|Leaders of the liberal and communist opposition said Wednesday
that they may
form a rather unusual alliance to boycott the March presidential election,
incumbent President Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win in a first
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said it will be up to his party's
plenum later this month to decide whether to boycott the vote or field
a candidate, while Yabloko leader Grigory
Yavlinsky said he may not run altogether.
"I don't intend to participate in the elections of the president
Federation because I consider these elections to be undemocratic,"
He added, however, that it will be up to a Yabloko congress Sunday to
whether to field a candidate.
Yabloko deputy head Sergei
Mitrokhin told Interfax that his party may enter consultations with
the Communists on whether to boycott the election if a Yabloko-Communist
count of ballots cast in recent State Duma elections reveals massive falsification.
Union of Right Forces co-leader Irina Khakamada went a step further,
Yabloko and the Communist Party may join forces to boycott the elections.
"SPS and Yabloko could together with the Communists boycott the
presidential election and urge their electorate not to go to the polls,"
Khakamada said on Ekho Moskvy radio.
The presidential vote would be declared invalid if less than 50 percent
eligible voters participate, if more people vote "against all"
than for any
single candidate, or if only two candidates are running and neither secures
Central Elections Commission chairman Alexander Veshnyakov told NTV
on Wednesday that an alliance of the Communists and other opposition parties
"theoretically possible but would hardly lead to a disruption of
The law forbids calls for an election boycott, but political leaders
discourage their supporters from voting by publicly announcing that they
not participate in the race.
"A boycott of the election would amount to political suicide"
for the three
parties and their leaders, said Nikolai Petrov, a political analyst at
Carnegie Moscow Center.
He said the Kremlin could easily draw from a vast pool of second-tier
hard-line opposition leaders to field two or more candidates and give
election the semblance of being democratic.
Also, the Kremlin could take a stick-and-carrot approach to convince
three parties' leaders to change his mind and run against Putin, Petrov
Another problem is that voters may not heed a boycott even if one is
said. Furthermore, the three parties secured some 20 percent of the vote
recent Duma elections and, if extrapolated to the presidential poll, the
would not be enough to derail the vote or prevent Putin from winning in
round, he said.
Yabloko and SPS leaders have been discussing the possibility of fielding
single candidate, but no decision has been made -- even though the deadline
nominating a candidate is less than three weeks away.
A SPS source told Interfax on Wednesday night, however, that his party
already lost hope that it will agree on a single candidate with Yabloko.
"Talks continue ... but there is virtually no chance to find a
acceptable candidate," the source said.
Opinion polls show Putin's popularity hovering above 70 percent. A
poll conducted by the independent VTsIOM-A polling agency in November
popularity at 78 percent. The poll had a 3 percent margin of error.
If the election were to be held this month, Putin would win in the first
with 71.7 percent of the vote, according to an opinion poll by the
VTsIOM polling agency and released Wednesday.
VTsIOM set the margin of error at 3 percent.
the original at
State Duma elections 2003
Presidential election 2004