In an odd piece of news, Marina Smirnova, a candidate for the A Just Russia party, has been barred from standing as a candidate in this year’s Russian Duma elections. The story is notable because Smirnova is the daughter in law of Igor Smirnov, the leader of Transnistria (the breakaway Moldovan republic that has, for a long time, been backed by Moscow).
According to RIA Novosti, the Russian Supreme Court’s decision came after the Central Election Commission appealed to it on the the grounds that Smirnova was a citizen of three countries – Russia, Ukraine and Moldova – and election rules stipulate that Duma candidates can only be citizens of a single country – Russia.
I’m really not sure what to make of this story – does it mean, for example, that:
- The crude way in which opposition parties are repressed (A Just Russia have already complained that the court’s decision is politically motivated – a claim which echoes the treatment in Georgia of an opposition Presidential candidate)
- Relations between Russia and Transnistria are souring, and this is in fact a coded message to the Transnistrian leader to shape up
- Russian elections are un-democratic because the rules bar many Russian citizens from standing for election
- The Russian Supreme Court’s decisions strictly follow the law and there is nothing unusual at all about this case
Personally, I think it’s likely that Simonova simply broke the electoral rules (probably inadvertently), but I thought the list above might prove a useful example of how it’s possible to spin a single story about Russia in multiple ways.
A loose analogy – though a far more significant one for the country in question – is that of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the Georgian oligarch who has (or rather, had) triple citizenship, Georgia, Russian, and French.
For that, he was disbarred from contesting the Presidency, and had his Georgian citizenship revoked.
Where the scenarios differ is that the presence or absence of Smirnova from the Just Russia ticket is immaterial to its success, whereas Ivanishvili – thanks to his wealth – may have posed a credible risk to Saakashvili’s dominance. So the enforcement of the Georgian law is probably more directly politically motivated.
Agreed – I can’t really see how removing a single candidate (and particularly someone with a relatively low profile) from a party list would have any significant impact in a proportional representation election like this. A Just Russia will simply find someone else to put on their list.
If suddenly half of AJR’s candidates were found to be ineligible, that would be something different entirely, but there’s absolutely no indication that anything like that will happen.
As you say, in Georgia, though, without Ivanishvili’s presence, his party will be hit very hard. A (sort of) comparison with Russia is the A Right Cause party, which has been completely sidelined since the departure of Mikhail Prokhorov.