By Milena Faustova
For religious political organizations in Russia, it is a question of to be or not to be. The initiative to create an Orthodox party was put forward by Vsevolod Chaplin who heads the public-affairs department of the Patriarchate. He believes that his proposal was a response by the Church to a new stage of the organization of the party system in the country, and was a reaction in part to the mass protests against the falsification of the December parliamentary elections.
The organization of religion-based political parties has become quite popular in many countries across the world and this has become a norm for the international community. There are Catholic, Protestant, Moslem and Jewish unions in Europe, Latin America, the U.S., Asia and the Middle East. Meanwhile, the Christian Democratic Union is one of the leading parties in Germany. However, the proposal by a Moscow Patriarchate official has caused a stir and provoked a heated dispute in Russian society, which has shown that the idea has both supporters and opponents.
Every person enjoys the right to the defence his values and his opinions. It’s much easier to convey a person’s opinion to society through a party or several parties. Moreover, contemporary Russia has acquired experience in religious parties, says Vsevolod Chaplin.
“In the 90s, there were several attempts to create Orthodox or Christian parties. People can unite on the basis of any values, religious or non-religious ones. The current legislation does not allow creating religious or ethnic parties. In view of this, people who honour common values can unite under a party with a neutral name. For one, there are Christians in the European parliament who are united under the European People’s Party,” Vsevolod Chaplin said.
Russian Jews and some public figures have supported an idea of creating such a party structure. A prominent Russian publicist Andrei Desnitsky believes that contemporary Russia needs such a structure.
Meanwhile, Russian politicians, on the contrary, believe that there will be no future for an Orthodox party. According to a Russian MP, Sergei Obukhov, there are deputies in the parliament who are ready to defend Christian values.
“I believe that at present, the Communist Party of Russia is an Orthodox party because the largest share of its voters are baptized Orthodox Christians. Today, many Orthodox faithful vote for the Communist Party than for the ruling United Russia party. Moreover, from the standpoint of its programme, the Communist Party exactly defends Orthodoxy’s basic values,” Sergei Obukhov said.
In any case, if an Orthodox party appears on the Russian political horizon some day or the other, it will never be a mouthpiece of the Orthodox Church. Under the Russian Constitution, the Church is separated from the government and politics. Apart from this, the canons of the Russian Orthodox Church ban the clergy from being representatives of legislative bodies and members of political parties and take part in political campaigning unless there are serious reasons for this. The only exception could be in a case when their participation in a political process is necessary to protect the Church from a schism.