Gudkov Case Prompts Fears of Shakeup
Published: September 19, 2012 (Issue # 1727)
IGOR TABAKOV / SPT
Gennady Gudkov with opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny at Saturdayĺs protest rally on Prospekt Sakharova in Moscow.
MOSCOW Ś Following theáexpulsion ofáopposition Deputy Gennady Gudkov fromáthe State Duma foráunlawful entrepreneurship, parliament will investigate other reports ofálawmakers engaging ináillegal business activities, regardless ofátheir political affiliation, aásenior pro-Kremlin deputy said Monday.
ôAny information that reaches us will be studied carefully,ö Vyacheslav Lysakov, aádeputy head ofáthe Dumaĺs Constitutional Affairs Committee, told TheáSt. Petersburg Times.
Lysakov, who is also aáleader ofáPresident Vladimir Putinĺs All-Russia Peopleĺs Front, was responding toácriticism that Fridayĺs vote toáremove Gudkov fromáthe Duma was aáKremlin-ordered punishment foráthe Just Russia politicianĺs outspoken support foráopposition street protests.
Some observers maintain that if all lawmakers are judged byáthe same standards as Gudkov was, aámajor shakeup will ensue ináparliament, with dozens ofádeputies forced toágive up their seats.
Gudkov andáhis supporters say theáDumaĺs decision toáremove Gudkov fromáparliament was based onáillegal evidence andáviolates theáConstitution. Just Russia deputies have launched aácampaign toáshow that aáhost ofáDuma members fromáthe pro-Kremlin United Russia party are flagrantly engaging ináunlawful entrepreneurship.
Other observers pointed out that all four Duma factions, including theámore opposition-minded AáJust Russia andáthe Communist Party, have members who could be expelled forásimilar violations.
Gudkov said Monday that three Just Russia deputies with significant business interests had withdrawn their signatures fromáa Constitutional Court petition filed byáthe party toácheck theálawfulness ofáhis ouster.
Sergei Petrov, Oleg Mikheyev andáAlexei Chepa removed their signatures fromáthe document, Gudkov told RIA-Novosti. Theátrio did not take part ináFridayĺs vote onáwhether toádivest Gudkov ofáhis Duma seat.
Opponents ofáthe policy used toáoust Gudkov, even within United Russia, believe that more investigations ofáa similar nature could jeopardize theácurrent parliament.
ôIf you can lose your seat foráthis, you can dissolve theáDuma immediately,ö Valery Fedotov, aáSt. Petersburg businessman andámid-ranking United Russia official, wrote onáhis blog.
Fedotov added sarcastically that foráthe early elections that would result, parties should run only youth activists, military servicemen andámigrant workers, because ôthey will be even more disciplined inátheir voting.ö
But Lysakov said that everyone was equal before theálaw.
ôEvery case demands investigation,ö he said ináa telephone interview with The St. Petersburg Times. He denied suggestions that Kremlin pressure had influenced Fridayĺs 291-150 vote byápointing toádissenters within theáUnited Russia faction. ôThese people are all alive andáwell,ö he said.
Stanislav Govorukhin, aáprominent film director who managed Putinĺs election campaign earlier this year, was theáonly member ofáthe party faction toávote against Gudkovĺs ouster. Faction member Boris Reznik abstained, while member Alexander Khinshtein did not attend theávote.
Lysakov admitted, however, that Gudkov was singled out as theáfirst victim ofáthe policy because ofáhis support foráthe opposition.
ôHe engaged ináconspicuous behavior. People who live ináglass houses should not throw stones,ö he said.
Experts were divided as toáwhether theáDuma would proceed with similar inquiries aimed atáUnited Russia deputies.
Stanislav Belkovsky, anáindependent analyst andáformer Kremlin insider, speculated that some United Russia deputies will soon be forced toáresign as aáresult ofátheir business activities.
ôThis would be anáimage victory foráthe Kremlin toáshow that theáGudkov affair was not just political revenge,ö he said.
Gleb Pavlovsky, aáformer Kremlin adviser who is editor ofáthe russ.ru website, disagreed, arguing that this would create unnecessary conflict with theáruling party.
ôNobody tried toáhide ináthe first place that this was aápolitical punishment,ö he said.
Gudkov himself said he believed it was possible, but not likely, that more deputies would be stripped ofátheir seats.
ô[The Kremlin] will hardly want toásee another dangerous precedent,ö he said byáphone.
Gudkov also said he would continue his political work ináthe Duma byáworking as anáaide toáa member ofáthe Just Russia Duma faction, saying he will even continue toáget aávote ináfaction meetings.
ôI will carry onáthe work inámy party andáall things that I have been doing so far,ö he said, specifically mentioning his membership ináthe protest movementĺs organizing committee.
Party leader Sergei Mironov said Gudkov might become anáaide toáhis son Dmitry.
ôHe will definitely become anáaide toáone ofáour factionĺs deputies. We will see if this will be Dmitry Gudkov or someone else,ö he told reporters, according toáInterfax.
Members ofáthe Just Russia Duma faction said Gudkovĺs seat might be given toáOleg Shein, aáformer Duma deputy fromáAstrakhan. Shein rose toáprominence this spring when he staged aámonthlong hunger strike after losing aámayoral election ináthe southern city.
Gudkov did not say exactly when theádecision regarding his successor would be made. ôLet us first wait foráthe Constitutional Courtĺs decision,ö he said. He added that theáchances ofáthe appeal succeeding could be slim.