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gazeta.ru, September 2, 2003

Ambitious Kokh sets sights on parliament

By Yelena Rudneva

Controversial entrepreneur and chief electioneer of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) Alfred Kokh has decided to run for a seat in the lower house, or the State Duma. "He has grown to miss politics very much," sources in SPS explained to Gazeta.Ru.

The controversial businessman, who in early May was appointed head of the election campaign for SPS and of the party's executive committee, has made up his mind to run for a seat in the State Duma. On Monday the SPS branch in St Petersburg included his name in the top three candidates on the party's regional electoral list.

Kokh's name will not be first on that list, however. The St. Petersburg list will be crowned by the name of the vice-chairman of the northern capital's Legislative Assembly Yuri Gladkov. The third spot will be taken by the State Duma deputy and chairman of the St Petersburg SPS branch Grigory Tomchin.

Now this list will be endorsed at the party's congress scheduled for September 8, although even today there is little doubt that anyone will object to the three candidacies, including that of Alfred Kokh. The SPS leaders Boris Nemtsov and Irina Khakamada have endorsed in advance the list of regional branches allowed to nominate their top candidates without prior consultations with the party's central bodies. The St Petersburg cell was included in the list of such 'elite' branches.

As a source in SPS told Gazeta.Ru, nobody coaxed Kokh to run on the St Petersburg list; he himself decided to stand for a seat in the State Duma. ''Alfred Kokh has grown to miss politics very much,'' a source said. ''He has very big plans for these elections. And this is not a coincidence. Kokh is a very ambitious person.''

Kokh displayed his ambition in the recent scandal with Yabloko, when the head of the SPS election headquarters admitted that he had devised the campaign aimed at discrediting SPS's chief rival, Grigory Yavlinsky's party.

In June Kokh went even further, saying that one should not take public opinion polls - which put SPS's rating at below 5 per cent - for granted. ''20 per cent is a perfectly realistic target,'' Kokh said

SPS did not even achieve such high results in 1999, when the right wing were riding the crest of a wave. Nonetheless, another candidate on the St Petersburg list, the deputy Tomchin, shares Kokh's optimism.

Earlier this week, he also expressed confidence that, in St Petersburg at least, the party is capable of gathering 20 per cent of the vote. For Tomchin this goal is even more important, because if it is not achieved and the deputy loses in his single-mandate constituency, he might not make it to the lower house at all.

Kokh will not run for a deputy's seat in a single-mandate constituency. But even without him there will not be much room for St Petersburg's democrats. The problem is that following SPS's attack on Yabloko, there is no hope of an agreement with Yavlinsky's supporters on dividing constituencies betweens them.

As a result, in St Petersburg's 206th constituency Yabloko's Alexander Shishlov, the head of the State Duma education committee, will vie with SPS's Alexei Titov, son of the Samara regional governor; in the 210th constituency member of the city council Sergei Gulyayev (SPS) and the director of the Institute for Social Policy Anatoly Golov (Yabloko) will compete; and in the 212th constituency the State Duma deputy Sergei Popov of Yabloko and the former head of the Federal Service for Insolvency Cases Pyotr Mostovoi (SPS) will run against each other.

According to our sources in SPS, after he becomes a candidate to the lower house, Alfred Kokh will retain his posts on the party's executive committee and in the pre-election headquarters. Kokh, however, has still not made up his mind on joining the party.

''I am not a member of the party, I am a sponsor of the party,'' Kokh told party activists when they voted for his appointment to head the SPS election campaign. Member or not, the decision to include Kokh's name on the list of the top three candidates for St Petersburg proves that his influence inside the party is growing.

It is common knowledge that Boris Nemtsov always recommends Alfred Kokh as his old buddy, but at the same time one cannot rule out that a competitive edge exists between them. The third buddy, Anatoly Chubais, is quite likely to make a choice, and not in Nemtov's favour. Therefore, the struggle for the leadership in SPS will only intensify if Kokh wins at the polls.

This is Alfred Kokh's second attempt to enter parliament. About a year ago the Legislative Assembly of the Leningrad Region appointed him as its representative to the upper house, the Federation Council, but then a lawsuit was filed against him forcing him to abandon his senator's office before officially assuming the post.


See also:

State Duma elections 2003


gazeta.ru, September 2, 2003

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