The Russian parliament voted to strip an opposition leader of his seat Friday, a decision his supporters say is another step towards silencing criticism of President Vladimir Putin.
The vote taken in the Lower House of parliament passed with 291 votes in favor and 150 against expelling opposition MP Gennadiy Gudkov, according to a RT.com report. The reasoning used for bring up the vote was that Gudkov was in violation of a law forbidding parliamentarians to be involved in commercial activity.
Fair Russia and the Communist Party had filed a request with the Constitutional Court asking for a ruling on the legality of stripping a State Duma deputy of their post before a conviction in criminal court. The prosecutor’s office is only conducting a pre-investigation examination of the case against Gudkov at this time. No formal charges have been made against him, however the prosecutor's office is expected to decide if it will offer a formal criminal investigation sometime in late September.
Sergei Mitrokhin, leader of the liberal Yabloko party, said there are at least 21 other Duma deputies who own businesses. None of those 21have been warned of illegal activity. He went on to say that Gudkov’s expulsion was not only politically motivated but illegal.
Gudkov's removal fits a pattern of measures that is seemingly aimed at calming protests that erupted after Putin returned as president in May. Gudkov supported the the protesters when they took to the street to protest what they perceived as vote-rigging and limits on democracy. The protests and Gudkov's support of them seemed to rattle Putin. He initially made a bizarre accusation against the United States government, saying Sec. of State Clinton had somehow signaled the protesters and the US was offering financial backing to the marchers.
Whether it was Putin's odd remarks or Gudkov's agreement with the accusations of the protesters, something made him decide to begin speaking at protest rallies, call for an embrace of free elections and a more robust democracy.
His support of the protesters has clearly upset some and his most recent comments are surely going to anger them as well. Gudkov told the Global Post "They're expelling me from the Duma because they're afraid of the truth, afraid of criticism and my stance. We have come very close to the brink that separates an authoritarian regime from a dictatorship."
According to a Washington Post report, Gudkov gave an emotional speech before the vote, saying:
“What is going on now is a disgrace to the country. Instead of taking the matter to court, even our court, you have decided to quickly get rid of your political opponents by voting. You are trying to use repressions to shut up the people.” No, you won’t be able to push the people back into their kitchens — people will continue to go out and demand fair life and fair elections.”
He concluded his speech by saying
“But I want to leave in order to come back and to build a new country, which will make its people proud. We will win, the truth will win, the constitution will win, and we’ll come back, believe me.”