| Russia's liberal, pro-democracy Yabloko party says it
will not field a
candidate in the country's presidential elections in March. The party says
fair political competition and free elections are impossible in Russia
under existing conditions. The country's other major democratic party --
the Union of Right-Wing Forces -- says it will also likely stay out of
race, and the Communists are hinting at a similar move.
Prague, 22 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- A boycott of Russia's presidential
elections in March by opposition parties could put President Vladimir
in an awkward position.
Yesterday, the leader of Russia's liberal Yabloko party, Grigory
Yavlinsky, announced that the party will not field a candidate in
the March vote.
Yabloko's likely partner in any opposition coalition, the Union of
Right-Wing Forces (SPS), said in a statement yesterday that it also might
nominate a candidate. SPS has not made a final decision yet.
In parliamentary elections earlier this month, both Yabloko and SPS
to clear the 5 percent threshold needed to win any party-list seats in
next State Duma, the lower house of parliament. The pro-Kremlin Unified
Russia party won more than 37 percent of the vote.
Yavlinsky, a two-time presidential candidate, said fair elections are
impossible in Russia under existing conditions. He said Russia has no
independent national media outlets and no independent legal system. SPS,
led by Anatoli Chubais, the architect of Russian privatization, and Boris
Nemtsov, a former prime minister, support these charges as well.
Yavlinsky says the parliamentary elections created a new political
situation in the country. "It has become clear that the creation
[virtual] one-party Duma in Russia is a very disturbing factor and can
grave consequences for the country," he said.
Yavlinsky says democrats will survive in Russia only if they manage
create a unified opposition. A coalition between Yabloko and SPS would
increase the chances of a good showing for both parties in the March
elections. But Yabloko and SPS have so far failed to agree on a
presidential candidate or program.
However, Nemtsov said last week that recent talks between SPS and Yabloko
had ended on a more "meaningful" note than in the past.
Analyst Maria Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Center is pessimistic about
positive outcome, however. "Speaking about unification, as we have
during several years and especially before the parliamentary elections
December, the attempts to unite produce no results," she told RFE/RL.
Lipman says there are indications of positive trends in the Russian
democratic camp, but it may be a case of too little, too late. "The
that Yavlinsky said he would not support Putin but would not put himself
forward as a candidate himself and would not invite his supporters to
for Putin indicates in some sense that a unified democratic position is
appearing," she said. "However, it still doesn't look like the
position of two parties."
Lipman says democratic parties in Russia are no longer hiding their
negative attitudes toward Putin. "Until recently," she said,
was criticized in Russia, except Putin."
Even the Communists are not sure they will participate in the elections.
Reports say that Gennadi Zyuganov, the Communist Party leader and Putin's
main rival in the 2000 elections, is having second thoughts about the
election and is consulting with the democratic parties about boycotting
vote, as well.
Putin is immensely popular in Russia and appears certain to be re-elected
for a second term. But Lipman says a boycott of the elections by leading
opposition parties could cast a shadow on his victory. Lipman says Putin
wants a credible opponent and a big turnout to achieve legitimacy.