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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Baburin Sets Up a Rival Rodina

Itar-TassBaburin, shown in the Duma on June 29, will head a new nine-deputy faction.
The split in the nationalist Rodina faction was formalized Tuesday by the State Duma Management Committee, which registered a breakaway group of nine deputies as a separate Duma faction, also under the name of Rodina.

The new faction is formed around Sergei Baburin, the leader of the People's Will party, who was expelled by the main Rodina bloc last week after a months-long power struggle with its leader, Dmitry Rogozin.

Rogozin said Tuesday that he would sue the Duma over what he called an "illegal, unconstitutional decision," and accused the United Russia party of manipulating the situation to undercut its "major political opponent."

The Rodina bloc was formed in 2003 out of three nationalist parties: People's Will, Rodina and the United Socialist Party of Russia. Last week, 26 out of the faction's 40 deputies voted to expel Baburin, citing his ambition to split the bloc. Rogozin loyalists said that Baburin was told by Kremlin officials to engineer a split.

Among the deputies in Baburin's new faction is Vladimir Shestakov, leader of the United Socialist Party of Russia. Baburin said Tuesday that four independent Duma deputies would also join his faction.

Baburin and his allies were triumphant. "It is important that ... the real Rodina, the people who worked to get elected have now ... come into the light out of Rogozin's shadow," said Yevgeny Devyatkin, a deputy who has joined Baburin's faction.

On hearing that the committee had registered Baburin's rival faction, a visibly irritated Rogozin defended his decision to expel Baburin and rejected criticisms that the split had weakened his position. "Unfortunately, vanity turned out to be Baburin's weak point, which the Kremlin schemers took advantage of. We have removed the mole from the faction, so it will now be able to operate normally," Rogozin told reporters.

Reached by telephone Tuesday evening, a Kremlin spokesman declined to comment.

Oleg Kovalyov, the head of the Duma Management Committee and a senior United Russia deputy, said Tuesday that the new faction had been registered in accordance with the law and that Rogozin's complaints were groundless. "They have provided all the required documents," Kovalyov told a news conference, speaking of Baburin's deputies. "We had no choice. We didn't create this faction, we only registered it." He added that, in his view, the trouble between the two factions stemmed from their leaders' ambitions.

Kovalyov said that on Wednesday his committee would allocate Duma resources to Baburin's new faction, and expected to receive a request to register its name. To distinguish between the two factions, Kovalyov suggested that they add party names to their factions. Thus, Baburin's faction would be called the Rodina faction of the People's Will party, and Rogozin's faction would be called the Rodina faction of the Rodina bloc, Kovalyov said.

Baburin's spokesman Yury Bondarenko said that Baburin planned to step down from his post as a deputy Duma speaker.

As to whether Rogozin's faction would be allowed to nominate a deputy Duma speaker in Baburin's place, Kovalyov said that the two factions had to sort it out between themselves. He said that Duma rules did not forbid any deputy or group of deputies from making nominations to the Duma Council.

Rogozin's faction on Tuesday said it would nominate one of its deputies, Alexander Babakov, as a deputy speaker, and also decided to rotate its chairmanship each Duma session among Rogozin, former co-leader Sergei Glazyev and another deputy, Valentin Varennikov. Glazyev will lead the faction for the Duma session starting September.

Alexei Makarkin, an analyst with the Center for Political Technologies, predicted that the new faction would spend a lot of its time criticizing Rogozin's faction.

The new faction would be "a constant critic of Rogozin's, well aware of the situation inside the faction and of Rogozin's weak points," Makarkin said. "Those people who created Rodina are probably now backing Baburin, as he is seen as more manageable and predictable, and has fewer political ambitions. But Rogozin still has allies in the Kremlin."