MOSCOW (Oct. 2)
The Russian Justice Ministry’s decision to register a far-right political party is generating both protests and support.
Some liberal politicians and Jewish organizations protested the decision that gave the National Great Power Party, known as NDPR, the right to participate in elections.
But some experts say the move actually will make it easier for authorities to take legal steps to close down the organization.
“To put it simply, in order to close a party you first have to register it,” said Alexander Verkhovsky of the Panorama think tank.
The controversy comes as Russia grapples with issues of hate groups in the post-Communist era.
NDPR was registered without any fuss on Sept. 16, but the decision became public only 10 days later when the Moscow daily newspaper Novye Izvestiya ran a front-page article under the headline “Justice Ministry Registers Nazis.”
Two of the party’s leaders have a long history of anti-Semitic statements.
One of them, Boris Mironov, told participants at the party’s founding congress near Moscow last February, “We have a common enemy — the Yid; a common goal — regime change.”
Mironov, a Cabinet minister under former President Boris Yeltsin, is one of the most outspoken Russian nationalist leaders.
Another co-chairman, Alexander Sevastyanov, publishes a small ultranationalist newspaper, National Gazette, where he once wrote in an editorial that “Jews are the most dreadful” enemy of the Russian people.
NDPR claims to have 11,000 members and offices in some 70 out of Russia’s 89 regions. A party executive told the Moscow Times last Friday that NDPR sought to become a “regular bourgeois party”with broad appeal.
NDPR became the first ultranationalist party registered after the adoption of the new Russian law on political parties, which restricts elections to registered parties.
Some Jewish organizations appealed to the Kremlin and the Prosecutor General’s Office to have NDPR’s registration revoked.
“If the NDPR’s founding documents do not correspond with the legal norms of the Russian Federation, the registration of the NDPR should be annulled,” said a statement signed by Alexander Brod, director of the Moscow Bureau on Human Rights, which serves as the Moscow office of the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union.
The Moscow office of the Anti-Defamation League issued a similar statement.
Justice Ministry officials insist that no anti-Semitic or unconstitutional statements were found in the party charter or other paper work the NDPR submitted for registration.
“It would be unwise to play only on anti-Semitic sentiments to win public support. The number of anti-Semites in Russia is small, and the media would give us a vigorous thrashing,” Viktor Korchagin, a publisher of anti-Semitic literature and a senior NDPR member, told the Moscow Times.
But the party’s several Web sites abound with anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic content. The Web site of NDPR’s regional branch in the Siberian city of Tomsk quotes from Mironov: “We must unite all indigenous peoples” of Russia “in the struggle against Yids.”
Another document on the site suggests that “nonindigenous peoples” — the term used for Jews and other non-Slavic minorities — should be excluded from all branches of power.
Liberal State Duma deputy Viktor Pokhmelkin said there is a “big irony in a situation when democratic procedures are being applied to a political party that seeks to destroy democracy.”
A leading expert on Russian ultranationalist organizations said he sees no problem with NDPR’s registration.
“I believe they can close the party in a court procedure after the very first check,” said Verkhovsky of Panorama.
Verkhovsky said he is convinced NDPR will not be allowed to take part in parliamentary elections slated for late next year, and that the party will be closed down “one way or another” before the campaign starts.