A new Kremlin-friendly party emerged Sunday in Russia, creating itself from the ashes of a once-leading opposition party and two smaller groups, TehranTimes reported according the Associated Press news agency.
The Right Cause party is widely seen as a government effort to create a loyal group that could lure opposition-minded voters and to kill off the Union of Right Forces, which had in recent years adopted a tough anti-Kremlin line.
The ostensibly pro-business Right Cause, which held its founding congress on Sunday, is not an opposition party, its leaders have acknowledged. That could help the party's chances of achieving what its predecessors could not - parliamentary representation.
The next State Duma elections are set for 2011, and Right Cause's leaders are confident they can cross the 7-percent barrier needed to win legislature seats.
"Today we can orientate ourselves on around 8 percent of public support," said Leonid Gozman, a Right Cause co-chair and former Union of Right Forces leader, according to the Russian news agency RIA-Novosti.
The two other parties merged into Right Cause are the Democratic Party and Civil Force - groups that claimed to be independent but were widely understood to be backed by the Kremlin. Together, the three dissolved parties only managed a little over 2 percent of the vote in last December's parliamentary elections.
Gozman became the leader of the Union of Right Forces after its more outspoken leader, Nikita Belykh, resigned, saying he came under pressure from members to strike a deal with the Kremlin.
The Union of Right Forces, founded in 2001 by top government officials, was seen as a pillar of Russia's political establishment. But despite its support for then-President Vladimir Putin, the party found itself pushed to the margins. It sharpened its criticism of the Kremlin and failed to win a single seat in December.
Some said the party's decision to dissolve showed it was never truly in opposition.
"What we saw today proves that we were right when we refused to unite," Sergei Mitrokhin, leader of the liberal Yabloko party, told the Interfax news agency on Sunday.
Garry Kasparov, a former world chess champion and vocal Kremlin critic, called the new party part of "the Kremlin's puppet theater."
The other co-chairs of Right Cause are former Civil Force party head Boris Titov and Georgy Bovt of the Democratic Party.