Stepashin worth 20%, expert
The recently formed alliance of Sergei Stepashin
Grigory Yavlinsky may be a
rare case of a political
integrity and Stepashin's charisma could be
a potent combination.
compromise in which the
gains for those involved greatly outweigh the concessions,
pollsters, analysts and politicians say.
And according to some experts, their success in December's
Duma elections will lie not in their identifying with
one another, but in drawing a distinction between
Alexei Grazhdankin, deputy head of VTSIOM (Russian
public opinion research center), explained that in
order to maximize Stepashin as an asset, Yabloko needs
to actively promote his broad popular appeal.
"Their electorates partially coincide. But the
differences give the Stepashin-Yavlinsky axis an opportunity
to increase Yabloko's ratings by nearly 20 percent,"
"The critical issue is for them not to assimilate
Stepashin into Yabloko, but to underline the fact
that this is a union and try to broaden Yabloko's
image by combining Yavlinsky's integrity with Stepashin's
Former first deputy of the presidential administration,
Oleg Sysuyev, in an interview with The Russia Journal,
agreed that the duo could give impetus to Russia's
democratic forces. But he believes Yavlinsky needs
to shed his image as a "perennial oppositionist."
"They might give new breath to democracy in
Russia, but only if Grigory Alexeyevich [Yavlinsky]
can discard his reputation as a constant critic,"
Sysuyev said. "Nothing much has been expected
of him other than blistering attacks on the activities
of those in power. Meanwhile, he himself does nothing."
Yavlinsky and his party clearly recognize they have
to refashion their appeal in order to grow. The leader
of the Moscow youth Yabloko organization, Andrei Sharomov,
said that, overall, Yabloko sees the new alliance
as a real success.
"It destroys the myth of our intractability,"
he argued. According to Shamarov, it was Stepashin
who approached Yavlinsky for a pact.
A source close to the former prime minister agreed
that this may have been the case.
"Following his inexplicable dismissal after
less than a hundred days as prime minister, Stepashin
was very upset with all the king's men [the presidential
entourage]," the source said. "It was clear
from that moment that Stepashin had to look for an
alliance, so he surveyed the landscape, and Yabloko
seemed to him the most logical option.
"It is difficult to say exactly why he didn't
go to the right wing; perhaps he was turned off by
their strong links to the presidential entourage that
had so recently betrayed him. So he chose a liberal
party, but one opposed to the Kremlin."
Andrei Piontkovsky, of the Center for Strategic Studies,
said Stepashin's decision could be interpreted in
two ways. On one hand, it ended the last hopes of
unifying Russia's right-wing liberals. But on the
other, it has allowed the creation of a much more
powerful and influential democratic movement than
Right Cause could ever have been.
"People who sympathize with [former Prime Minister
Yegor] Gaidar will now say: 'Why waste our votes on
people with no real chance when we can vote for Yabloko,'"
Piontkovsky said. "So despite the right having
been fragmented by Stepashin's rejection, Yabloko
now has a leading position among liberal forces."
Piontkovsky is sure that Stepashin has also made
a good deal - having secured a solid base for his
But Yavlinsky is believed to have battled to assure
his comrades that the alliance would not be a betrayal
of their principles.
Sharomov admits there was serious discontent inside
Yabloko when the deal was first announced. The party
has been one of President Boris Yeltsin's fiercest
critics, going so far as to initiate charges of impeachment
"Of course, there was a section of the party
that saw Stepashin as a staunch Yeltsin ally, which
was anathema to them," he said. "But the
majority has seen it as positive."
According to Sharomov, one of the most serious clouds
hanging over the Stepashin-Yavlisnky union was Stepashin's
role in the Chechen war, which Yabloko bitterly opposed.
"We can't pretend that there was no skepticism
about Stepashin. One can say that he has already publicly
recanted [over Chechnya], but he is still far from
a real public apology."
Piontkovsky believes Stepashin-Yavlinsky has greater
potential than the Otechestvo-Vsya Rossiya axis of
ex-Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Moscow Mayor
Yury Luzhkov - a grouping now seen as the favorite
in the Duma elections.
He argues that Stepashin and Yavlinsky are more potent
because of their relative youth and powerful reputation
"To me, Primakov has now discredited himself
by giving his name to Otechestvo, which has already
had several charges of corruption leveled against