Staunton, December 24 – Environmental protests across the Russian Federation would seem to be the basis for the formation of a new green party especially since the major systemic parties have not adopted ecological protection as a major issue, but creating such a party, experts say, faces enormous obstacles and thus is unlikely to happen.
Eduard Voytenko, the head of the Baikal Communications Group, recently commissioned a poll showing widespread support for the idea that existing parties should adopt an environmental platform and that to push them and the country in that direction a revamped or entirely new “green” party is needed (ura.news/articles/1036279372).
His comments were echoed by opposition politicians and experts at a meeting earlier this month in Shiyes where Yevgeny Royzman, former Yekaterinburg mayor, and Marina Litvinovich, a rights activist, argued that the environment is already affecting politics and that a new party could emerge on that basis.
As Voytenko notes, “the idea of establishing an ideological party” isn’t new. There is already a Green Party, but it hasn’t reached out to the protesters. URA news reports that “according to unconfirmed information, the Presidential Administration” is thinking about reorganizing it so that it could draw off protesters from other opposition parties.
The poll Voytenko’s group commissioned shows there is real support for doing something about the environment. More than a third of the population across the country views the ecological situation in the regions where it lives as bad. Women, those with higher educations and those in cities are especially critical.
Residents of Siberia and the Far East are the most critical while those in the North Caucasus FD and the Volga FD are the least, a reflection less of where the problems really are than of media coverage, URA suggests. The fact that environmental concerns are greatest in the cities gives those who would create a new party an advantage: their supporters are concentrated.
But a major problem is that concern about the environment is lower in the two capitals, Moscow and St. Petersburg, than elsewhere, although even in them, “about 60 percent” say they are worried about environmental contamination. That limits the chances that an environmental party arising in the regions would be able to link up with party organizations in the capital.
There are far greater obstacles to the emergence of such a party, however, according to Voytenko and other experts. To address environmental problems, they say, one must focus on the actions of specific industries, many of which have powerful supporters in the Kremlin and at least some of whom provide employment for people who would like a cleaner environment.
A real environmental party could emerge given the declining support for those who talk only in general ideological terms, URA concludes; but there are two serious limiting factors: there isn’t any specific individual or group pushing the idea in Moscow and there isn’t the political “space” for a new green party at the federal level.
Unless that changes, the prospects for forming any new and effective environmental party in Russia will remain small.
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