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Gazeta, June 20, 2002
The Last Dart to the Right

The Union of Right-Wing Forces to Determine Next President

By Anastasiya Matveeva and Andrei Reut

    Boris Nemtsov, leader of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS), proposes that all democratic forces agree to back one candidate for president after the parliamentary election in 2003. The formula is simple. Each party nominates its own candidate. The Duma election shows who has won. All democratic forces support the candidate whose party gathered the most votes, even if they actually dislike that particular candidate.

     It isn't hard to see that the SPS leader expects his party to come first. Despite all ratings fluctuations, the SPS is far more popular than Yabloko, Liberal Russia, and particularly Mikhail Prusak's Democratic Party.

     Political scientists are skeptical. They say that the right-wing parties and movements may yet fail to reach agreement. "There can be no doubt that the idea of a common candidate is Nemtsov's personal initiative," says Vyacheslav Nikonov, President of the "Politika" Foundation. "His colleagues may object." In any case, even if the SPS Council backs Nemtsov, there will be serious problems with Yabloko. "I do not believe they can form an alliance," says Nikonov. "I cannot  believe that Yavlinsky will ever agree to the idea of a common candidate representing all democratic forces - unless this candidate is Yavlinsky himself."

     Nikonov was right. Grigory Yavlinsky was quoted as saying yesterday: "We have the best internal organization of all democratic forces, the Democratic Assembly. The Democratic Assembly is supposed to decide matters concerning common candidates." Moreover, Yavlinsky does not consider Nemtsov's initiative new. He notes that a similar agreement was made by Yabloko and the Democratic Choice of Russia in 1995. Yabloko made it to the Duma then, but the Democratic Choice of Russia did not. It disregarded the agreement and supported Boris Yeltsin in 1996. To a large extent, the Union of Right-Wing Forces is legal successor to the Democratic Choice of Russia, and Yabloko does not want to be tricked all over again.

     "The Union of Right-Wing Forces decided to nominate a handsome, attractive, young, and reckless politician for president as a common candidate. Whoever refuses to support that man is therefore considered a splitter," says Sergei Yushenkov of the Liberal Russia. Yushenkov says that democrats have not even begun consultations over a common strategy for the election. "The Union of Right-Wing Forces and our party have not even been able to reach agreement concerning a common candidate for deputy from electoral district No. 206 in St. Petersburg, Galina Starovoitova's district. This latest initiative is simply  a publicity stunt," concludes Yushenkov.

     Some observers assume that Nemtsov voiced the idea which may become the last chance of the right after the election. "The right-wing parties could take a real beating in the next election," says Andrei Ryabov, an expert at the Carnegie Foundation. "Some details already indicate that United Russia is drawing away some right-wing voters. In the current situation, many voters will refuse to support democratic candidates in the presidential election too..."

     We have two years before the election, and the raising of this initiative by Nemtsov at this point does not mean it will be implemented right away. "I do not think anything will come of it," says Ryabov. "It's a tactical move from the point of view of charting an election  strategy. It is a PR move to an even greater extent."

     Nikonov agrees. "The Union of Right-Wing Forces is in trouble," he said. "All opinion polls show that the SPS is balancing on the 5% line..."


See also:

Presidential Elections 2004

Izvestia, June 7, 2002

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