MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Sergei Kovalev.) - Dmitry Rogozin has resigned from the post of chairman of the Rodina Party.
"Out of tactical considerations, after a series of consultations with my political partners (the Kremlin is not one of them) and allies I decided to resign from all important posts in the Rodina Party, including the position of chairman," the Kommersant business daily quoted him as saying.
On March 25, the nationalist party will gather for its sixth congress, where members intend to discuss the chairman's future. They have quite a few questions to ask him.
Ahead of the congress they lashed out at their leader. Nikolai Novichkov, chairman of Rodina's coalition of people's patriotic movements, announced he was going to press for Rogozin's dismissal and excluding Alexander Chuyev and Andrei Savelyev from the party leadership, as they had plunged the party in "national intolerance and xenophobia."
Novichkov gained support from Vladimir Kishenin, chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Russia, Oleg Yevdokimov, chairman of the Social Democratic Association of Russia, Alexander Gorbunov, chairman of the Russian Social Democratic Center movement, and Oleg Venevitin, chairman of the Union of Young Social Democrats.
They signed an agreement on cooperation and undertook to "carry out joint political activities to achieve the main goal, i.e. to form a broad coalition of Russia's social democratic and socialist forces on the basis of the Social Democratic Party, which is ready to win the election to the fifth Russian parliament."
At first, Rodina founders presented it as a social and democratic party with an enlightened national bias, but later its leader began experimenting with the most marginal versions of nationalism and, as his opponents argue, encouraging sentiments in the party that border on fascism.
Many members were outraged by the anti-Semite letter that Rogozin's allies from the Rodina's parliamentary faction sent to the General Prosecutor's Office, which scared many more liberal supporters away from the party.
A sinister role in Rodina's history belongs to the xenophobic campaign ad, "Let's clear Moscow of rubbish!", which was broadcast in the run-up to the Moscow City parliamentary election and which, according to a court's ruling, kindled ethnic discord. As a result, the city legislature was cleared of Rodina: the party was barred from running in the election.
After that, party members were excluded from elections in seven out of the eight regions where voting was to take place on March 12.
Rogozin tried to appeal to the international public opinion, insisting that "the world does not believe stories of Russian fascists." He is positive that even with today's reputation, his party can win the parliamentary election in 2007.
Yet many delegates of the forthcoming congress do not want to listen to explanations. Andrei Ruzhnikov from the Nenets Autonomous Area described Rogozin's "social-nationalist and xenophobic moves" as "discrediting the party in the public opinion."
A way out of the situation is for Rogozin to resign, Ruzhnikov said.
Oleg Volkov from the Lipetsk Region, member of the party presidium, was more cautious in assessing the Rodina incumbent leader, but said he was not satisfied with his policy either.
"The party is in a deep crisis... Seeing a defeat after defeat, it is time to make the leader bear responsibility for what is going on," he said. "A leader must be courageous enough to acknowledge his mistakes and take adequate responsibility."
Rodina's department in Chuvashia addressed the congress with a special statement, saying that Rogozin and his henchmen were "concerned only with preserving their posts in the party leadership." They offered to exclude him "for kindling ethnic discord and xenophobia and courting fascist and marginal elements."
So Rogozin is leaving. But whether Rodina will manage to get rid of its xenophobic and ultra-nationalist image is a question only its members and future voters can answer.