So why did the Kremlin do this?
"If Kasyanov had managed to take over the party, the DPR could have become a real player," said Anton Goltsman, press secretary of the Union of Right Forces (SPS). "The Kremlin was genuinely worried and put Bogdanov in his place. It's a shame. Kasyanov really got taken for a ride. He lost a lot of money."
After the Kremlin's successful coup d'etat, Kasyanov went on to start his own pro-Western liberal party, the National Democratic Union, now part of the opposition Other Russia umbrella organization. Bogdanov stayed on as leader of DPR and never looked back.
Leaders of Russia's other liberal parties - including SPS and Yabloko - have little to be proud of. There's nothing honorable about laying low and staying away from the opposition in order to hold on to a job in a neutered political party. But Bogdanov, a member of the independent-minded DPR for more than a decade, took the collaborationist-baton further. He openly joined the Dark Side. According to APN news agency, even Bogdanov's political science professor was appalled by "his most promising pupil's" betrayal. Ever since then, DPR has stealthily carried out the Kremlin's bidding, echoing OB1's disappointment in Darth Vader.
"You have to interpret everything DPR does from a cynical perspective," said Korgunyuk. "It is paid by the Kremlin to do only one thing: to disrupt liberal democratic parties like SPS or Yabloko." Or the real opposition.
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So far it seems that the DPR is doing its best to fulfill its contract with the Kremlin. For two years, the DPR has directed its energies at taking a bite out of the SPS. According to the APN news agency, the party was given about $7 million to buy out the other liberal democratic parties in order to create a unified democratic coalition headed up by DPR. So far it hasn't worked on the national level, but it may explain why some regional SPS branches have collaborated with the DPR.
In 2006, the SPS set its sights on the Kursk regional legislature elections, where it stood a good chance of winning seats in the regional Duma. But then the DPR swooped into the region and siphoned off enough liberal votes to neutralize SPS's chances. In the end, United Russia cleaned up with 37% of the vote, the Communists came in second with 11% and SPS and DPR were tied with about 7% each. Without DPR's meddling, the SPS was poised to beat out the Communists, Russia's second most popular party, which has shown increasing signs of collaboration with the Kremlin also.
In April 2007, the DPR carried out another spoiler campaign, this time in the Krasnoyarsk region. According to APN, the SPS's popularity has been growing in some Russian regions. In the 2007 regional legislature elections in March, the SPS picked up anywhere from 8% to 16% of the vote, quadruple the amount of votes the party picked up on average over the previous four years. In many cases, the SPS was coming dangerously close to undermining United Russia's supreme political authority. They had to be cut down to size. So in April, the Interior Ministry raided SPS offices in the Krasnoyarsk region based on "evidence" submitted by the DPR alleging that the SPS was paying off voters. The charge turned out to be nothing more than a salary bonus system that the SPS used to reward their door-to-door reps for doing a good job. But it didn't matter; the damage was already done. The whole drama played out on local TV.
"Everyone understands that the DPR is a fiction created to take away votes from the Yabloko and SPS. The party is nothing more than an organizer of media provocations," said Goltsman.
But how does the DPR's upcmoing EU referendum figure into their spoiler plans?
Goltsman and Korgonyuk believe it's a grandiose attempt to discredit the liberal opposition. First, the timing couldn't be worse - or better, depending on which side you're on. The DPR's call for this referendum comes at a time of shifting anti-Russian sentiment in the West, as the U.S. is attempting to place a missile defense system in Eastern Europe.