| MOSCOW - Yabloko said Sunday that it will not field a
candidate but stopped short of calling
for its electorate to boycott the March election altogether.
"The political situation in the country is such that just and
equal presidential elections are impossible," Yabloko deputy head
Sergei Mitrokhin said
Sunday at the end of a two-day congress in the Moscow region, Interfax
Yabloko leader and two-time presidential candidate Grigory
Yavlinsky reiterated complaints Sunday by his party, the Union of
Right Forces, or SPS, and the Communists that the results of the Dec.
7 State Duma elections had been rigged.
Yabloko and SPS both failed to clear the 5 percent threshold to win
in the next Duma.
"Our biggest mistake was we should have understood earlier that
to win 5
percent in Russia, 20 percent of
the vote must be gathered de facto," Yavlinsky was quoted by Interfax
Yabloko and SPS tried unsuccessfully last week to come up with a single
presidential candidate to run
against President Vladimir Putin. None of the potential candidates tapped
by SPS would agree to enter the
race, and Yabloko only half-heartedly supported the initiative - causing
some observers to suggest that
Yavlinsky had made his mind up to run as the single candidate representing
the liberal electorate.
Also, speculation swirled in the local media last week that Putin was
pressing Yavlinsky to run for president
in an attempt to give the election the aura of democracy. Yabloko and
Kremlin have denied the rumors.
Yabloko's decision not to field a presidential candidate could be
interpreted as a call for supporters to
boycott the election on March 14. But the congress Sunday did not publicly
make such a call - despite talks
last week by Yabloko, the Union of Right Forces, or SPS, and the Communists
about the possibility of
teaming up for a boycott.
Yavlinsky expressed hope Sunday that the liberals will be able to create
unified democratic opposition.
"Yabloko aims to create a big, serious party that will truly unite
democratic opposition over the next four
years," he said at the congress.
SPS leader Boris Nemtsov said Sunday that despite failure to agree
single presidential candidate, recent
talks between SPS and Yabloko ended up being "much more meaningful"
all of the talks they have had
in the past, Interfax reported.
The Yabloko congress voted Sunday to join forces with a democratic
coalition with SPS and other liberal voices. Six prominent Yabloko members
- Mitrokhin, Vladimir
Lukin, Alexei Arbatov,
Igor Artemyev, Boris
Misnik and Viktor Sheinis
- will represent Yabloko on the leadership council of the coalition when
it is formed.
In a separate development, another liberal-minded group, the Assembly
the Democratic Community, met
Friday and called on the public to boycott the presidential election or
vote against all candidates.
The organization appears to unite some of the early 1990s democrats
have drifted into the shadows of
big politics in recent years, including human rights activists like
Konstantin Borovoi, Lev Ponomaryov and
"Today, honest elections and honest vote counts are not possible
Russia," the organization said in a
statement carried by Interfax. "Therefore, the only way is to not
participate in the upcoming election - which
is not going to offer any alternatives - by boycotting it or voting
But while many liberals were struggling to find a new place in Russian
politics, some appeared ready to
cooperate with the pro-Kremlin Duma winners.
Pavel Krasheninnikov, one of only three SPS members who made it into
next Duma by winning
single-mandate districts, joined United Russia last week. Krasheninnikov,
former justice minister, will be
able to keep his SPS membership.
the original at
Presidential elections 2004