Kasparov's opposition party may be the last chance to defeat Putin
Historical mythology holds that Ronald Reagan was the man who won the Cold War. Even if this is the case -- a matter of some debate -- for many historical scholars, Reagan was not the man who ended it.
In the minds of some, that distinction belongs to Lech Wealsea, the leader of Solidary. In 1989, Walsea led Solidarity to leadership of a coalition government in Poland in the first free elections held in that country since the end of the Second World War.
When asked what the Soviet government planned to do about it, then-President Mikhail Gorbachev said it would do nothing. To many, Gorbachev's acceptance of a non-communist labour union/political party winning an election in the eastern European bloc marked the formal conclusion of the Cold War, the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.
One has to imagine that legacy is on Gary Kasparov's mind as he's taken Solidarity as the name for a bold new effort to defeat the United Russia party of Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev.
Kasparov is no newcomer to such efforts. He attempted to run in the most recent Russian Presidential elections, but was prevented from doing so through some rather unsavoury machinations by the Russian state.
"We are fighting for victory because we have something to say to our people and something to offer them," Kasparov announced. "On this very day, we are in a position to take stock of past mistakes and act differently."
"One of the tasks of the Solidarity movement is to rehabilitate those basic principles that, unfortunately, for a significant or even overwhelming portion of our fellow citizens, have become associated with failure, misery or reduction of freedom," he added.
Unfortuantely, Kasparov has an uphill battle to wage. With no seats in the Duma and the Russian government currently making it more difficult for opposition parties to win representation, it will prove excessively difficult for Solidarity to have the effect that Kasparov so desires.
Kasparov isn't alone in his predicament of being outside the Duma looking in. Yaklobo and the SPS (roughly translated as Union of Right Forces) were both weeded out of the Duma when the 5% rule that had set the lower limit for receiving seats in the proportionately-elected Duma at 5% of the vote was abolished in favour of a 7% rule -- only one recent move intended to increase United Russia's dominance in that chamber.
Another item on United Russia's agenda is a move to change the length of Presidential tenures from four to six years. With well over two-thirds of the Duma -- a Russian constitutional majority that allows United Russia to pass amendments to the Russian constitution -- there's little hope of derailing this process.
According to Russian law, Vladimir Putin will become eligible for the Presidency again once he's finished his brief time out as Russian Prime Minister. Upon winning the Presidency, Putin could serve for another 12 years.
In forming Solidarity, Kasparov is turning Putin's own tactics against him. While never officially associating with United Russia, Putin was instrumental in the uniting of hundreds of small conservative parties into the electoral powerhouse. Now, Kasparov is trying to do the same with Russia's numerous liberal parties.
Even if they understand the essence of time in restoring Russian democracies, other leaders in the new Solidarity movement seem to have abandoned any hope of accomplishing their goals expediently.
"We might not be able to launch an Orange Revolution right now, but we can certainly create an orange organization," mused Valeriya Novodvorskaya. The Orange Revolution, as most should recall, resulted in the ascension of Ukranian president Viktor Yushchenko.
While no electoral coalition capable of defeating United Russia can be built over night, Kasparov, Novodvorskaya and company need to come to terms quickly with the realities facing them. If allowed to reassume the Presidency under the proposed conditions, Vladimir Putin could conceivably serve for the remainder of his life.
Kasparov must make his case to the Russian people as quickly as possible. As Al Jazeera reports, Russian political culture, traditionally authoritarian in nature, may be taking an even starker despotic turn as Russians seem set to vote Joseph Stalin as one of the greatest Russians of all time.
Even more disturbingly, while Putin and Medvedev's efforts to eliminate the political threat posed by Kasparov will almost certainly be enshrined as legendary examples of political oppression, the Russian government seems to feel few compunctions about allowing Neo Nazi parties to march publicly.
Gary Kasparov has an uphill battle ahead of him. Hopefully, the wits of this Chess Grand Master are up to the challenge.