You aren’t really looking at legal facts sincerely; from the minute this story appeared, you were providing the usual pro-Kremlin contrarian take claiming that maybe they were wrong, maybe they filled out their application incorrectly, maybe the state had a case.

        But it doesn’t. This party doesn’t deserve to be non-registered any more than any other small liberal party. They don’t deserve not to be in the parliament where they would cross the threshold of 5 percent if it weren’t for scores of factors that make elections unfair.

        I’ve explained above why the law is overly intrusive. And by analogy, you don’t elect the Democratic or Republican party candidates by majoritarian mass vote. If you did, rent-a-crowds and fake Democrats and astro-turfing would abound and it could get difficult to create a fair system. Parties have elections of nominees by smaller bodies for good reason, to keep their identity and their goals. So they have caucasus and primaries and so on.

        Or take another example: Amnesty International uses the Annual General Meeting model where large numbers of members can vote on the officers. Of course, this is pre-cooked in various ways, but it is a large body. Human Rights Watch’s board, however, of 30 or 40 people or however many it is, elects its officers from among that group, or establishes who will rotate into various offices by consensus. If they were forced to take larger bodies of constituents then they could be subverted from within. Of course this is just the sort of fake “people’s democracy” that we’d expect in the Soviet legacy.

        The Kremlin is arbitrary about this to make sure it has ample room to control the situation in different settings. If the larger constituency could vote in ways that were meaningful and not manipulated, then Kremlin-sponsored parties might find themselves in danger. So they allow this de-facto system of smaller bodies to function as it is in fact in their favour, too in the present circumstances.

  18. With all due repect to the comments above, any invasion or attack by NATO/US on the Russia OR vice versa is utterly short-sighted at this point. I’ll give you a few examples of the Growing Interdependence of the Russian Federation and Europe and US:

    ColumbiaU: #Russia #EU Energy InterDependence-75-80% #Russia Oil&Gas exports linked 2 #EU http://t.co/a3h1OaL #US #NATO

    @msnbc #Russia, #US’s *old* space rival, 2shuttle people 2 INTERNATIONAL #Space Station http://t.co/N7wOjuk #NATO

    @reuters #Putin signs #energy, #car deals *WITH* #France | Reuters http://t.co/lxDqSu5 #US #NATO #russia

    @ria_novosti #France transfers sensitive #Mistral warship technology to #Russia http://t.co/4mZ4QRy #US #NATO

    v census.gov #US #russia TOTAL Trade 2010 > $31 Blln http://tinyurl.com/634pcn8 #NATO

    @UPI_Top #Putin says #UK British Oil Co. #BP can help develop #Arctic oil – http://t.co/1XAkxLw #US #NATO

    @russiabeyond 2010 #EU #Russia Trade $298.8 billion http://t.co/btguvWA #US #NATO

    @seattlepi #US #Obama lauds $4Blln Boeing 737 sale to #Russia http://t.co/SugQZqP #NATO

    It’s simply backwards thinking on Either Side of the Pacific (yes, the US still has politicians calling VV Putin a communist and yes, regretfully, only 41% of US citizens voted in 2010 – info from George Mason Univ.) that either party will attack the other.

    This may sound foolish, but I honestly think a whole lot of antiquated ideas and thinking could be rapidly dismissed with if Obama and Medvedev (or perhaps Joe Biden and VV Putin) held a PAIR of joint town hall meetings: At least one each at a high school in Russia and another at a high school in the USA.

    The new and growing reality is that we need each other.
    Enjoyed reading both the blog and the thoughtful comments. Kind regards from Oregon.

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