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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

INSIDE RUSSIA: Duma Politics As Simple as Buying Stock




A few days ago, one of my friends drove into bankruptcy a company belonging to another friend of mine. As I am tender and delicate by nature I sympathized with both friends, and asked them what could be behind such an ugly situation.


"Wouldn't it have been simpler to pay out on the stocks?" I asked.


"Why pay if you don't have to?" came the answer. This peculiarity of Russian business - don't pay the minority shareholder whenever possible - made its debut in the county's big politics. It could be seen at work in the transfer of property in Russia's most famous stock market, the State Duma.


The scandal has two main components. The first is well known: One faction, having the Duma's controlling stock, decided to name a general director on its own - Gennady Seleznyov. The minority holders considered this to be undemocratic.


The second component of the scandal is more vague and has to do with an unsuccessful attempt to scratch Grigory Yavlinsky off the People's Deputy roster. It used to be, in the Duma, that the various committee chairmanships were handed out among parties. Single-mandate candidates simply never got organized enough to show up when the pie was being cut.


But this year, the single-mandate deputies almost instantly formed the People's Deputy party. This new group holds a stock packet of 80 people and immediately demanded proportional quota in the Duma committees. In response, Yavlinsky said the committees should be shared by all parties.


Naturally, that answer got a pretty halfhearted response from the People's Deputy boys. The further we go, the more we see. Yabloko got the international committee. Yabloko wished to see its member Vladimir Lukin at its helm, which didn't suit the majority of the Duma at all. Union of Right Forces, or SPS, got the committee on information politics. But SPS wanted Irina Khakamada at the head of that committee, which also didn't suit the majority in the Duma at all. All of these backstairs squabbles resulted in an unexpected regrouping of power: Unity went off and united with the Communists and the People's Deputy - instead of uniting with SPS. Instead, SPS ended up with Yabloko and Fatherland, all at the same time.


Of course, a union of Unity with the Communists is a pretty unappetizing sight. The Duma's main stockholders have become a living example of that stock truism we were talking about earlier: "Why share when you don't have to?"


What's even funnier is watching the cheated minority present a clearly commercial dissolution as an ideological argument. Desperate squabbles over which committee will be in charge and what finances it will control are two things that can never be joined together. And, from a purely ideological point of view, SPS, with the left-of-center Fatherland, are even more absurd than the Communist union with the absolute ideological vacuum of Unity.


We can mourn the Duma's rebirth as a stock market, and know that money invested in this or that political party is money that gets you a big stock packet in the Duma itself. But the jilted stockholders who call themselves the democratic opposition can bet they'll get nothing more than a condescending smile.


Yulia Latynina writes for Segodnya.