Kommersant et al reported yesterday that Dmitry Rogozin (fmr. Rodina leader) suffered a setback when the Federal Registration Service refused to register his new nationalist party, ‘Great Russia‘. Though a lot of false accusations are thrown around about the FRS (and every other agency) making political decisions, this most likely fits that description. First, any other formidable party would automatically hurt the chances of Just Russia, which would result in United Russia having to ally with unreliable and unsavory characters (See, e.g., Vladimir Zhirinovsky) to form a majority in the Duma. Second, nationalist sentiment is on the rise in Russia, and I think the authorities are understandably worried about losing control over its growth and expression. A nation full of xenophobic skinheads just doesn’t scream, “Invest your money here!” Not registering certain ‘unsafe’ parties for technicalities can arguably achieve this purpose in certain circumstances. Rabblerousers like Limonov and the National Bolsheviks do not have a broader constituency and honestly do not care if they make it onto the ballot (much less believe in the ballot). But Rogozin and Great Russia do represent a segment of Russian society, and he has chosen not to simply cry to Western journalists about the outcome.
Gazeta.ru is reporting that Great Russia will pursue a three-pronged strategy in response to the FRS’ ruling – first, it will challenge the ruling in court; second, it will resubmit its application to the FRS; and third, an as yet unknown ‘plan B’. Gazeta.ru reports that while the “Great Russians guard the details of this plan in strict secrecy … its realization has already begun.” Furthermore, Gazeta reports that the General Prosecutor’s office is already looking into this mysterious plan B.
My take on this is that the Russian authorities have good reason to fear Great Russia. The past 7 years of Putin’s administration have been about achieving political stability and economic growth. In the upcoming Duma and Presidential elections, Putin is trying to forge a political reality that balances these goals and democracy and is not reliant on him or another personality. Hence, two parties have been created to give, in addition to the LDPR and the Communists, a ‘real choice’ but not ‘unsafe choices’. And while overreacting to shadily funded provocateurs like ‘the Other Russia’ is forgivable – nobody in ‘the real Russia’ cares – Putin and company may have overstepped in dealing with Great Russia similarly.