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By Alexander Ivanov

Union of Right-Wing Forces is left without force

Noviye Izvestia, June 8, 2001, p. 1

The Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) has finally become a political party. Only a week has passed, and the right is already facing the hard facts of life. Chanting "You are right!" is not going to suffice anymore. Voters have to be offered what is called "real accomplishments" in official terms.

The Union of Right-Wing Forces got its chance when the Kremlin began discussing the forthcoming reforms of housing and utilities. There are specialists in the sphere in the newly-formed political party its leader Boris Nemtsov himself was responsible for the communal and residential sphere as a senior deputy prime minister. Nevertheless, the Union of Right-Wing Forces chose to keep silent on the
subject of communal and housing reforms even though the matter directly concerns the middle class (since they will have to pay from their own pockets for the reforms), whose interests the new party claims to be representing.

This neglect of the electorate is attributed to the gap between public declarations of the right and their actual place in the political arena. Judging by their own speeches, leaders of the SPS are real politicians who enjoy direct access to the Kremlin and have the influence with the powers-that-be which is not enjoyed by all the other democrats. The right claim to be wholly independent and Anatoly Chubais even says that they will nominate their own candidate at the next presidential election, Nemtsov.

Paradoxically, the president supports his potential rivals. During the parliamentary election in 1999 the Union of Right-Wing Forces as allowed to say that it supported Putin. Needless to say, the permission was in fact a form of support of the right by Putin himself. This time the president sends a complimentary cable to the congress of the Union of Right-Wing Forces, gives the right a presence in the form of the NTV channel confiscated from Vladimir Gusinsky (as Alfred Koch revealed), and all but makes oligarch Pyotr Aven (who was not exactly removed from the Kremlin despite Putin's promises concerning equidistance) a sponsor of the party. Two leaders of the SPS, Chubais and Sergei Kiriyenko, are state executives.

Unfortunately, by taking over the docile right, the corridors of power have thereby reduced the potential of this political resource. A lion's share of the right electorate which does not exactly support Putin is lost to the SPS now because of the party's too overt dependence on the Kremlin.

As a result, Kremlin is confronted by two difficult issues. If the Union of Right-Wing Forces does not control a great deal of the truly right-wing forces, why bother supporting a political structure with doubtful electoral capacities? Secondly, what kind of dialogue should these politicians adopt to influence the mood of the democratic electorate?

Everything is clear and simple with pro-communist voters. Thanks to Gennadi Seleznev, a agreement can always be reached with the communists. Thanks to Gennadi Zyuganov, an agreement will be always reached with the agrarians. Even radicals like Labour Russia may be influenced through some left-wing deputy.

This simplicity of relations on the right wing of the political spectrum is for the time being impossible. The regime cannot shrug off Yabloko, as its stable 6-7% of the vote enable Grigory Yavlinsky to remain independent. That is why the authorities cannot dictate anything to Yavlinsky, something they are already used to in dealings with the Union of Right-Wing Forces. Boris Berezovsky is now trying to monopolize the right-wing democratic movement and unite it within the party Liberal Russia, and a dialogue with him is only possible through humiliating concessions by the Kremlin. There is also the Democratic Conference which is slated to meet soon and unite a large number of liberal political organisations. Unfortunately, there are problems here, as far as the Kremlin is concerned. Firstly,
the Democratic Conference does not plan to become an electoral resource. Secondly, its nucleus is mostly composed of Yabloko.

It therefore follows that the three-party system coveted by the Kremlin (communists, the Unity, and the right-wing) does not encompass all of the political arena despite expectations. This means that control over voters is merely an illusion harboured by the Kremlin.

Planned by the authorities, the consolidation of democrats around the Union of Right-Wing Forces never occurred. Leaders of the right pledged loyalty to the state and not to liberal ideas. Instead of repeating the same old question "Who is Mr. Putin?", we may ask "What is the Union of Right-Wing Forces?" We do not know yet how right-wing this force is and how strong it really is.

Noviye Izvestia, June 8, 2001, p. 1

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