Peter Finn of the Washington Post keeps surprising us with unusually good (I mean, unusually good for the WP) publications on Russia. Solid home work, measured tone, lack of obvious ideological bias — what a refreshing contrast with WP editorials and op-eds!
One of the heroes of Finn’s latest article is Vladimir Ryzhkov, whose Republican Party has been recently deprived — by a decision of the Russia’s Supreme Court — of the status of political party. This may well prevent Ryzhkov from being elected into the next Duma, whose elections (in December 2007) will be held exclusively by the party list vote.
I like Ryzhkov. He’s an experienced parliamentarian and a person of principles and integrity. His only problem is his belief that, being a prominent politician, he’s entitled to his "own" party. But the political market in Russia is completely saturated, and any new structure can only be formed by M&A, rather than from scratch. It’s not impossible to find 50,000 liberal-minded people in Russia, especially in large cities. The problem is to persuade them to abandon "traditional" brands such as Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces (SPS) and join the party whose electoral prospect is all but certain.
Besides, intellectuals in St. Petersburg and Moscow consider Ryzhkov, who is originally from Altai and who has graduated from a third-rate Altai University, "provincial." Ryzhkov would therefore be much better off in the regions, but there, voters are staunchly pro-Putin, and Ryzhkov isn’t welcome there with his explicitly anti-Putin rhetoric.