Opposition Leaders Plan Mass Protest Following Registration Denial

People's Freedom Party leaders. Source: Radio SvobodaLeaders of the People’s Freedom Party, a recently-formed opposition party that was denied the official registration needed to take part in elections by the Russian Justice Ministry earlier this week, announced at a press conference on Thursday that they plan to hold a large civil protest against Russia’s existing political monopoly, Kasparov.ru reports.

Party leaders Mikhail Kasyanov, Vladimir Milov, Vladimir Ryzhkov and Boris Nemtsov said it was necessary to hold a large-scale protest to unite opposition forces to fight against the current regime and to undertake a radical change of course. Forces independent from the ruling authorities, they said, could possibly be united by one slogan: “Not one vote to the Party of Swindlers and Thieves, the Front of Swindlers and Thieves, or to the leader of the Swindlers and Thieves or their acolytes,” referring to the ruling United Russia party and its leader, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

“Now it’s clear to everyone that the elections are going to be illegitimate, since independent parties are not taking part in them and the “Party of Swindlers and Thieves” and their acolytes are taking part,” said Nemtsov.

According to Milov, there’s a need to “switch to concrete forms of activity that will bring concrete results.” He also noted that although the party won’t be able to participate in State Duma elections this October, it may have time to forward a candidate for the presidential election in March 2012.

“The parliamentary elections are going to be a farce. One could assume the same about the presidential election. There’s no point in participating in a face,” Nemtsov argued.

Commenting on the Justice Ministry’s decision to deny the party registration, Kasyanov stated that he considers the party to be legitimate and fully formed, regardless of the government’s attempts to hinder its growth and the pressure it exerted on party branches in Russia’s regions. Milov also touched on the fact that recent polls give the People’s Freedom Party 9 percent of the overall vote in Moscow – above the 7 percent minimum needed to hold seats in the State Duma.

Kasyanov went on to call the denial “illegal,” as it contradicts Russia’s international agreements – in particular, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which contains a definitive list of singular reasons a government may deny registration to a political party: to prevent threats to national security, to prevent mass rioting, to prevent threats to the health of its citizens, and to defend human rights and freedoms.

Ryzhkov noted that the official reason given by the Justice Ministry as to why the party was denied registration – that the names of 13 deceased persons were on the list of party members – is moot considering that the 46,133 remaining names are still enough to register the party.

Moreover, the party has received word that government officials have been forcing some party members to write letters alleging that they were included in the party without their consent.

The United States and European Union have both expressed disappointment in the Russian government for turning down the party’s registration application.

The four party leaders said they “don’t see the point” in appealing the registration denial in court, but won’t make a final decision until the party conference on July 4.