People’s Freedom Party denied registration

The Russian People’s Freedom Party (Parnas), a slightly motley coalition of marginalised opposition groups and parties, has been denied registration as a political party in Russia.

Registration rules in Russia are overly bureaucratic – naturally, this is Russia after all – but it appears that their registration has only been denied on a couple of easily fixable techicalities. CBC reports:

“The Justice Ministry gave a number of reasons for denying the registration, including that its charter does not provide for a rotation of its leadership as is required by a new law.

The ministry’s one-page written decision also said it had found violations in the required 45,000 signatures the party had submitted with its application: Some of those who signed as members of the party were dead, under age or not legal residents of the regions where they signed.”

The registration is vital to Parnas for because it gives them the credibility and the size needed to have a decent go at passing the threshold needed to get seats in parliament. This, in turn, is important, because parties represented in the Russian parliament do not need to go through the absurdly difficult process of collecting the 2 million signatures needed to field a presidential candidate.

Given the stakes, therefore, I’m surprised that the party’s leadership is so defeatist, telling reporters that they won’t mount an appeal, and making no mention of re-applying for registration. Surely, if they are serious about taking part in elections, all they need to do is amend their constituion (requirements: a meeting, five minutes debate, someone to take notes) and purge their membership list (requirement: a bit of time, dedication and professionalism).

It really doesn’t seem like it will be difficult.

That Parnas don’t seem to be planning for this makes it difficult to take them seriously. Instead, it suggests that Parnas quite happy with the outcome, as it gives them the chance to snipe from the sidelines about lack of democracy in Russia.

Update: Apparently it’s not quite as simple as I’d thought. Vladimir Milov, one of the party’s co-chairs has told me via twitter that they effectively have to start the process again, re-form the party and sign up all its members again.

As an election rule, that strikes me as absolutely insane, although I would still think it should be possible to do ‘relatively’ easily if the willpower is there. The party’s current leadership could meet, dissolve the party and then re-form it. I assume they’ve got details of their current members, so they could contact them to get a head start on signing them up as members of the new party.


  1. Sublime Oblivion

    Purging their membership is quite problematic, since exploiting dead souls is most likely their only hope of attaining 45,000 signatures. ;)

    Let’s do some math. 200 supporters in 83 regions plus 1,000 in Moscow will bring the party membership to less than 18,000. Where will the additional 40,000 members come from? If it took the PNS almost five months to recruit 18,000 followers, what magic tricks do Kasyanov and his pals have up their sleeves to triple this number in less than two months — before the “end of March” deadline? Well, as they say, politics is a matter of faith, not math.Eugene Ivanov.

  2. Mark

    Until I saw your update, I was of the same mind as you, and had a running conversation going with Evgeny Filatov at my own blog inquiring why PARNAS cannot simply purge its membership rolls and re-sign its membership. But by that I meant ditch those members who were controversial, keeping the rest.

    Still, I agree with you that the more difficult job of reconfirming all their membership is still achievable, since it could be accomplished by volunteers. I tend to agree with you that the goal is more likely playing the downtrodden martyr. Commenter Giuseppe Flavio at my blog offered the theory that most of the newly-formed” liberal political parties go into the process with that as a strategy – arse up the registration, and then play Desdemona, grizzling from the sidelines that the government is all about putting the boot in. It’s intriguing to hear you say pretty much the same.

    However, if Anatoly is correct about the suspicious nature of the numbers problem, there might be more to the backhand PARNAS got than is immediately obvious. I just wish the government hadn’t been so sloppy about its legal justifications.

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