In most countries, when the head of the upper house of parliament, the Senate, whatever, is dismissed, it is big news. In Russia, it just is.
Sergei Mironov, the long-standing head of the Federation Council, was ousted Wednesday after a weeks-long struggle to hold on to power. On the face of it, it’s really no big deal – the Federation Council does little beyond providing formal approval to decisions taken by the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament.
But, as ever in Russia’s opaque political world, there might be a bigger game behind the scenes.
Mironov is the head of A Just Russia, a pro-Kremlin party founded in 2007 to pick up votes not gotten by United Russia, the ruling party. (Confused? Maybe this will clear it up: when Mironov ran for president against Vladimir Putin in 2004, he said he was doing so not because he wanted to become president but because “when a leader who is trusted goes into battle, he must not be left alone.”) It’s the Kremlin-crafted “opposition.”
The problem is, A Just Russia hasn’t been very useful. They hold seats in the State Duma, but have not grown as a political force. With parliamentary elections coming up in half a year, and United Russia losing steam, the Kremlin needs to up the game. The move might well spell the end of A Just Russia, as the Moscow Times notes. And maybe that’s where Right Cause, a party that appeals to the middle class and may well soon be headed by NJ Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, will come in.
For now, Mironov has been replaced by Alexander Torshin, a United Russia member who takes on the role of acting speaker. Mironov was dismissed by the St Petersburg legislature, which first nominated him as senator in 2001. The decision came after President Dmitry Medvedev said during a press conference that Mironov should accept any decision on his dismissal “calmly.”