Russia denied registration of a key opposition political party Wednesday, effectively barring it from upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections that the Kremlin had hinted might be open to some competition.
The refusal signals the government plans to tightly manage the elections, critics said, despite avowals from President Dmitry Medvedev that he would like to see some opening up of Russia’s political life.
“This is an announcement that there will be no elections, because there will be no opposition parties,” said Boris Nemtsov, one of the leaders of the People’s Freedom Party, which was cobbled together by four prominent Kremlin critics in December. “The decision comes from the very top.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. was “disappointed” by the news, and troubled as well by reports that Russian supporters of the party had been pressured to resign from their jobs or disavow their signatures supporting its registration.
The Council of Europe called the Russian government move a “worrying signal, all the more when it intervenes on the eve of the parliamentary and presidential elections.”
The Kremlin has shunted aside serious opposition parties over the years by saddling them with administrative hurdles and ignoring them in the state-controlled media. Though a presidential poll will be held next year, the main question is whether Mr. Medvedev or his mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, will run.
The Justice Ministry said it denied registration because it found violations in the 45,000 signatures that the party had submitted with its application. Some signatories were dead, some underage, and still others were not residents of Russia, said a one-page decision published on the Ministry’s website.
Mikhail Kasyanov, a former prime minister who helped found the party, called the allegations absurd, but that party leaders saw little point in attempting to register again.
Eight other opposition parties have tried to register in the past four years, he said, and all of them have been rejected for technical reasons. “In Russia, you need to get permission to practice politics,” he said. “We tried and we failed.”
Full Article: Russia Blocks Registration of Opposition Party – WSJ.com.