The Moscow Times reports that Rodina, the nationalist (but not quite as ‘nationalist’ as Zhirinovsky’s mob) party have been barred from participating in the upcoming Moscow Duma election, amid claims that they are gaining ground on United Russia, the pro-Putin, pro-Kremlin, and pro-Moscow City Hall party.
The Moscow City Court ruled on Saturday that a Rodina television campaign ad incites ethnic hatred and thus the nationalist party should be barred from next weekend’s elections to the City Duma.[The campaign ad] features dark-skinned men eating watermelon in a courtyard and throwing the rinds on the ground as a young blond woman walks by pushing a baby carriage, and ends with a call to “clear the city of garbage.”
The LDPR (that’s Zhirinovsky’s mob) are also under threat of being banned for a racist advertising campaign, although they will probably be saved by the fact that their ad campaign was never actually aired.
I have to say that, provided Kremlin back political machinations are not to blame for the verdict (more on that in a minute), I’m very pleased to see that a party has been publicly shamed for producing a racist advertising campaign. Racism is an aspect of Russian society that really troubles me. It’s not that I think Russians are inherently racist, but racism is one of those things that festers under the surface because people don’t yet have the courage to stand up and say that it is wrong. A verdict like this could be one small step on the way towards making it publicly acceptable for people to oppose racism on a daily basis, rather than look the other way.
Anyway, back to the second point. Was the judgement politically inspired? Did the Kremlin ‘arrange’ the verdict to push Rodina out of the race?
Well, if Rodina truly are gaining on United Russia, there certainly seems to be a the motive. With Rodina out of the way, United Russia’s position should be unassailable, right? Well… maybe. But I’m not so sure.
Consider this – if Rodina’s natural supporters can’t vote for their first choice party, who are they going to vote for? Well, some of them just won’t vote of course, but most of them, I would imagine, will head right on over to Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and vote LDPR. This, surely, would have the effect of combining the LDPR / Rodina vote, and creating a really serious challenge to United Russia.
So, in my opinion, the answer has to be no, the verdict wasn’t fixed. In fact, I reckon United Russia are now going to be looking a little more nervously over their shoulders than they were a few days ago, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see people coming out of the woodwork to defend Rodina’s right to free speech…