Experts: Rodina popularity expected to grow despite ban
The Russian political arena has been boiling ahead of the next Moscow Duma election. In the latest development, Moscow City Court has decided to ban Rodina party, headed by Dmirty Rogozin, from participating in the upcoming elections, scheduled for next Sunday (December 4). According to political observers, the authorities were concerned by the party’s growing popularity among voters and fabricated law violation charges to ban Rodina as Novye Izvestia put it Monday "Rodina punished for refusing to toe official line".
The court accepted a complaint by Vladimir Zhirinovsky's ultranationalist party LDPR about an ad by Rodina, which was deemed "incites ethnic hatred." LDPR is Rodina's bitter rival, which try to win the hearts of nationalist voters.
Before the ban, Rogozin himself predicted that his party would win at least 15 percent of the vote. This estimate was upheld by the most recent polls which were carried out in Moscow. According to Kommersant newspaper, Rodina - Russia's fastest-growing political party -was expected to gain at least 14 percent at the Moscow Duma’s election.
Furthermore, some observers even projected much stronger showing for Rodina. For example, Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank, expected Rodina to take as high as 25 percent.
Following the ruling, party leaders have already said they plan to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. Sergei Buntin, a spokesman for Rogozin, confirmed on Sunday that the party lawyers would try to file the appeal as soon as possible. According to the party web site, Rodina lawyers were initially denied entry to the courtroom, and police forcefully disbanded a protest organized by party advocates in front of the courthouse.
Rogozin criticized the court's decision, describing it as a "provocation" and a "farce." In an interview on Ekho Moskvy radio, he stated it was the result of fears that his party was gaining ground on United Russia, the party supported by City Hall as well as the Kremlin. Rogozin said the campaign ad contained no racist overtones but rather targeted illegal immigration.
Political circles voiced their rejection to the ban. For instance, Pyotr Miloserdov, a Communist City Duma deputy was quoted as saying by Ekho Moskvy that "An enormous number of Muscovites have been stripped of the opportunity to vote for the party they trust." Western observers were also quick to denounce the ban.
Now, it seems that in any case with or without the acceptance of the current appeal, Rodina popularity will continue to grow ahead of the 2007 State Duma and 2008 presidential elections, thanks to its focus on Russian nationalism and social justice together with the charismatic personality of its leader, Rogozin.