Cockily defending his role in the 1990s privatizations and proclaiming
himself ready for a new political fight, Anatoly Chubais burst back into
politics on Monday as the Union of Right Forces, or SPS, kicked off its
election campaign with great festivity.
Igor Tabakov / MT
SPS leader Boris Nemtsov addressing
a party congress on Monday as fellow party co-founders Yegor Gaidar
and Anatoly Chubais listen. Chubais is No. 3 on the party list.
Chubais, as expected, was formally given the third spot on the
liberal, pro-business party's federal list, behind SPS leaders Boris Nemtsov
and Irina Khakamada. A co-founder of SPS, Chubais said he was able to
to politics because his "crisis management" of Russia's electricity
was now behind him.
The SPS leaders did nothing to smooth over strained relations with
Yabloko party by announcing they would put up candidates to compete against
it in key single-mandate constituencies. The two parties agreed earlier
year not to field candidates in the same constituencies in the Dec. 7
parliamentary elections, but both sides are now accusing the other of
failing to honor the agreement.
In contrast to the Communists and Yabloko, which held rather modest
party congresses over the weekend, SPS threw a lavish event in the new
Moscow International House of Music for 1,400 party members and supporters.
The congress had all the markings of a major theater premiere, with three
dozen television cameras in the center of the hall, flowers decorating
stage and a standing ovation at the end.
It opened with a party song, "Russia, You Are Right!" written
specially for the start of the campaign and played to accompany video
of SPS-sponsored outdoor rock concerts and Khakamada and Nemtsov dancing
clumsily on stage.
Chubais was the first to speak. Brimming with confidence, he said he
was looking forward to the campaign.
"Now we have in front of us a political fight, or a good scrap.
is why I'm here and I agree to take part in it. I couldn't miss such an
event. I cannot deny myself such pleasure," he said.
After trumpeting his performance as Unified Energy Systems chief,
Chubais went on to defend his own and fellow SPS co-founder Yegor Gaidar's
record in the government in the early 1990s.
"We are the people who get things done," Chubais said, drawing
a standing ovation from the SPS delegates.
Tabakov / MT
Unified Energy Systems chief Anatoly
Chubais and Boris Nemtsov sharing a light moment at the Union of Right
Chubais remains an unpopular figure for his role in engineering the
privatizations of the mid-1990s in which state assets were snapped up
well-connected businessmen for a fraction of their value. But he also
seen as an efficient manager who has maintained close ties to the Kremlin.
He made no apologies Monday. "In all those years there were no
except ours, there were no ideas except ours. Yes, we carried out the
privatizations. We started the reforms and it was us who announced the
default [in 1998]."
Chubais said SPS decided not to play the opposition role, because it
would mean opposing reforms that the party had backed.
When Nemtsov took the floor, he opted to speak less about the record
of the liberal reformers in building a market economy and concentrated
current social hardships instead.
"What people care the most about in the country is not political
but why in one of the richest countries there are 40 million poor people."
Nemtsov said that SPS has designed a program of social reforms that
would all but eradicate poverty. "Usually our party does not care
these kind of things -- we leave it to the populist parties -- but in
years it is realistic to double pensions and wages," he said.
The SPS leaders then turned their attention to Yabloko. Chubais and
Khakamada said Yabloko has fielded candidates in some of the single-mandate
constituencies where high-profile SPS candidates planned to run.
In Moscow, Yabloko's Alexei Arbatov
is to run against SPS's Vladimir Kara-Murza, and Yabloko's Sergei
Mitrokhin against another SPS candidate. Khakamada is to face competition
from a Yabloko candidate in a St. Petersburg single-mandate constituency
where Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov also is running.
Mitrokhin blamed SPS for violating the agreement not to compete in
same single-mandate constituencies. "They were the first to put their
candidates against Yabloko's candidates," he said Monday in a phone
Hours after the congress ended, SPS press secretary Yelena Dikun said
the party is ready to negotiate with Yabloko, Interfax reported.
Chubais reminded delegates of the party's failed efforts to forge an
alliance with Yabloko. SPS proposed that Yabloko leader Grigory
Yavlinsky run as No. 2 on a joint list in the Duma elections, promising
to support him in the 2004 presidential elections. Yavlinsky rejected
Chubais said SPS has enough money to wage its electoral battles.
"Speaking about funding, we have no problem with that," he said,
At a brief press conference during a break, he refused to give the
sources of the funding. "We will publish them as required by law
time comes," he said, visibly annoyed by the question.
the original at