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Rossiiskaya Gazeta, October 24, 2002

Your Union Is a Pretence, Friends

By Vitaly Tretyakov

The Russian right-wing is split forever

The talk about the prospect of uniting democratic forces in an electoral union, movement, or bloc has had a long history and has little hope for success. From time to time, the idea of such a union is revived, especially duringsessions of the Democratic conference that consists of a number of dwarfish party structures, human rights watching clubs, and first and foremost the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) and Yabloko. Naturally, the matter never goes as far as an actual union, although at times the sides, i.e. the SPS and Yabloko, take steps to meet each other and their leaders become optimistic. Boris Nemtsov is always more radiant, whereas Grigory Yavlinsky is always more restrained and often seems to disbelieve even the theoretic possibility of any union. Then all the progressive public begins to grieve over the intractability of the SPS and Yabloko leaders, which makes the democratic dream of ever gaining power remain just such a dream.

What is the interest of society in general and its democratic element here? Apparently, it is interested in ensuring that every significant and constructive political force should be represented in parliament, while the President of the country should be a person whose figure and position would consolidate the maximum possible number of constituents. At the same time, the democratic parties are concerned about obtaining the broadest possible representation of their people and their democratic rivals among election winners, first and foremost their own people. Can any of these goals be achieved if the SPS and Yabloko are united?

It has repeatedly been proved that a combination of the SPS and Yabloko electorates does not provide the amount you would expect from simply adding u the results they might achieve separately. This is primarily attributable to the adherence of these parties to considerably different ideologies. Yabloko are right-wing social democrats with a strong tendency to protect rights, while the SPS are by no means socialists (not in the least), but unmitigated, radical market economy promoters and opposed to the state.

Meanwhile, individually the SPS and Yabloko have quite real, although not absolute, chances to enter the Duma, not in a key position maybe, but by together presenting a serious force, after they receive the Duma mandates. Whatever the case may be, the party system in this country is gradually becoming more stable, while both the SPS and especially Yabloko are parties with a definite history. There are no neophytes here.

In short, these are political trademarks that are already familiar to the constituents. By the way, if they were to unite after the elections, i.e. right in parliament, the SPS and Yabloko would have a chance of becoming a third force that would dispute the monopoly of both the Communist Party (CPRF) and the ruling party.

The right-wing cause will only manage to finally become independent and separate from the regime, self-sufficient, which is the end goal in Russia, if the parties which are incorrectly termed right-wing, i.e. the SPS and Yabloko, perform individually in the first round of the presidential elections and then nominate a common candidate for the second, casting the votes of the one who performs worse to the one who performed better. Meanwhile, so far our right-wingers have been tightly linked to the regime, the Kremlin, although they have been trying to guide and monitor that regime. They fail to do so politically, but are succeeding with the economy.

Anti-communism is only thing that really united Yabloko and the SPS. It is therefore the only floor on which they can unite, if the communists were to reach power. Yabloko and the SPS interpret in different ways their opposition to the state. Like proper social democrats, Yabloko is against the state from the people's position. The difference between them is disguised, while Grigory Yavlinsky and Boris Nemtsov declare with equal zeal their opposition ot a managed democracy, which happens more and more often. At the same time, Yavlinsky plainly invests the notion of managed democracy with the rule of the magnates carried out via the Kremlin and the government. Nemtsov quite clearly understands what I have stated repeatedly: that without the mechanisms of managed democracy the SPS would have never got into the Duma (it is quite a different matter that they were not expected to play any role whatsover). In this case we would have a communist government, and the magnates would be deprived of their property. In fact, by opposing a managed democracy Yavlinsky and Nemtsov most distinctly reveal the line of their ideological incompatibility and irreconcilability.

By the way, a union of the present SPS and Yabloko factions in the Duma, conducting a corresponding coordinated or better still, unified policy in the present parliament, would represent the only way for the parties to demonstrate the seriousness of their intention to unite and the only relevant guarantee that this union could achieve any electoral results.

However, there is nothing like this and nothing similar can be expected.

However, I can see several reasons why the SPS leaders (primarily Nemtsov and Irina Khakamada) permanently talk about a union with Yabloko. This is typical pre-election advertising, news to draw the attention of the media. These are ritual political manoeuvres, and a demonstration of some kind of activity. Tacit attempts are being made to win over part of Yabloko's constituents and at the same time discredit Grigory Yavlinsky, who still has better chances at the presidential elections than the SPS leader.

And of course, certain palpation of the power with a threat to "grow stronger", even if this is a myth.

However, this is not the main point. The SPS, or more precisely its leaders, need to find a legal pretext for their wish to nominate for president someone other than Putin. Even a formal agreement with Yabloko would enable them to do this without any political risk. However, if Yavlinsky disagrees, they would have to take the risk on their own. And maybe risk a lot; if, for example, Putin were to obtain too many votes, more than in 2000. This presents no threat to the nominee of the right wing if the candidate is Nemtsov or Khakamada, but this threatens those who hold the SPS together financially and ideologically.

See also:
State Duma elections 2003

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, October 24, 2002

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