In a sombre address to the ELDR Congress on 31 October, Mikhail Kasyanov (former Prime Minister of the Russian Federation) characterised his country as a place where the democratic institutions had been replaced by imitations.
Mr Kasyanov was at the ELDR Congress as leader of the People’s Democratic Union and had earlier presented his party’s case to the ELDR Council for joining the ELDR as a full member. Mr Kasyanov impressed the Council with a trenchant analysis of the current political direction of Russia. He was extremely critical of the elections whereby former President Putin and his associates tightened their held on power earlier this year.
The Russian authorities refuse to accord legal status to the PDU and in January of this year they refused to register Mr Kasyanov as a candidate in the presidential elections. The reasons for these refusals seem flimsy in the extreme. Needless to say these refusals did not prevent the ELDR Council from considering the application for membership on its merits - there are plenty of experienced delegates from Eastern Europe who still remember that kind of authoritarian dirty tricks in their countries’ former governance.
The Council voted to admit both PDU and the longer-established liberal party Yabloko (which already had ELDR observer status) to full membership. Mr Kasyanov thanked the Council on behalf of the 56,000 members of his organisation.
In my opinion, the inclusion of the two Russian parties into the ELDR Party will undoubtedly add to the quality of debate on EU-Russian relations and the vexed question of a common EU security and defence policy.