Right Cause prepares for congress
The Right Cause party congress, which will see Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov crowned as leader and reveal the identities of those businessmen who are willing to follow him into the political fray, has suffered a last minute venue change. Instead of the newly unveiled Moscow Planetarium, the congress will gather on June 25 at the International Trade Center.
The official reason for this change is that as a venue, the museum simply lacks the capacity for 75 delegates, 30 Coordination Council members and ten Audit Commission members, not to mention invited guests and reporters, as Boris Nadezhdin, head of the Moscow Region branch, explained. But Moskovskiye Novosti sources note these spatial limits are no real challenge for a man like Mikhail Prokhorov, who can move heaven and earth. The reason is actually rumored to be the Kremlin’s suggestion that Prokhorov should try not to be too extravagant.
Congress delegates will be asked to vote for new party rules. These will make the party more compact, a single leader will replace its three co-chairs. The three forces that came together to form the party will cease to have equal decision-making powers. The party appeared in late 2008 through the merger of the Union of Right Forces, the Civil Force and the Democratic Party of Russia. This is the reason it has always had three co-chairs.
Some party members, mainly those hailing from the Union of Right Forces, will refuse to back Prokhorov, although the vote is not expected to rouse rebellion, said co-chair Leonid Gozman. Right Cause’s current members believe agreements should be reached before the congress meets. In 20 to 30 regions there are active politicians who do not know whether they will remain in the party after the leadership change and who remain unsure of what they should do. On the other hand, some local branches are experiencing something akin to revival, seeing some older members return, and United Russia members join their ranks.
But Prokhorov will become the party’s head. He will not launch any manifesto. That will be officially unveiled at an election congress in September. Several expert groups are currently writing it. The party’s federal election ticket will also be disclosed in fall.
So far, no federal list of candidates exists; it will be ready by the September congress, after an election campaign is announced. Boris Nadezhdin says Mikhail Prokhorov is taking a personal interest in the State Duma list. In December, 17 regions will elect their local legislatures. But regional lists are not ready either. There is only a tentative party ticket for the Moscow Region. “We have included a number of deputies, mayors and media personalities on it,” Nadezhdin said.
Mikhail Prokhorov is not interfering in party affairs before his formal inauguration. A new PR campaign – online and outdoor advertising – is planned for August, a publicity agency that works with Right Cause told MN.
United Russia cements budget
Last year, Russia’s wealthiest political party, United Russia, sponsored by EuroCement Group, reported a 25% drop in income compared to 2009, the “crisis year.”
The political parties have posted their 2010 financial records on the Central Election Commission website. United Russia said it raised 2.45 billion rubles ($87bn) last year, down from 3.3 billion in 2009.
“The amount is usually an indication of how active a party’s regional branches have been in election campaigns,” said Andrei Vorobyov, head of the Central Executive Committee. In 2010, there were fewer regional elections than in previous years; at the same time, the party cut spending on the most expensive tool of political campaigning – advertizing, shifting their focus to individual meetings with local residents instead. The party plans to use this strategy for this year’s parliamentary elections.
The bulk of the party budget, about 1.4 billion rubles ($50bn), was spent by the regional branches on activities including financing the party administration, campaigns and elections.
The party is financed through regional support funds, which raise the money. The Altai and Nizhny Novgorod fundraisers collected the largest amounts in 2010. Russia’s biggest cement producer, EuroCement Group, which is owned by Filaret Galchev, was the party’s largest sponsor: contributing a total of 123 million rubles ($4.4mn).
“We support the ruling party. It makes important decisions that impact on business development in Russia,” EuroCement President Mikhail Skorokhod said.
The ruling party is also supported by state unitary enterprises and municipal governments. It was sponsored by the Murmansk Education Committee, a music school in Snezhnogorsk and even several preschools. The party report says their contributions have been returned, as it is illegal for state institutions to finance political parties.
These cases should be investigated for the misuse of state funds, insisted Vadim Solovyov, the Communist Party’s chief lawyer. “It needs to be established how much money was returned and how soon,” he said.
A Just Russia’s coffers were the second largest last year, with 434 million rubles ($15.4 million), closely followed by the Communists. Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s LDPR appeared to be the poorest party of any that is represented in parliament.
As for the parties that failed to make it to parliament, the left-wing Patriots of Russia proved to have the most funds at their disposal in 2010 with 175 million rubles ($6.2 million), almost twice Yabloko’s budget; Right Cause was the poorest.
The parties were mainly financed by private contributions. The only party where membership fees accounted for a significant proportion of income is the Communist Party. Non-parliamentary parties collected no membership fees at all.
Vanuatu vacillates over Abkhazia
Vanuatu, one of the countries that have diplomatically recognized Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia, seems to have reconsidered its decision. According to the local Vanuatu Daily Post, Edward Natapei, the newly appointed acting prime minister, nullified the recognition saying that Abkhazia was an autonomous province of Georgia.
The newspaper also quoted the acting prime minister as saying that the country’s “decision not to recognize Abkhazia shows that Vanuatu is standing firm with the majority of the international community on this important issue.” The newspaper reported that the prime minister had instructed the country’s UN Representative Donald Kalpokas to reestablish relations with Georgia. However, the Vanuatu government site makes no mention of any plans to revoke this recognition.
Abkhazia sent a protest note to Vanuatu. Abkhazia’s Foreign Minister Maxim Gundjia said that Natapei’s statement was “his personal opinion.” “Such decisions are supposed to be made in accordance with established international procedures,” he added. “We have not received any official notification.”
Vanuatu’s recognition of Abkhazia was contradictory from the get-go. On May 31, Abkhazia’s foreign minister announced the recognition in an interview with Russia Today. But on June 4 Georgian media quoted Kalpokas as saying that no decision had been made concerning “the Georgian province.” Later, Gundjia said that the recognition was supported by an agreement signed by the two countries’ heads of government on May 23.
This recent confusion may be rooted in Vanuatu’s change of government. On June 17, the country’s Supreme Court dismissed Sato Kilman and appointed Natapei acting prime minister. The same day, the government’s website published a statement by the island nation’s Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot who said that the recognition remained in force but the country was looking forward to establishing trade relations with Georgia.
However, Tbilisi continues to campaign for the recognition of Abkhazia to be revoked. “We explained to Vanuatu that if the country intends to establish diplomatic relations with Georgia it cannot formally recognize any of its individual regions,” said Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze, as quoted by the pro-Georgian web portal Nasha Abkhazia.
Alexei Vlasov, head of the information and analysis center for post-Soviet space at Moscow State University, is convinced that the shifting sands of Vanuatu’s recognitions and withdrawals are just a game, and believes that Abkhazia and Vanuatu initially reached an agreement that was later cancelled due to “third party pressure.” Vlasov even went as far as suggesting that the United States might be this third party. “If new people take power in Vanuatu, the situation may again change,” Vlasov concluded.RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.