The latest round of talks about campaign cooperation
between the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) and Yabloko has led
to much discussion about the form of this cooperation - from joint
support for candidates in single-mandate districts to all the
democratic parties uniting behind one presidential candidate.
As in previous years, there is a marked level of scepticism about
the possibility of a pre-election alliance between these parties.
It seems that any moves toward unification have less chance of
success than ever before; even though it would appear that reality
demands unification among the democratic parties. Their electoral
niche is narrowing, primarily because some democratic voters are
moving over to the pro-government party in the political centre.
Both right-wing parties face a serious risk of not making it past
the five-percent barrier in the Duma elections. However, there
are also some fairly substantial arguments against unification.
The main problem is that the partners are at different political
stages. The SPS has been having some serious problems lately.
Its version of the bill on alternative civilian service failed
to pass the Duma. This is a significant defeat for the SPS; if
the bill had passed into law in the liberal form proposed by the
SPS, the party would have scored some major political points for
the parliamentary campaign, and would have justifiably expected
to attract millions of votes from conscription-age youths and
their families, especially in the big cities.
The SPS's position in the executive branch isn't problem-free
either. The standing of Anatoly Chubais, often called the unofficial
leader of the SPS, has been destabilized by the president's direct
criticism of the policy of RAO UES and the postponement of debate
on a package of bills regarding the restructuring of the electricity
sector. The position of German Gref, the Cabinet's leading reformer,
similarly seems unstable. Even Deputy Prime Minister and Finance
Minister Alexei Kudrin has recently faced some harsh criticism
from business leaders and government. Although Gref and Kudrin
are not SPS members, they are very close to it ideologically.
They are considered to be implementing SPS policies within the
Ever since some members of the SPS's ideological nucleus quit
the party - experienced democratic activists and human rights
activists - the SPS has become much more sensitive to political
fluctuations. In the circumstances it would make sense for the
SPS to strengthen its position by forming an alliance with an
ideologically similar political force.
Yabloko is in a different situation. After marking time for a
while, it has re-emerged in the political arena with what is essentially
a new platform - constructive cooperation with the regime. Obviously,
those who assume that the regime is entirely satisfied with a
two-party system - United Russia and the Communist Party - are
wrong. As ever, the Kremlin's political strategy includes dialogue
and cooperation with Russia's remaining liberal politicians and
other liberals who are fairly influential in Russia and abroad.
For a long time, the SPS was the Kremlin's major right-wing partner;
but now this party is losing ground. Politics, like nature, abhors
a vacuum. Yabloko is apparently trying to fill the gap. Of course,
Yabloko will never become the regime's junior partner in the fullest
sense of the term, asthis party's ideology rules out compromises
on its underlying principles. However, Yabloko is prepared to
replace the SPS as the supplier of personnel for the economic
bloc in the Cabinet, and as a source of ideas for that bloc. And
for this purpose, Yabloko does not need any partners, let alone
Consequently all the current negotiations represent nothing more
than paying tribute to summertime PR. Yabloko and the SPS, the
partners in this dialogue process, currently have diametrically