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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Other Russia Offers a Rollback Plan

Itar-TassKasparov, right, discussing the coalition's platform with Kovalyov, center, and The Other Russia political council member Alexander Osovtsov on Sunday.
The Other Russia opposition coalition adopted a political platform Sunday as it continued preparations for primaries to select a unity opposition candidate in October.

With the identity of the coalition's candidate for March's presidential election still undecided and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov having jumped ship, leaders of The Other Russia said the creation of the platform, which proposes to undo some of the political changes of the past seven years, was an important step.

"From the very beginning, we tried to avoid introducing points of conflict in our program," former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, one of the coalition leaders, said Saturday, the first day of the conference. "We have tried to propose a program that will be compelling for all of our supporters."

One topic of discussion was whether The Other Russia, which is not registered as an official party, should try to run candidates for State Duma elections in December, or instead, boycott the vote.

Kasparov said he favored taking part.

"It wouldn't be right to boycott the Duma elections completely," Kasparov said. "It is a powerful structure, elected by the people."

But he also insisted that the presidential election was the only real opportunity "to remove the current political regime," referring to the current Duma as a "puppet structure."

Eduard Limonov, a founder of the banned National Bolshevik Party, said The Other Russia might propose a list of 450 of the country's "most famous and respected" people, and try to register the list despite the lack of party status. He labeled the ban against candidates not nominated by registered parties as unconstitutional, Interfax reported Sunday.

Limonov also took the opportunity to dismiss as "a journalistic ruse" reports that he was forming a new party.

"We already have a party," Limonov said. "We just need to give it another name and try to register it again."

The 10-part platform passed at the conference combined clauses aimed at reversing measures introduced during the presidency of Vladimir Putin with those of a populist hue.

The "anti-Putin" clauses included limiting the president's constitutional powers, removing all limits placed on political activity, bringing back direct gubernatorial and Federation Council elections and prohibiting control of the mass media by the state or big business.

Vladimir Filonov / MT
A fake bill with Berezovsky's picture that activists threw at the conference. It reads "Sold for 30 pieces of silver."

More populist points included the revision of the major privatizations of the 1990s and compensating people for the loss of savings and investments during the reforms of the same period, the investment of excess energy export revenues in pensions, boosting the birth rate and reducing dependence on resource exports by investing in research and high technology.

The last plank in the platform called for Russia to take a leading role in a new union of post-Soviet states based on common strategic interests.

Leaders of The Other Russia said the platform would be worked out further over the following three months and that the unity candidate selected by October would be able to introduce some changes in line with his or her own views.

But agreeing on such a candidate remains the main difficulty ahead for the coalition.

Kasyanov, who announced his decision to leave the coalition last Tuesday, after refusing to take part in the primary process to choose a candidate, is now forming a party of his own, to be called The People for Freedom and Justice.

One of the most serious questions that remain is whether such a unity opposition candidate would stand any real chance in a presidential vote.

"The opposition shouldn't be promising electoral success. You have to be honest that it won't happen," said Sergei Kovalyov, chairman of the human rights group Memorial. "And if there is no hope of winning the election, then nominating a unity candidate is just a propagandistic device."

He said the unity candidate should use the election campaign "to explain the truth about the Kremlin to as many people as possible."

While just a few dozen people attended the conference on Saturday, the arrival of regional delegates for the Sunday sessions swelled the crowd at the Holiday Inn hotel near Belorusskaya metro station.

The building was guarded by dozens of police, who were joined Saturday by about 50 activists from two pro-Kremlin youth groups, Young Guard and Young Russia.

The young people shouted "You are selling Russia to Berezovsky!" and threw fake $30 bills at those entering the building.

Self-exiled billionaire Boris Berezovsky, living under political asylum in Britain, recently told The Guardian newspaper that he was financing The Other Russia, a claim the coalition's leaders have repeatedly denied.

On Sunday, the pro-Kremlin demonstrators greeted conference participants with an orchestra playing funeral music and lit candles on the pavement for the repose of The Other Russia, which, they said, no longer existed after Kasyanov's exit.

The participants answered with laughter and cries of "shame," as well as producing booklets about the latest victims of what they called political repression in Russia.