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United Russia's Illegal Agitation Causes Concern

An official reaction to the party's agitation will have to follow soon

Alexander Veshnyakov chairman of the Central Electoral Committee has recently acknowledged a possibility of illicit pre-election agitation from United Russia. Until recently, Veshnyakov's harshest statement released about the party was as follows: "All high-ranking officials participating in the elections (there are 28 governors on United Russia's federal list) are supposed to go on vacation after the party's registration.

The Central Electoral Committee has not been paying much attention to United Russia's campaigning, although this subject has been of great interest to other competing parties, mass media outlets and society on the whole. This happened when President Putin delivered a speech at United Russia's congress. Veshnyakov did not consider it as a violation of the election law. Vice versa, he said that Putin's appearance at the congress had destoryed certain stereotypes in the Russian political life. When there were complaints regarding the party's excessive coverage by the country's nation-wide television channels, the permanent repetition of social advertising, Alexander Veshnyakov simply said that the committee had stopped reacting to every subtle campaign message.

Mr. Veshnyakov's infinite loyalty to the party of power  has eventually brought to certain results. United Russia party members have apparently lost the sense of proportion. Alexander Veshnyakov's benevolence might play a malicious trick on them now. As a rule, it is very hard for people to calm down if they have enjoyed absolute impunity.

Alexander Veshnyakov said that he had not seen the television report about United Russia's leader Boris Gryzlov singing the party's anthem with Russian pop singer Oleg Gazmanov. Yet, Veshnyakov added that the Central Electoral Committee would consider the issue. It does not mean that Mr. Gryzlov will be punished for his singing activities. Spokespeople for the committee did not confirm whether the question about the above-mentioned television report had been put on agenda.

Nevertheless, Alexander Veshnyakov's statement shows that it is very hard to ignore the situation with United Russia's PR further on. it has aroused indignation of too many people. Vadim Solovyov, spokesman for the Central Electoral Committee from the Communist Party, said in an interview that Communists would still try to appeal against the agitation material - they are ready to go to the Supreme Court if need be. "This informational defect will become too obvious sooner or later, an official reaction will have to follow," Solovyov said.

Apparently, the people responsible for the official reaction realize this as well. United Russia party members have recently been punished. Chastnik.ru website reported the justice of the peace had imposed a 1,000-ruble-worth fine on Larisa Mikheyeva, who was in charge of publishing party's non-periodical booklets. The decision was made after a local electoral committee had addressed to a court. The committee believed the materials of the booklet published in the beginning of September could be categorized as the pre-election agitation, although it was forbidden at that moment. The materials of United Russia's September edition booklet were devoted to the Ivanovo-based department of the party, although it was formally not considered as the print body of the department. The authors said the booklet was printed as a non-periodical reference of the Ivanovo-based public foundation to support the Russian party "Unity and Fatherland - United Russia."

This instances is the only official reaction from judicial authority concerning United Russia's illicit agitation. The court decision could be considered as the true example of the "reign of democracy" in Russia. However, the head of the Ivanovo region is Communist Vladimir Tikhonov, who used to be the first secretary of the Ivanovo regional committee of the communist party. Vladimir Tikhonov's relations with the Communist Party have been rather ambiguous recently. Yet, the sensational decision of the court could probably be a defensive reaction of the regional administration. As it is well known, communist governors have virtually become targets of United Russia's criticism - they would never criticize the government and the president, of course.

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