Yavlinsky will not take part in Russia's presidential elections next
March, and his party will not support Vladimir Putin. These were the results
of a two-day post-election congress held by the Yabloko party at the weekend.
For the first time in the history of Russia's oldest liberal party, the
participants at its congress considered calling for a vote of no-confidence
in veteran leader Yavlinsky, but only one-third of the delegates backed
In all 300 delegates from 75 of the country's regions took part in the
12th such congress held, by tradition, in the village of Moskovsky outside
the capital. They had gathered to decide the fate of their party after
it fell short of the five per cent minimum required to win seats on party
lists in the parliamentary elections earlier this month.
Despite that defeat the majority of delegates are still optimistic
about the future of the party with long-standing leader Grigory Yavlinsky
at its helm.
According to Yavlinsky's key-note address to the gathering, Yabloko
aims to create a large democratic party ''that will truly unite the democratic
opposition for the next four years''. ''We will learn to work outside
parliament,'' Yavlinsky told the press after the congress.
By tradition, Yavlinsky was supposed to open the congress, but before
he had a chance to speak a delegate from the Tver region proposed a vote
of no-confidence in the party leader. Gazeta.Ru sources confirmed that
the matter was raised at the congress several times. Some suggested a
vote of no-confidence; others wanted to dismiss the leadership before
the end of its
One delegate told Gazeta.Ru that the issue was raised for the first
time at the beginning of the session - 22 delegates voted in favour of
including it in the agenda, with 197 opposing it.
Taking the floor, Yavlinsky suggested listening to his report first
of all, and then returning to the leadership question. The issue was raised
a second time late on Saturday evening, after Yavlinsky had reported on
the party's work during the election campaign and assessed the current
situation in the country.
Again some of the delegates called for Yavlinsky's dismissal. According
to Gazeta.Ru sources, the second discussion was initiated by deputy chairman
of the party Sergei Ivanenko.
This attack on Yavlinsky, too, failed, although as many as 67 delegates
voted to include the issue on the agenda; 197 were resolutely against.
The most important decision taken by the congress was its refusal to
field a candidate in the presidential polls. The decision was passed by
134 votes to 23.
Addressing a news briefing held after the congress on Sunday, Yavlinsky
explained that he saw no point in competing in the contest, as the winner
was already predetermined a long time ago. ''The party thinks that the
political situation in Russia now is such that free, liberal elections
are impossible,'' he said. ''There is no possibility of obtaining independent
financial sources or an independent court system; there is no independent
national media. We have therefore decided not to nominate a candidate.''
At the same time, the party said it would not support President Putin
in the race. ''It is pointless in conditions, when in order to nominate
a candidate for the presidential elections and to receive financing for
the campaign one must apply for permission to the officials in the [presidential]
administration, taking part in the election, not to mention supporting
the President,'' one Yabloko member told Gazeta.Ru, in a comment on the
In the two weeks since the parliamentary elections, Yabloko and the
Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) held consultations on nominating a single
candidate to represent Russia's democratic forces in the presidential
campaign but failed to reach a compromise.
''In the two weeks since the election we have had intensive consultations
with our colleagues from Yabloko...more productive than in the past,''
SPS leader Boris Nemtsov told Ekho Moskvy radio. ''We unfortunately failed
to find a joint candidate.''
Earlier, SPS suggested that it may call on its voters to boycott the
presidential poll. If turnout falls below 50 percent, the result becomes
invalid, the right-wing party said.
Yavlinsky gave no indication at the congress whether his party would
call for a boycott, saying that the decision on the issue would be made
once the names of all the candidates have become known.
Summing up the results of the parliamentary campaign, Yavlinsky said
the party's biggest mistake was that ''we should have understood earlier
that to win 5 per cent in Russia, 20 per cent of the vote must be gathered.''
The congress backed the creation of a ''democratic coalition with other
democratic parties and movements'' and supported the initiative of SPS
to create a united democratic council. Vladimir
Lukin, Aleksey Arbatov,
Igor Artemyev, Boris
Misnik, Sergey Mitrokhin
and Viktor Sheynis
have been delegated to work in the body, which is being set up by the
two parties on a parity basis.
The creation of the democratic council was suggested by the Union of
Right-Wing Forces a week ago. They have already put six of their own representatives
on the council, including three co-chairmen - Boris Nemtsov, Irina Khakamada
and Yegor Gaidar.
The resolution adopted by the congress says the party should focus
during the next four years on contesting regional and local elections.
The 'Yablokites' stressed that ''keeping a full check on the observance
of electoral legislation at elections in the regions'' would be the most
important priority. The resolution links the defeat sustained by the party
at the recent Duma elections to ''unrestricted use of administrative resources
and massive falsifications in the count''.
The 12th congress