| The liberals from Yabloko and SPS have done a lot to discredit
themselves as a serious opposition force, due to their inconsistent line
and refusal to criticize President Vladimir Putin's authoritarian tendencies
during the parliamentary election campaign for fear of provoking the Kremlin's
wrath and retribution.
The evidence is that a large section of the liberal-minded electorate
chose either not to vote at all or voted against all, because they were
so disillusioned or disgusted with the spinelessness and vacillation of
the two parties. The liberal electorate according to various estimates
is 15 percent to 20 percent.
If the leaders of Yabloko and SPS hope to salvage their parties' reputations
and play any role in the March presidential election, they have two options.
Their best option is to field a single candidate who has the backbone
to take Putin to task for the increasingly authoritarian direction of
the regime and the dangerous concentration of power in the Kremlin.
By definition this must be someone new, someone able to inspire confidence
as a genuinely independent politician. Grigory Yavlinsky, Boris Nemtsov
and Irina Khakamada must step aside and rally behind someone who can carry
the liberal banner forward in a way that they, with all their baggage,
no longer can.
Their other option is not to put forward any candidate and in effect
boycott the election as an expression of no confidence in the electoral
system. This would delegitimize the election and reduce Putin's chances
of winning in a first round, since turnout must exceed 50 percent for
the voting to be valid.
Even if they do field a candidate, the liberals should make it quite
clear that they will withdraw their candidate if the electoral process
is as fundamentally rigged in favor of the powers that be as these parliamentary
Not putting forward a candidate, however, could also play into the Kremlin's
hands by allowing Putin to masquerade as the defender of liberal, democratic
values against the likes of Vladimir Zhirinovsky or Sergei Glazyev.
But, if they play it right and put forward a strong candidate, the liberals
could launch a new figure onto the political scene. Like Alexander Lebed
in 1996, their candidate could have little hope of winning, but with a
respectable showing he could become the leader of a liberal force to be
Failure to pursue one of the above options will only strengthen the
view that their current predicament and consignment to the political wilderness
are, above all, of their own making.
the original at
State Duma elections 2003
Presidential Elections 2004