The "Vryemya MN" newspaper continues publishing
articles on the electoral campaigns of the leading electoral
associations. Today we shall look closely at the Yabloko
To gain one of the main prizes at the 1999 elections,
Yabloko must overcome its organisational weaknesses. None
of the electoral blocs that decided to try their luck
during present parliamentary elections enjoys such a good
starting position as Yabloko. Grigory Yavlinsky's association
has all it needs for victory: money, organisational structures
and intellectual resources.
If we add here the neutrality of the Kremlin and the
absence of strong competitors on the right flank, this
provides a more than favourable background. The past has
taught Yabloko a number of lessons. Learning from the
experience of the 1995-1996 elections, when the main sponsors
refused to help Yabloko, yielding in the very last moment
to pressure from the authorities, Yabloko has created
a system of decentralised financing for the present campaign:
small financial springs are combined into one financial
source. Thus, if Gusinsky or Khodorovsky, who are publicly
called Yabloko's main sponsors, suddenly change their
minds, it won't be a disaster for Yabloko, according to
sources from the "Vryemya" newspaper.
Another lesson has been learned: language should be simpler
to win over the public. In 1995 the public was offered
a book "Reforms from Below", which was read
in the end by only the academic part of the electorate.
Today about 30 booklets each covering a special topic
have been published, namely: "Yabloko for a Cut in
Taxes", "Yabloko for Human Rights", etc.
The "Yabloko and the Army" booklet addresses
military issues, while Yabloko's agrarian programme is
written for the rural population.
Yabloko has made careful preparations, establishing contacts
with the rural population: draft programmes were sent
to 2,000 of rural population in Belgorod, Saratov and
Novgorod regions and Krasnoyarsk Territory. The opinions
and advice of the rural population were not only considered
in the programme, but also published in two separate booklets.
Yabloko considerably eased propaganda for itself during
the electoral campaign, by working with the libraries
of small towns and villages, sending them both party material
and other books during the past 18 months.
Yabloko also made use of another previously prepared
election resource - its Internet site (www.yabloko.ru).
Created at the beginning of 1998, it is today the most
frequently visited party site. In addition, the party
maintains through the Internet its connections with regional
organisations. The emphasis, however, will be laid on
proven electoral means - electoral tours around the country
Naturally enough, Grigory Yavlinsky plays the leading
role in winning over the electorate. He has to tour about
30 regions of Russia during the campaign. Other Yabloko
members will also make propaganda tours. Yabloko uses
Nikolai Travkin as heavy artillery in the "red regions".
The Hero of the Socialist Labour and well-known builder,
Nikolai Travkin, should conquer the hearts of the electorate,
that is dissatisfied with both the present regime and
Yabloko's television advertising will also probably be
more human. According to our sources at Yabloko, this
time the clips will not show pretty women with babies
in their arms singing romantically, "Gri-i-i-go-o-o-riy",
or fake peasants that resemble junior research staff.
A series of clips have already been filmed in a laconic
documentary manner, where ordinary people explain why
they will vote for Yavlinsky's party. However, according
to our other sources, Igor Malashenko (Ed. Director of
NTV, a private TV channel), who has been providing PR
assistance on behalf of the Media-Most group (Ed. the
actual owner of the channel) does not like these clips.
If Mr Malashenko manages to propose his own ideas (e.g,
Video International), then we will see a TV product that
resembles the clip we saw this summer. In this clip Grigory
Yavlinsky and Co march towards the "beautiful future"
with a huge Russian tricolour flag in the background.
Yabloko would now have to make a new version of this clip,
so that Sergei Stepashin could be seen marching in the
The former Prime Minister is a valuable asset for Yabloko
as a symbol of Yabloko's ability to achieve agreements,
rather than appear as an independent voice. The argument
over what Yabloko obtained from Sergei Stepashin - more
profit or more loss - will be settled in the elections.
However, Sergei Stepashin has already benefited Yabloko.
By catching the former Prime Minister from right under
the noses of the "Union of Right Forces" and
"Our Home is Russia", Yabloko deprived its competitors
on the right flank of chances for success.
The party has also yielded other dividends by including
Sergei Stepashin in Yabloko's list. The refusal of Gennady
Seleznyov (Ed. Speaker of the Duma, member of the communist
party) to compete with Sergei Stepashin in one electoral
district represented the first public retreat of the communists
before Yabloko. However, the general campaign may be lost
owing to Yabloko's traditional error - bad organisation.
Vyacheslav Igrunov, a man deprived of any organisational
talents here, according to most observers and Yabloko
members, was appointed head of Yabloko's electoral headquarters.
Another financing fiasco is unlikely, as Sergei Ivanenko,
known for delving into every detail, and Grigory Yavlinsky
are responsible. However, there is no guarantee that Grigory
Yavlinsky won't end up in the South, when he should be
in the North, and that the military won't receive the
agrarian programme, while the peasants receive the booklet
for the military.
However, Yabloko is unlikely to suffer a defeat on December
19, 1999, even if its electoral campaign is accompanied
by blunders. At the same time, a Yabloko electoral breakthrough
is in doubt. Yabloko resembles a pupil diligently studying
throughout the year, but making annoying blunders during
exams. The publicly announced goal of the party for the
1999 electoral campaign is to double its representation
in the Duma, in other words, obtain at least 14% of the
votes. But if Yavlinsky's party fails to overcome "the
7% ghetto", it will be doomed to remain a proud,
but small opposition.