| Yesterday's meeting of the Open Forum club - the fifteenth
meeting this year, and the last before the parliamentary elections - was,
of course, devoted to what will happen on December 7 and
what will happen next. As usual, the topic for discussion at this distinguished
assembly sounded very academic and comprehensive: "The party system
and election campaigns in Russia: yesterday, today, tomorrow (1995-2007
- analysis and forecasts)."
The major event of substance at the forum was an announcement by some
figures. Mark Urnov, head of the Ekspertiza Foundation and the National
Political Forecasting Agency (NAPP), couldn't wait until Friday: he released
some of the tastier morsels from the next issue of the NAPP bulletin called
"Duma 2003: results of the election race." The forecast for
the outcome of voting on December 7, based on analysis of the results
of the latest national opinion polls by the leading polling agencies,
look as follows:
Between 230 and 285 Duma seats will go to United Russia and all the
parties, blocs, and single-mandate district candidates inclined to support
it: Motherland (Rodina), the People's Party, the Agrarian Party, the Russia's
Renaissance party and Party of Life alliance, and the LDPR (the NAPP has
finally made the long- awaited decision to classify Zhirinovsky's party
within the ranks of the pro-Kremlin party).
The Communist Party, along with pro-communist single-mandate district
candidates, will win 105-135 seats. The democratic parties (YABLOKO and
the Union of Right Forces) will win 40-55 seats between them.
But the main conclusion, according to the NAPP, is as follows: even
though United Russia will obtain a majority in the new Duma (no one doubts
that), its main goal - an absolute majority of 301 seats - will not be
achieved, even if all independent single-mandate Duma members (predicted
to number around 25) join the winning party. Detailed results of this
study will be made public today, around midday.
The second memorable event at the forum was a tradition (something
similar has taken place at all the recent Open Forum meetings). Duma member
Vladimir Ryzhkov and a number of experts once again called on YABLOKO
and the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) to unite, saying that with their
endless conflict, these parties are "paving the way for authoritarianism."
They expressed the opinion (this was nothing new either) that if the two
parties merge, the democrats could get 16-20% of the vote in elections.
In response, the well-wishers received the meeting's most emotional speech.
Galina Mikhalyova, head of YABLOKO's analytical center, couldn't restrain
herself: "It is strange to be forced to tell this audience, for the
225th time, that the SPS and YABLOKO are different parties, with different
voters and different positions.
We have cooperated, and are cooperating, with the SPS as closely as
we can: in the Duma and in the districts where our candidates are running
for the Duma."
According to Mikhalyova, YABLOKO cannot unite with Anatoly Chubais
primarily because the reforms he is carrying out in housing and utilities
and the electricity sector disadvantage ordinary citizens and merely benefit
monopolists. Yavlinsky's supporters are categorically opposed to this
After listing all the SPS's sins against YABLOKO v from the "YABLOKO
without Yavlinsky" campaign to Chubais's unification ultimatum -
Mikhalyova presented a "list of attacks" clearly meant for the
SPS: between September 3 and November 24, a total of 203 newspaper articles discrediting YABLOKO have been published.
Mikhalyova said angrily: "Let's fight the authoritarian regime
together - but how can you merge with someone who keeps elbowing you in
the ribs, or worse?"
"No need for that, no need for worse," said Mark Urnov, interrupting
this potentially explosive topic.
Mikhalyova replied by saying what some members of the audience considered
healthy and constructive, while others (like Gleb Pavlovsky) found it
amusing. She said: "All forces of civil society should unite. But
that doesn't mean we have to merge into an embrace - let it be a coalition.
As long as all of us haven't been mown down by a scythe, there is still
a chance. There is a very big hope that thinking voters will understand
how much they are being deceived." This little speech may be considered
YABLOKO's official position.
State Duma elections
YABLOKO and SPS