Opposition Leaders Announce New Coalition

Source: ITAR-TASSA group of Russia’s most prominent opposition politicians have joined together to form a coalition they’re calling “For Russia without Tyranny or Corruption.” Members of the coalition made the announcement at a press conference at the headquarters of the opposition movement Solidarity on Thursday afternoon, Gazeta.ru reports.

The coalition includes a number of formerly high-ranking politicians who have since joined the Russian opposition, including former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, former Energy Minister Vladimir Milov, and former longtime State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov.

The agreement signed by coalition members states that their goal is to prepare to participate in upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. Specifically, they plan to choose a single candidate from amongst their ranks to run for president in 2012. Who precisely this is going to be will be decided at a national session of the coalition, members say.

Over the course of the coming year, the coalition plan to collect the 45 thousand signatures necessary to federally register a political party. Without this registration, the party would be unable to participate in any regional or national elections.

Boris Nemtsov said he doesn’t doubt that the required number of signatures will be collected, as “there’s a demand in the regions for a new party.” At the same time, judging by previous experience, the coalition isn’t excluding the possibility that problems hindering registration could arise nevertheless.

“In that case, we’ll go out and stand up for the 13th article of the constitution, which guarantees citizens the right to create a party,” said Nemtsov. “And there’s a 13th date in every month,” he added, referencing the protest movement in defense of the 31st article of the constitution, which is held on the 31st of every month with that date.

Members of the coalition stressed that the creation of For Russia without Tyranny of Corruption was something they were forced to do. Each of the four will remain the heads of separate opposition organizations, as they were before. “We joined together to overcome the barriers [to participating in elections] that come from unjust laws,” said Kasyanov. “But we have to respect even unjust laws.”

A small scandal broke out when the state-owned news agency RIA Novosti suddenly refused to allow the oppositionists to use the agency’s premises to hold Thursday’s press conference. While the agency originally agreed on Tuesday to lend out the space, they unexpectedly cancelled the conference an hour and a half before its scheduled time, citing “technical reasons.”

The oppositionists said the sudden cancellation was politically motivated.

Reporters at Gazeta.ru attempted to contact RIA Novosti to learn precisely what “technical reasons” means, but a press representative from the agency said she didn’t have that information. Editor-in-Chief Svetlana Mironyuk is out of town on a business trip, and press center manager Vladimir Aleksandrov was not reachable for comment.

In the end, opposition leaders invited journalists gathered for the event to Solidarity’s headquarters for the press conference.

Refusing to lend out space to hold meetings of the Russian opposition is a “systematic” problem, said United Civil Front Executive Director Denis Bilunov, “for example, in 2007.” At that time, the main victim of a variety of “technical mishaps” was the Other Russia coalition. For its first conference, organizers had to resort to “renting out the premises from precisely a western firm; we found a hotel that was of western ownership,” Bilunov said. Only then was the issue of being denied space resolved – for the moment. As to why opposition leaders have met with the same kind of problems once again, Bilunov remarked: “Clearly, election time is coming up, and the tendency is returning.”