Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, the country's
two main liberal parties, announced Friday that they will work
out a joint political platform for backing a single "democratic"
candidate in the next presidential election, in 2004.
After a meeting between the two parties' political councils,
Yabloko's Vladimir Lukin said possible presidential candidates
were not discussed but added that he is optimistic the alliance
will be successful.
"I hope [it will work] and I think my hopes have some political
grounds," Lukin said.
Irina Khakamada, a leader of the Union of Right Forces, or SPS,
was also positive about the decision.
"It will become the basis for endorsing a single democratic
candidate," she was quoted by Interfax as saying.
Both Khakamada and Lukin are deputy speakers of the State Duma.
Khakamada said there are no plans to unite Yabloko and SPS ahead
of next year's parliamentary election to overcome the required
5 percent voting barrier. But she said the two parties will agree
to support the same single-mandate candidates running in December
2003 and will then focus on nominating a single presidential candidate.
Half of the 450 seats in the Duma are assigned to parties on
a proportional basis, while the other 225 seats go to single-mandate
candidates elected directly by their local constituencies.
Khakamada said Yabloko and SPS have so far agreed on 40 to 45
candidates running in the regions but are yet to discuss representatives
from Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Given their similar positions on many issues, Yabloko and SPS
have been criticized for failing to join forces in the past. One
sticking point has been a complaint by SPS members that Yabloko
leader Grigory Yavlinsky has been unwilling to cooperate unless
he could lead the coalition and run for president himself.
Andrei Ryabov, a political analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center,
said Yabloko and SPS's cooperation will probably fail because
Yabloko is becoming slightly more moderate at the same time as
SPS is losing popularity among voters. SPS, which finished fourth
in the 1999 parliamentary election with 9 percent of the vote,
has been supportive of some of President Vladimir Putin's more
controversial policies, and its inability to show a clear independent
political line has hurt its popularity.
Ryabov said SPS lost a great deal of credibility last month
when it could not prevent the passage of a bill on alternative
service drafted by the government and military that was described
as draconian by some liberals, even though army reform was one
of its key policies.
Yavlinsky, who was re-elected as Yabloko leader for another
three years in December, has become more moderate recently and
said that he embraces many of Putin's policy goals but disagrees
with his methods.
Meanwhile, Pyotr Kucherenko, a member of the SPS political council
and leader of the party's youth movement, has suggested that former
President Boris Yeltsin be asked to head the democratic bloc in
the Duma elections in 2003.
Statement. July 5,
State Duma Elections