21:41 GMT +317 March 2018
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    MOSCOW, RIA Novosti analyst Arseny Oganesyan Irina Khakamada, a candidate in the recent presidential elections, has announced that she is intending to set up a new democratic party, tentatively named Free Russia. According to Khakamada, this political organisation will be "built from the bottom up" and will feature "ordinary men and women". But she is not ruling out that Free Russia may include people known in political circles but "rejected by the democratic bureaucracy". The latter remark is nothing other than a dig at her former associates in Yabloko and the SPS (Union of Right Forces) The party's ideological platform, according to Khakamada, will be the People's Programme for the Development of Russia. At the end of February, her election campaign headquarters launched a project under the slogan "Every Voice Should Be Heard". The project's main element was to organise a 24-hour hot line for people to call and offer their programme for Russia's development. According to Khakamada, "more than 7,000 calls were made: 50% of them were complaints, but the remaining 50% were suggestions..." Khakamada believes it is a myth that the Russian people cannot adapt to democracy. Today's society in Russia, in her opinion, shares contemporary views.

    Khakamada has decided to head the party herself: "People see me as a leader," she says. Khakamada is satisfied that 8.17% of the voters in Moscow cast their ballots for her in the presidential election. It is very likely that Khakamada has decided to distance herself from failed liberal projects and start from scratch. In principle, this stance may also suit Anatoly Chubais, the chief ideologue of the Union of Right Forces. Who else can see more clearly that it is easier and less expensive to launch a new political brand than to try to hype up the Union of Right Forces again at the next elections, which has blotted its copybook in the voters' eyes badly enough.

    At the last parliamentary elections in December 2003, the liberal project for Russia's development was not articulated coherently enough, which even members of the liberal parties, the SPS and Yabloko, admitted. That same Khakamada spoke of an intellectual breakdown of the right-wing forces. Besides, representatives of the SPS, which is further to the right than Yabloko, are saying, "We have lived and are living in isolation from the country". Confirmation that the liberal idea in its classical interpretation has not yet struck roots in Russia is the fact that at present, according to various estimates, between half and two-thirds of the two liberal parties' voters supported Putin in the presidential election.

    Why does one have to speak today about the weakened appeal of the liberal project for Russia's political development? There are of course certain subjective factors such as the rights' incapacity to compromise even within their own camp, and its unwillingness or inability to adapt Western liberalism to Russian realities. But there are also quite objective reasons. The point is that Russia's institutions of civil society are weakly developed, and its political culture is at low ebb. Nor should one forget that over the past 15 years Russia has lived through disasters that have undoubtedly eroded citizens' belief in political liberalism. They associate it above all with their savings being wiped out, fixed privatisations, the population's impoverishment and a surrender of the country's positions in international affairs.

    However, perhaps socially packaged liberalism will bring success to Khakamada's new party?

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