Five State Duma deputie set up informal grouping in
the lower house.
After weeks of consultations, the handful of liberals, who won single-mandate
seats to the lower house in December's parliamentary elections, have formed
a league of their own. It was presented to the press at a news conference
at Interfax. The coalition was formed by members of two right-of-centre
parties which failed to win Duma seats in last year's elections - Yabloko's
Galina Khovanskaya, Sergei
Popov, Mikhail Zadornov
and Liberal Russia's Viktor Pokhmelkin. Vladimir Ryzhkov, an independent,
also joined the group.
The latter, incidentally, did not show up at the news conference on
Wednesday. ''He is currently in Altai (Ryzhkov's home region where
he won his Duma seat - Gazeta.Ru) and has not been able to leave
Barnaul for two days now,'' Zadornov informed the press. "We were
all elected in single-mandate constituencies by people who adhere to
certain liberal-democratic views,''Mikhail Zadornov told the press.
"The group's creation is our response to anti-democratic actions
undertaken by the Duma majority after the elections,'' Viktor Pokhmelkin
The new group is clearly unable to provide an effective
counterbalance to the pro-Kremlin United Russia faction that
controls as many as 306 seats in the lower house Under new Duma
regulations endorsed shortly after the Duma elections, to secure official
status, a deputy group has to have at least 55 members.
At any rate, Galina Khovanskaya admitted, they had failed to
meet the required minimum. She is convinced that had they managed
to win over 55 deputies to their side, the Duma majority would
have amended the regulations again, increasing the number of
deputies needed to form a deputy group from 55 to, say, 75.
Still, the liberals are not ready to give up and have already
begun consultations with five other deputies who may also join their
informal coalition in the near future. At the same time not everyone is
welcome to join, Viktor Pokhmelkin said. For example, Sergei Glazyev,
the embattled co-chairman of the Motherland bloc who has been at
loggerheads with his one-time ally, Dmitry Rogozin and who faces
expulsion from his faction, was hinted at.
The new coalition plans to advance legislative initiatives
well-known to he five. For instance, they will take an active part in
debates on the new Housing Code, with Galina Khovanskaya a recognized
expert in that sphere. Lawyer Sergei Popov will oversee amendments
to the package of laws on judicial reform, amendments to the
Administrative Code, and improvements to the law on enforcing court
orders. Viktor Pokhmelkin, co-founder of the Automotive Russia
movement, will seek to improve the new car insurance laws.
Journalists attending the news conference could not help thinking
that the group was another attempt by Vladimir Ryzhkov to set up a
right-wing faction in the State Duma. That idea and Ryzhkov's
candidacy for the post of new liberal leader was actively discussed
after the December polls, only to be dropped shortly afterwards, since
Yabloko and the Union of Right-Wing Forces rejected the proposals.
Some even said that Ryzhkov was the latest project of the Kremlin's
spin doctors, alarmed over the liberals' failure to secure seats in
the lower house. On Wednesday the five dispelled those doubts,
claiming that their decision to set up the coalition was their own
initiative and that they had had no negotiations with people from "there".
of 5 Deputies Tries to Find Its Voice, By Caroline McGregor, The Moscow
Times, February 19, 2004 Zadornov, together with Vladimir Ryzhkov, Sergei
Popov, Viktor Pokhmelkin, and Galina Khovanskaya, were left to fend for
themselves when their obvious allies, leading liberal-democratic parties
Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, failed to win seats in December's