Zhironovsky's party banned for false declarations

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The Independent Online

RUSSIA'S APPROACHING parliamentary elections risk losing their slapstick element if the extremist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky is unable to get a ban on his party lifted.

RUSSIA'S APPROACHING parliamentary elections risk losing their slapstick element if the extremist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky is unable to get a ban on his party lifted.

Mr Zhirinovsky is looking for political partners with whom he could merge his misleadingly named Liberal Democratic Party after election officials on Monday barred it from December's race because two leading candidates had failed to declare their wealth. Anatoly Bykov, an aluminium tycoon from Siberia, had concealed his ownership of a mansion, the Central Electoral Commission said, while Mikhail Musatov, had failed to mention that he owned three Mercedes cars.

That alone was enough for the commission to ban the party, although it might have added that Mr Bykov is currently on the run from police, who want him on charges of money laundering. And that another of Mr Zhirinovsky's candidates, Sergei Mikhailov, although recently acquitted by a court in Switzerland for lack of evidence, was widely believed to be a mafia godfather. Seats in parliament would give them all immunity from prosecution.

Nobody has accused Mr Zhirinovsky of criminal activities, although the politician, who stages fist-fights in theDuma, has threatened to sue journalists who raise the question of why he was expelled from Turkey in the Seventies.

The question now is why did he field a list of dubious candidates that he must have known would be rejected?

The best explanation is that the master of publicity is making another grab for the headlines. Mr Zhirinovsky's party, currently the third largest in parliament, is not tipped to do well in the elections. He knows Russians think all politicians are crooks. He also knows Russians love the underdog. If he can get banned, while other politicians go forward, he probably reckons on a big swing of sympathy in his favour.

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