The voters have known Grigory Yavlinsky for a decade,
but certain crucial facts about the Yabloko leader
are only being revealed to them now.
Few knew, for instance, that his wife had to help
him tie his tie every morning. Or about his aversion
to frankfurters (a result of eating too many in his
student days, says his wife).
As part of a new campaign strategy, Yavlinsky is
giving the nation a peek at his human side — appearing
with his wife, Yelena, on talk shows, in jeans and
a leather jacket at a rock concert, and even on a
cooking show hosted by an aging pop star.
Olga Beklemishcheva, a former State Duma deputy who
is working on Yavlinsky's campaign, said Yavlinsky
has long been resistant to the idea of using his personal
life to appeal to voters.
"We decided that it is absolutely necessary
to show his personality through his family life,"
she said in an interview Tuesday. "We were able
to convince him."
Yavlinsky may be ready to try new techniques in this
election because of its crucial significance for his
languishing party. While few expect him to come close
to acting President Vladimir Putin, analysts say he
needs a respectable showing to keep his party afloat.
"Yavlinsky is saving his party," said Vladimir
Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank and a
At a minimum, Yavlinsky needs to do better than he
did at the Dec. 19 parliamentary elections, when Yabloko
took sixth place with 5.9 percent of the vote.
A Moscow Times poll conducted by the Institute for
Comparative Social Research, or CESSI, showed Yavlinsky
a distant third with 5 percent of the vote.
CESSI director Vladimir Andreyenkov said that while
more voters may drift Yavlinsky's way by Sunday, he
is unlikely to get more than 10 percent.
For his part, Yavlinsky says he is aiming much higher.
"We're waiting for the second round," he
has been telling journalists for the past few weeks.
After Yabloko's poor showing at the Duma elections,
the party was on the verge of collapse, Beklemishcheva
"At the first meeting of the coordinating council
after the elections, the mood that we should behave
quietly and make a deal was prominent," she said.
"He [Yavlinsky] wasn't even sure the coordinating
council would support his candidacy."
But, she said, Yavlinsky's determination — "the
fact that he threw himself into the fight" —
kept the party together.
In his seven years at the helm of his own party,
Yavlinsky, 47, has become a staple of political life.
"His electorate is stable. About 5 to 8 percent
vote for him, but it doesn't get any higher,"
But even for his most loyal supporters, the idea
of Yavlinsky actually becoming president remains in
the realm of fantasy.
"If only they would elect him, if only. Unfortunately,
they won't," said Khoma Polonskaya, 85, who was
waiting to shake Yavlinsky's hand at the opening of
his public reception center last week.
In the 1996 presidential election, Yavlinsky came
in fourth with 7.34 percent.
Yavlinsky's social democratic platform — which champions
human rights but also insists on the importance of
a social safety net — typically appeals to members
of the urban intelligentsia, in particular people
like teachers and doctors, who have seen their standard
of living fall since perestroika.
But many voters remain wary of putting Yavlinsky
in power because he lacks experience in the executive
branch, Andreyenkov said.
Highly regarded as an economist, Yavlinsky drew up
the much-hailed but never implemented 500 Days plan.
He also worked out an experimental reform plan for
the Nizhny Novgorod region, but that has come to be
more closely associated with former Governor Boris
Nemtsov, who carried it out.
Yavlinsky has staunchly refused to join Yeltsin-era
Cabinets, and party members have been excluded for
doing so. He has also refused to team up with other
liberal parties allied with Anatoly Chubais and Yegor
Before the Duma elections, Yavlinsky attempted to
change his image as a man unable to compromise when
he teamed up with former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin,
who ran as the No. 2 candidate on Yabloko's list.
While Stepashin is a popular figure, his loyalty
to Yeltsin and his involvement in the first Chechen
war, of which Yavlinsky was an ardent critic, made
him a strange choice of partner.
And Stepashin has proved an unreliable ally — declaring
his support for Putin in the elections and backing
out of the St. Petersburg governor's race in favor
of the Kremlin's candidate, Deputy Prime Minister
"I personally think it was a tactical mistake.
That was my opinion from the beginning," said
Beklemishcheva. "And he didn't really bring us
The strategy of showing Yavlinsky's human side may
prove more fruitful.
Andreyenkov said that many Putin supporters may decide
to vote for another candidate on the assumption that
their support is not needed to clinch the presidency
for Putin, leaving them the luxury of favoring an
underdog second choice.
"Such reverse voting could well be based on
personality traits," he said.
On Saturday's "Geroi Dnya Bez Galtsuka,"
which visits famous people at home, Yavlinsky revealed
everything from his philosophy of life to his eating
"I also like potatoes. And herring. And vodka,"
he told NTV's Irina Zaitseva, "because you're
going to ask me whether I drink vodka."