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MOSCOW, October 13 (RIA Novosti) - The Homeland party, which the Kremlin set up for the Duma election campaign to "honestly steal" votes from the Communist Party, seems to have seriously taken up the proffered role of the systemic opposition to United Russia. Dmitry Rogozin's party is eclipsing the "ruling party" at local elections and is also admitting former members of the parliamentary majority. For example, Igor Morozov, who was expelled from the United Russia faction yesterday, immediately applied for membership in the Homeland faction, writes Gazeta.

Maxim Dianov, director of the Institute of Regional Studies, explains the fashion for Homeland by the fact that "it attracts provincial functionaries who failed to find a place in the tough hierarchy of United Russia." However, he warns against overestimating Homeland's capabilities; it can win some votes from the traditional patriotic Communist electorate, but these will not be enough to win elections.

At the same time, Homeland's success in the regions concerns the "ruling party." According to Gazeta, the latest political session of United Russia decided to seriously criticize Homeland. According to a source in the faction, "our main enemy now is not the Communists, but Rogozin."

"When two pro-Kremlin parties start fighting each other, it is nothing but a theater of the absurd," believes Mr. Dianov. "Even if the authorities decide to divide United Russia into two wings, they will need 'decent' left-wingers, but Homeland is not suitable for this role, as it is has a nationalistic bent." The most Homeland can do now, the political expert believes, is "to bite the heels" of United Russia, which is engulfed in internal intrigue. "The Kremlin will turn a blind eye to Homeland achievements as long as they do not threaten United Russia's position and do not prompt any positive efforts from it," Mr. Dianov suggests.