Igor Lebedev, the deputy speaker of the State Duma (and the son of firebrand politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky), currently finds himself in a public spat with Sergey Neverov, the head of United Russia’s Duma faction. What happened? Neverov called out Lebedev on Facebook for vacationing in Miami during “regional week,” when lawmakers are supposed to meet with their constituents.
The scandal started on November 28, when Lebedev shared a video and nearly a dozen photographs from Florida with the caption: “You gotta love Miami!” Sergey Neverov, who is under U.S. sanctions (for helping to destabilize eastern Ukraine) and therefore prohibited from visiting Miami, commented on the post, reminding his colleague that the State Duma is currently observing a “regional week.” “Miami isn’t our region. It’s a long ways from Khabarovsk, Vladimir, and Smolensk. You and Mr. Zhirinovsky are more needed here,” Neverov wrote.
Lebedev responded that Miami “is attached as a constituency to one of the districts of the deputies in our faction.” Neverov did not respond publicly to this message.
According to the law, State Duma deputies have to keep up ties with voters. As a rule, this applies to the residents in the districts where deputies were elected, either on their party’s regional list or in a single-mandate race. Federal laws don’t say anything about maintaining contact with voters living abroad. Igor Lebedev won his Duma seat as the number-two name on LDPR’s national party list. (His father, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, was the party’s headliner.)
In Russia’s 2016 parliamentary elections, it was in fact possible to vote in Miami. Russia’s D.C. embassy opened a polling station in the Florida city, and the results were assigned to voting in Moscow’s Tushinsky District.
LDPR’s single-mandate candidate in Tushino lost, and the party only won 12.43 percent of the votes in this district. Just two candidates from LDPR’s regional party list in Moscow made it to the Duma: Boris Chernyshov and Vasily Vlasov. Based on news reports and social media, Chernyshov spent his regional week in southern Russia, while Vlasov joined Vladimir Zhirinovsky at a meeting of the “Zemlyaki” (Countrymen) social movement.
Photo on front page: Stanislav Krasilnikov / TASS / Scanpix / LETA