Sunday, 26 June 2011

Opposition party banned in Russia - EU´s Van Rompuy enjoys "magical" Volga sunset

EU "poet" President Van Rompuy relaxing and enjoying "magical" Volga sunset

Putin´s Russia has again shown why U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates was right, when he described the country as "an oligarchy run by the secret services". By denying the registration of the new opposition party, People's Freedom Party, Russia clearly shows that it does not intend the coming elections to be openly contested, says a group of leading American Russia experts and opinion makers:

Russian authorities this week failed an important test of their commitment to hold free and fair elections by denying registration to a new opposition party. This clearly political decision indicates that the Russian government does not intend elections to the Duma in December and for president in March 2012 to be openly contested; instead it reflects a desire by a small group in power to try to determine the outcome of the elections in advance. This decision is inconsistent with Russia’s international obligations as a member of the Council of Europe and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to uphold democratic principles and the rule of law and needs to be reversed. Through its membership in the OSCE, Russia has agreed specifically to "respect the right of individuals and groups to establish, in full freedom, their own political parties or other political organizations and provide such political parties and organizations with the necessary legal guarantees to enable them to compete with each other on a basis of equal treatment before the law and by the authorities." In addition, Russia agreed that the conduct of its elections is a matter of “direct and legitimate concern” to other OSCE members, and committed itself to allow monitoring by domestic and international monitors.
The rejection of the application by the Party of People’s Freedom, led by a group of prominent opposition leaders is unfortunately part of a trend. The Obama administration is on record that democracy and human rights are important to U.S.-Russia relations. If so, the administration, and the U.S. Congress, should respond vigorously with measures designed to support democratic rights and freedoms. President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin may believe that by denying opposition parties the ability to compete, they can remove democratic elections from the agenda. They should be proved wrong.

The leader of the People´s Freedom Party, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov knew what was coming already before the official decision not to register his party was announced:

"Over the past four years, eight parties have not been registered," he said. "We may become the ninth party. That means that the Russian authorities demonstrate that they have no respect for the Russian constitution, or for their international obligations, following from Russia's membership of the Council of Europe and the OSCE."

The American opinion makers are asking Congress to react to the deeply troubling anti-democratic development in Russia. Hopefully we will soon see some action from the U.S. Congress.

Action is what one would like to see from the European leaders, too. But, if one looks at what happened at the recent EU - Russia summit, the signs are not very promising.

This is what the EU "president" Herman Van Rompuy had to say, when he met the press, having made the more than €55,000 (tax payer financed) journey from Brussels to Nizhny-Novgorod:

Van Rompuy - the EU's top foreign policy representative, and a poet - began his press briefing by recalling "the magical sunset over the Volga yesterday evening." He added that "the EU-Russia relationship is enjoying its best dynamics for years."

Later during the press conference, maybe after being reminded by his advisers, he noted that "there are still strong concerns" in EU member states about human rights in Russia.

Not a particularly strongly worded "criticism" from the "poet".

No wonder that the Russian political analyst Lilia Shevtsova described the "cucumber summit" in this way:

Discussions at the recent Russia-EU summit mainly focused on Russia's import ban of vegetables from Europe - much less on human rights. Political analyst Lilia Shevtsova criticized what she called Europe's "cucumber policy" toward Moscow.
"The European Commission in Brussels... did not discuss with Medvedev any standards or principles, nor the rule of law," she said. "They discussed the problem of cucumbers. And as far as I understand, both sides did their best to be as agreeable as possible to each other."

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