Russia's Ksenia Sobchak announces new party before election

Bright future predicted for Sobchak but her political programme is seen as close to Kremlin's due to family connections.

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    Moscow, Russia - Ksenia Sobchak, a Russian presidential candidate, has announced the creation of a new party called the Party of Changes.

    The announcement was made during a pre-election rally, attended by a few thousand supporters, at the Adrenaline Stadium  here in the Russian capital on Thursday evening.

    Sobchak is one of seven candidates running in the March 18 poll against President Vladimir Putin, who is seeking re-election for a fourth term.

    She announced that she is founding the party together with Dmitry Gudkov, an opposition ex-Duma member and son of former KGB officer and politician Gennady Gudkov.

    "We want a normal life. We won't allow our future to be stolen. We are uniting in the Party of Changes so that these changes come true," she said in front of a few thousand supporters.

    During the campaign, she referred to assassinated opposition leader Boris Nemtsov as a friend and presented a short film showing him along with a dozen of journalists and politicians who have been killed since the 1990s.

    Sobchak is the daughter of Russian politician and former member of the Federation Council of Russia Lyudmila Narusova and Anatoly Sobchak, the late mayor of St Petersburg, who is seen as having laid the foundations of Putin's political career.

    Putin worked for about 10 years as an aide and deputy to him.

    Ksenia Sobchak, who was a reality TV show host before entering politics, has been perceived as being close to the Kremlin due to her family's personal connection to Putin.

    Early in her campaign she reached out to opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was barred from running in the elections in December over a fraud conviction he has claimed was politically motivated.

    He rejected her offer to cooperate on her campaign and instead called for a boycott of the elections.

    Sergey Boyko, head of the Moscow headquarters of Navalny's campaign, told Al Jazeera that he finds her announcement funny.

    "There were many liberal political projects inspired by the Kremlin, but not one made it," he said. 

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    He said Sobchak's party is meant to act as a "spoiler" and hurt Navalny's campaign. "But this will not derail us," he said.

    According to political analyst and strategist Abbas Gallyamov, Sobchak has a bright political future.

    "She is young, she is a good speaker, she is smart. On the one hand she's liberal and on the other hand, she's comfortable with the Kremlin," he said.

    'Five-percent hurdle'

    According to Gallyamov, the fact that state TV is giving her plenty of airtime will help dominate liberal politics her in the long term.

    The party she has created also has a chance of entering the State Duma.

    "She can easily overcome this five-percent hurdle. She can become the only liberal representative in the Duma," Gallyamov said.

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    According to Russian journalist and political analyst Konstantin Eggert, Sobchak's campaign and party are a Kremlin project aiming at sending a message to the West.

    "The most interesting thing about her was not what she did at home, but what she was doing abroad," says Eggert.

    In February, Sobchak went to the US and met American officials and journalists.

    She appeared on CNN and spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    "Those PR people who planned her trip to the States, they are worth a lot [of money]," said Eggert.

    "This was a brilliant tour de force, giving the silly East and West coast liberal elite exactly what they would want: a woman, a feminist, a gay rights activist, speaks English."

    According to Eggert, her presence in the political arena would allow the Kremlin to dodge questions about democracy.

    Polls conducted by the state-owned Russian Public Opinion Research Center show that she will get around one percent of the votes in the presidential elections.

     

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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