Vladimir Putin has managed to push Russia back into a virtual single-party state, and he has the assistance of the Russian judiciary for that goal. Yesterday, the Russian Supreme Court denied one of the few opposition parties left in Russia access to the ballot, which means that the next Duma will likely have no opposition representation at all (via Michael van der Galien at TMV):
Russia's next parliament is likely to have no genuine opposition after a court in Moscow yesterday banned a leading liberal party from standing in elections.
Russia's supreme court announced that it had liquidated the small Republican party, claiming that it had violated electoral law by having too few members. The party is one of very few left in Russia that criticises President Vladimir Putin.
The move against Russia's opposition came as pro-democracy activists prepared for the latest in a series of anti-government rallies that have infuriated Russia's hardline authorities.
This judgment came after the Duma imposed a new law which forbade political parties from fielding candidates if they did not have at least 50,000 members and have representation in at least half of all Russian provinces. The Kremlin insists that they wrote the law to eliminate the fractured nature of politics in Russia, but it rather obviously keeps new political parties from forming -- parties that would get inspired by Vladimir Putin's authoritarian behavior, for instance.
With no opposition left in the Duma, it is not hard to imagine what Putin will do next. He will ask for, and receive, the removal of restrictions that keep him from running for another term of office. Putin will make himself president-for-life and continue eliminating the regional power structures that had acted as a check on federal power.
The opposition parties will start gathering to protest the elimination of the Republican Party, one of the original glasnost parties that formed under Mikhail Gorbachev. Also joining them will be Gary Kasparov's United Civil Front and the National Bolshevik Front, which also got disqualified by the Russian judiciary. Today they will rally in Russia's fourth-largest city, Nizhny Novgorod, where the mayor plans to block them by holding a "children's festival" at their desired rally point. The mayor also has blocked roads to carry out suddenly urgent street repairs.
Russian democracy is disappearing before our eyes. It will not be long now before Putin has recreated the Soviet government that he served for so long, within smaller borders. After a season of freedom, political winter once again descends on Russia, and the spring may be long in coming.