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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: A Predictable Duma Rout For 'Liberals'




On Friday, the Kremlin-Communist bloc that dominates the State Duma again sneeringly flexed its muscles. Already the Communists and Vladimir Putin's pet bloc, Unity, have divided up all of the Duma's top jobs and committees. On Friday they added insult to injury: Each party in the Duma gets to appoint a deputy speaker - but the Kremlin-Communist bloc gleefully rejected the candidates from Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, or SPS.


The jobs in dispute are not in themselves terribly important; deputy speakers have little power. But that just made the symbolism of the affair all the more frank: Liberals need not apply to run anything in the Duma.


This was a predictable development. There has never been much difference between Unity and the Communists. Their members are practically interchangeable - Gennady Seleznyov, Alexander Rutskoi, Nikolai Kondratenko, Yevgeny Nazdratenko. Both parties are packed with careerists and opportunists, both pay lip service to civil liberties and free markets, both support the suppression of Chechnya, both advocate "a stronger state" and more state intervention in the economy ... in fact, the only differences we can see are that the Communists also talk about social welfare concerns, while Unity talks about land privatizations.


Nonetheless, Russia's liberals are now moaning that they have been "betrayed" by Unity. On the contrary, it is the liberals who betrayed the people - back in December, when they so eagerly embraced the government's war and its dirty campaign tricks.


Liberalism is supposed to stand for democratic views - for respecting and valuing the individual. Instead, the SPS crowd cheerily benefited from the G?bbelsesque propaganda on Kremlin-loyal television; and when SPS icon Anatoly Chubais called Yabloko's Grigory Yavlinsky "a traitor" for questioning the war, no one at SPS even blinked.


Afterward, while the SPS team was giddily congratulating itself on its newfound "relevance," the Kremlin was quietly gathering those people who speak its language - the Communists and the LDPR - and establishing a nomenklatura Duma.


Yabloko, Fatherland-All Russia and SPS boycotted it briefly. Eventually they gave that up; Sergei Kiriyenko even claimed victory, saying he had struck a deal under which the SPS economic agenda was going to be adopted immedi ately and wholesale.


And now look: Liberals can't even get a few token sinecures; on Friday they couldn't even get Andrei Babitsky's fate put on the agenda. Liberals are less relevant than ever - and the only surprise in this is how many people are indignantly surprised, including the SPS crowd themselves.


- Matt Bivens