Sunday, 25 March 2007

Russia: the next top police state?

In the 21st century, there are still plenty of police states around — Syria, Turkmenistan, Lybia, North Korea, Sudan, Burma, arguably Pakistan, and Zimbabwe, to list a few. But can Russia be counted among them? We have seen more and more undemocratic reform and authoritarian power-grabbing — not to mention, journalist and dissident intimidation and killing — by Russian President Putin. Putin seems to think he can never have too much power, and the Russian secret police (FSB, etc.) seem to share that view, as do the many organized crime gangs.

The restriction of freedoms in Russia is only getting worse...
Luke Harding of The Guardian reports:

Supreme court ban on liberal party wipes out opposition to Putin
· Republicans accused of violating electoral law
· Protest rally planned amid fears of a police state

Russia's next parliament is likely to have no genuine opposition after a court in Moscow yesterday banned a leading liberal party from standing in elections.

Russia's supreme court announced that it had liquidated the small Republican party, claiming that it had violated electoral law by having too few members. The party is one of very few left in Russia that criticises President Vladimir Putin.

The move against Russia's opposition came as pro-democracy activists prepared for the latest in a series of anti-government rallies that have infuriated Russia's hardline authorities.
Critics say the legislation is designed to kill off smaller parties that oppose the Kremlin.

Russia's tiny opposition is represented in the current Duma by four or five MPs. Pro-Kremlin parties predominate among the 447 deputies. The small opposition Republican party, banned yesterday, was formed by defectors from the Soviet Communist party. It emerged in 1990 on the wave of liberalism encouraged by then-Kremlin leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The Republican party has one MP, Vladimir Ryzhkov; its other attempts to win seats have repeatedly failed. But it has played a solid role in the liberal opposition. The liberal Yabloko party also has two MPs. Two other anti-Putin MPs sit as independents. In theory, the opposition includes Russia's Communist party and the far-right Liberal Democratic party. In reality, they rarely if ever voice opposition to the Kremlin, observers point out.

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