Daily Archives: August 6, 2011

Valentina Matviyenko Teaches Petersburgers a Lesson in “Sovereign Democracy”

World Affairs
August 2, 2011
Vladimir Kara-Murza
The Kremlin’s Know-How: A Secret Election

For all the tricks the Kremlin has perfected over the years to ensure “correct” voting results, what happened last week in St. Petersburg was in a league of its own. The Russian authorities may have invented a new authoritarian know-how: an election organized in secret from candidates and voters.

In June, President Dmitri Medvedev proposed that St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko should become the new speaker of the Federation Council, the Russian Parliament’s upper house. The fact that the president has decided who will lead the legislature surprised no one; such trifles as the separation of powers have long lost any meaning in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The difficulty lay elsewhere: the Federation Council is formed from among municipal and regional legislators—and Matviyenko is neither. To allow the governor to run for a seat, two municipal councils in St. Petersburg—Aleksandrovskaya and Lomonosov (the former imperial residence of Oranienbaum)—hastily called special elections. Vowing to give the governor a run for her money, opponents began preparations for the contest. A wide spectrum of opposition groups—from the radical Another Russia to the liberal Yabloko party—nominated their candidates. Unlike federal elections that feature only government-registered party lists, contests on the local level are still open to individuals and thus allow for opposition participation.

Even with the expected administrative pressure, Matviyenko’s victory was far from assured: the governor, in office since 2003, is widely unpopular in the city for her administration’s incompetence in running basic services, the destruction of historic architecture, the harassment of entrepreneurs, crackdowns on peaceful rallies, and allegations of abuse of power surrounding her family. Experts wondered how Matviyenko—and Putin’s United Russia party, which nominated her—would escape humiliation at the hands of voters.

The solution was simple and brilliant. On July 31, Matviyenko announced that she had been nominated to run for election to the municipal councils of Petrovsky and Krasnenkaya Rechka districts. The deadline for nominations in both jurisdictions had passed on July 27. No one—not even the St. Petersburg City Electoral Commission, not to mention opposition parties—was aware that these elections had been called. The only ones in the know, apart from the authorities, were a handful of puppet candidates who will imitate “competition” to the governor. Despite opposition calls for an investigation, the sham vote, scheduled for August 21, has already been ruled lawful. In a few weeks, Valentina Matviyenko will become speaker of the upper house—nominally, the number-three position in Russia’s state hierarchy.

“No one except your minions and clappers will consider this procedure to be an election,” Boris Vishenvsky, one of Yabloko’s leaders and a former legislator himself, wrote to Matviyenko this week. “It will be considered a political swindle. You will leave St. Petersburg in disgrace and will be remembered as a weak and cowardly governor who was afraid of elections.”

There is at least some good news in all this for the citizens of St. Petersburg. One way or another, they will soon be rid of their unpopular governor.

_____

The St. Petersburg Times
August 3, 2011
Sergey Chernov
Opposition Slams Governor for ‘Secret’ Vote

The opposition has slammed Governor Valentina Matviyenko for running in “secret” elections which City Hall has concealed from the public for more than a month.

City Hall said on Sunday that Matviyenko would run in the elections for municipal deputies in the Krasnenkaya Rechka and Petrovsky districts, making the announcement four days after the registration of the candidates had ended. The elections are due on August 21.

Previously, local opposition leaders and activists said they would run at the same elections as Matviyenko and registered in the municipal district of Lomonosov, where four United Russia and Just Russia deputies had resigned simultaneously in what was seen as an attempt to clear the way for Matviyenko’s election.

A United Russia deputy in the municipal district of Posyolok Alexandrovskaya also resigned, which led to speculation that Matviyenko might also run there.

But, surprisingly, it turned out on Sunday that she would run in two different municipal districts instead, with registration already closed, thus preventing key opponents from standing against her.

In St. Petersburg, a municipal district or okrug is a lower-tier administrative division.

President Dmitry Medvedev offered Matviyenko the job of Chairman of the Federation Council, which became vacant when the former chairman and A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov was dismissed by Vladimir Putin’s United Russia in June. The new position forces Matviyenko to give up her current position as St. Petersburg Governor.

Despite Medvedev describing her as an “absolutely successful governor,” the media and opposition have claimed that the decision resulted from Matviyenko having fallen out of favor with the Kremlin as a result of her unpopularity among St. Petersburg residents, in turn caused by mismanagement and an unprecedented rise in corruption.

The Kremlin was said to have had doubts about her ability to secure The United Russia’s victory at the State Duma election, due in December.

Matviyenko, however, needs to be an elected deputy to occupy the seat of Chairman of the Federation Council.

The Other Russia political party’s local chair Andrei Dmitriyev, who submitted an application for candidacy in Lomonosov and was in the process of collecting signatures, described the scheme as a “cover-up operation.”

“I can imagine her PR people laughing about how they deceived everybody, but in reality they’ve done a disservice to her,” Dmitriyev said.

“It’s obviously dishonest, it’s illegal, it’s simply ugly. It shows that Matviyenko is afraid of competition and of St. Petersburg residents.

“In reality, it makes it easier for the opposition. We will not compete with one another, but unite our efforts to block Matviyenko from the municipal district and, further, from the Federation Council.”

Yabloko Democratic Party said it does not recognize the elections, which were not properly announced and thus illegal in a statement on Monday, which described them as a “shameful and undignified farce.”

It said that Matviyenko has a “panicked fear” of any democratic procedures and the scheme’s goal was to save her from any political competition at the election.

“It’s an utter shame and disgrace,” said Yabloko’s local chair Maxim Reznik by phone on Monday.

“And this is a person who once was the governor! She simply humiliates herself.”

A Just Russia party’s local chair Oksana Dmitriyeva said in a statement Monday that none of the municipal districts except Alexandrovskaya and Lomonosov had confirmed it would be holding elections over the next few months when replying to the party’s official letter sent to every municipal district.

She said that the St. Petersburg Election Commission was also not informed about the upcoming elections, referring to a written reply from its head Alexander Gnyotov.

Dmitriyeva said her party would sue Matviyenko over the upcoming elections, so that their results would be dismissed as illegitimate.

“This is surrender and shameful defeat from the very start,” she said.

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Committee to Stop FBI Repression: Support Carlos Montes!

Committee to Stop FBI Repression (stopfbi.net)
Support Carlos Montes as he goes to court Friday, August 12
Call
President Barak Obama at 202-456-1111

Attorney General Eric Holder at 202-514-2001

Sample call: “My name is ________ and I am calling from [city, state]. I’m calling about Carlos Montes of Los Angeles. He is one of the anti-war activists being targeted by the FBI. I want you to tell Attorney General Holder [or President Obama]:

1. Drop the charges against Carlos Montes!

2. Stop the FBI and the Grand Jury repression of the other 23 anti-war and international solidarity activists.

3. Return all property to Carlos Montes and the other activists raided by the FBI.

The U.S. government should not be prosecuting us when we exercise our rights to freedom of speech and dissent.”

On Friday, August 12, Carlos Montes will appear in a Los Angeles court again, for a preliminary hearing. At his last court date on July 6, Carlos pled not guilty to six charges, including a felony charge each for a firearm and ammunition, and four related to the permits’ paperwork. Like millions of Americans, Carlos has for many years held legal permits. So why is it that all of a sudden the government is saying there is a problem? These charges are a pretext to attack Carlos for his years of activism.

Please join us in calling U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, demanding a stop to the prosecution of Carlos Montes. We need to stop the persecution of political activists like Carlos, like the 23 Midwest anti-war and international solidarity activists, people like you and me.

Make no mistake: the U.S. government’s trial of Carlos Montes is an attack on the immigrants’ rights and anti-war movements. So please call today and let Holder and Obama know we are building a movement that will not bow down to dirty tricks and political repression.

In addition, the Los Angeles Committee to Stop FBI Repression is mobilizing to pack the courtroom on the morning of Friday, August 12, in Department 100 at the Criminal Courts Building, 210 W. Temple Street, Los Angeles, when Carlos Montes appears.


About Carlos Montes:
Carlos Montes is a veteran Chicano activist known for his leadership of the 1968 East Los Angeles education reform movement (see film Walkout), the historic Chicano Moratorium against the U.S. war in Vietnam, and the recent immigrants’ rights mega-marches of 2006. Carlos Montes was a co-founder of the Brown Berets, a Chicano youth organization that stood for justice, equality, and self-determination.

With the 2003 Bush administration war and occupation of Iraq, Montes helped form and lead L.A. Latinos Against War. In recent years, Carlos helped initiate and organize the Southern California Immigration Coalition, to fight against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and police repression.

About this case:
Now Montes himself is the target of government repression and the FBI’s dirty tricks. When the FBI raided several Midwest homes and served subpoenas on September 24, 2010, Carlos Montes’ name was listed on the FBI search warrant for the Anti-War Committee office in Minneapolis–the organizing center for the 2008 Republican National Convention protests, where Carlos participated.

Then on May 17, 2011, the LA Sheriffs broke down Carlos’ door, arrested him, and ransacked his home. They took political documents, a computer, cell phones and meeting notes having nothing to do with the charges. The FBI attempted to question Montes while he was handcuffed in a squad car, regarding the case of the 23 Midwest anti-war and solidarity activists.

On June 16, 2011, Carlos appeared in court and obtained the arrest documents showing the FBI initiated the raid. A reporter interviewing a Los Angeles Sheriff sergeant confirmed that the FBI was in charge. Carlos Montes is facing six felony charges with the possibility of 18 years in prison due to his political organizing. Carlos Montes case is part and parcel of the FBI raids and political repression centered in the Midwest. We need you to take action against this repression.


You can also invite Carlos Montes to speak using a live Internet video call. It is easy to do and works well. More details on the video calls coming next week.


Please sign the petition for Carlos Montes on the International Action Center website.

Visit www.StopFBI.net or write StopFBI@gmail.com or call 612-379-3585.

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Chto Delat Summer School (Visby, Sweden)

www.balticartcenter.com

CHTO DELAT SUMMER SCHOOL
WHAT IS OUR CONTEMPORARY?

The Russian collective Chto Delat has been invited to realise a project within the framework of the Production-in-Residence programme at BAC. This programme aims to support any aspect of an artistic process, to experiment with how to understand artistic production, and to reflect on the conditions for producing art.

Chto Delat has chosen to use this invitation to realise an alternative summer school in Visby hosted by BAC with a number of invited international participants. The summer school takes place August 8 – 12, and hereby coincides with The Medieval Week on Gotland. During this week a large-scale re-enactment of the medieval times takes place on the island with Visby, being a well-preserved medieval town and a Unesco World Heritage Site, as the epicentre. In this context, the Chto Delat summer school will pose the question, “What Is Our Contemporary?” – a question that constitutes the guiding line for all seminars, lectures and talks throughout the week. The outset for the project is a text by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, “What is the Contemporary?”, in which he contends that to be properly of one’s time means to acknowledge the element in the present that will always evade us.

The summer school is an opportunity to share knowledge and explore the potentials for collective learning. Chto Delat describes the motivation for the project as follows:

How should we grasp this contemporary moment, marked by the crisis of neoliberal capitalism and, at the same time, by the uncertainty of an alternative? As the recent Mediterranean revolutions and the European revival of students and precarious workers’ struggles have demonstrated, we are, perhaps, at the threshold of different times, when the crisis will be resolved in a new cycle of contestations of the global neoliberal regime and its final decomposition. We need to think through this ‘contemporariness’ in order to get a strategic orientation in our struggles.”

Chto Delat (What is to be done?) is a group of artists, philosophers and writers from St. Petersburg and Moscow. The platform Chto Delat was founded with the goal of merging political theory, art, and activism in early 2003 in St. Petersburg and Moscow.

www.chtodelat.org

The Production-in-Residence programme is kindly supported by Stiftelsen Framtidens Kultur.

Baltic Art Center     Visby, Sweden   +46 498 20 03 35   contact@balticartcenter.com

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Gay Cameroonian facing removal Saturday morning from UK

EveryOne Group

Action Alert: gay Cameroonian facing removal  tomorrow morning from UK

The EveryOne Group appeals  with maximum urgency to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to Air France and to the UK Authorities and UK Government: “His deportation must be stopped and his life saved.”

The name of the gay asylum seeker from Cameroon is Joseph Kuate.

Removal time and flight: tomorrow (Saturday 6 August), at 7.35am on flight AF1081 Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle and then via AF900 from Charles de Gaulle to Yaounde.

The airline being used to transport Joseph back to Cameroon is Air France

Joseph’s Home Office reference number: K1325219

Joseph Kuate is a homosexual asylum seeker from Cameroon. He is going to be removed tomorrow (Saturday 6 August), at 7.35am on flight AF1081 Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle and then AF900 Charles de Gaulle to Yaounde. There is still time to make a difference if we act urgently.

We have decided to focus on Air France, the airline being used to transport Joseph to Cameroon, via Paris. In the last week two Air France pilots have refused to fly deportees from the UK. This is encouraging.  Contacting the captains is the best chance we have of stopping Joseph’s imminent removal.

Joseph claimed asylum in the UK last year. A homosexual, in Cameroon Joseph suffered under the repressive force of a homophobic society. His family rejected him, he was arbitrarily arrested and beaten, and last year his partner was sentenced to six years in prison. He managed to escape to the UK, via Nigeria. Joseph’s asylum claim was refused because the Border Agency do not accept that Joseph is homosexual. This is a standard response given to homosexual asylum seekers.

Since discovering his homosexuality as a teenager, Joseph has had trouble with his family, his neighbours, and the law. None of his remaining family wants him to be a part of their lives. He has been arrested twice in 2005 and 2006. The first time he was beaten and suffered degrading treatment. Both times he was forced to pay a bribe for his freedom. Finally, in 2010, his partner was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison. The authorities knew that he had been in a relationship with Joseph. For that reason he came to the UK, where he claimed asylum. He has been living in Cardiff.

Homosexuality is against the law in Cameroon. The United States Department of State Human Rights Report 2009 noted that as well as “pervasive societal stigma, discrimination and harassment, as well as the possibility of imprisonment,” homosexuals in Cameroon suffer from “harassment and extortion by law enforcement officials.” This is what Joseph has lived with, and what he can expect if he is returned. The prospect of being removed is causing him considerable distress and, as he suffers from high blood pressure, is putting his health at risk.

Joseph should not be returned to a society that seeks to beat, bully and imprison him because of his sexuality. Nor can he be expected to return to Cameroon and deny his sexuality, hoping to avoid the authorities discovering him. Please join our campaign against Joseph’s forced removal.

THE EVERYONE GROUP NGO URGES UN, EU INSTITUTIONS AND INTERNATIONAL AUTHORITIES TO IMMEDIATELY PUT PRESSURE ON THE UK GOVERNMENT AND UK BORDER AGENCY TO STOP THE DEPORTATION OF THE CAMEROONIAN GAY AND GRANT HIM REFUGEE STATUS.

What everybody can do to help:

Download and fax this  letter (http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/61679055?access_key=key-l7wydljlvv91z9zzxri), with your details added, to Air France as soon as you can.

The fax numbers are 0141 56 70 29 (UK) and 0208 782 8115.

Please remember to include Joseph’s Home Office reference number (K1325219)

Alternatively, you could call customer services on 0871 66 33 777 to complain about the removal.

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