Ponomaryov Faces Voting Suspension
Published: September 26, 2012 (Issue # 1728)
MIKHAIL METZEL / AP
Just Russia’s Gennady Gudkov, left, his son Dmitry, center, and Ponomaryov attending the Duma earlier this month.
MOSCOW — The State Duma’s ethics commission Monday recommended that Deputy Ilya Ponomaryov’s voting rights be suspended for one month after he called United Russia members “crooks and thieves” and wore jeans instead of a suit to parliament.
United Russia member Vladimir Pekhtin, who heads the Credentials and Ethics Commission, told reporters the Duma would tentatively approve the measure this week. The proposal was backed by the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.
Ponomaryov, who represents the Just Russia party, told reporters that the proposed ban from Oct. 16 to Nov. 16, was meant to exclude him from taking part in deciding the oft-controversial state budget, Interfax reported.
The “crooks and thieves” phrase, which Ponomaryov uttered in an address to the lower house of parliament during its final spring session, had been popularized by opposition leader Alexei Navalny to describe the nation’s ruling party.
Valery Gartung, a Just Russia representative who is on the ethics commission, told The St. Petersburg Times that there were no grounds for a ban because Ponomaryov did not name any specific “crooks” or “thieves” and thus did not break any law.
Gartung called the measure “political revenge” from Kremlin-controlled United Russia for Ponomaryov’s participation in the opposition movement, which for the past nine months has held marches and rallies on the capital’s streets.
Gartung said the commission should have only warned Ponomaryov that it was unacceptable to address lawmakers in such a manner.
Last week, Just Russia Deputy Gennady Gudkov was ousted from the Duma for unlawful entrepreneurship. A voting ban against Ponomaryov could signal more hang-ups on the way for the opposition party, which collaborates with protest leaders including Navalny, Sergei Udaltsov and Ilya Yashin.
Communist Deputy Sergei Obukhov told The St. Petersburg Times that Ponomaryov voiced a “widespread opinion” about United Russia, which is trying to “muzzle” the political opposition by silencing Ponomaryov in particular.
“We see that any deputy who speaks out rather actively is immediately repressed,” Obukhov said.
The Credentials and Ethics Commission comprises 14 lawmakers — seven from United Russia, three Communists, two Liberal Democrats and two from A Just Russia.
United Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party voted in favor of suspending Ponomaryov’s right to vote, while the other two factions voted against it.
United Russia based its decision on the offensive words Ponomaryov used, but the Liberal Democratic Party said Ponomaryov did not deserve to vote because he wore jeans to the Duma, Ponomaryov told reporters.
The ethics commission acted Monday on the instruction of Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin, a United Russia member who was asked by 40 deputies from his party and the Liberal Democratic Party to assess Ponomaryov’s use of the words “crooks and thieves.”