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gazeta.ru, September 8, 2003

Party congresses highlight divisions and cohesion

By Yelena Rudneva and Boris Sapozhnikov

The liberal Yabloko party and the Communists both held congresses over the weekend to nominate their candidates for the parliamentary elections scheduled for December 7.

In a move, seen as a counter-attack against the Union of Right-Wing Forces, otherwise known as the SPS, which said last week it was pulling out of all previous agreements with Yabloko, Grigory Yavlinsky's party decided to nominate candidates in most individual constituencies, where SPS candidates are standing for seats in the lower house.

Igor Artemyev, a prominent Yabloko activist and a long-time opponent of Anatoly Chubais - who is third on the SPS list - has been nominated as the No.3 candidate on the electoral list of Grigory Yavlinsky's party.

At the congress held on September 6-7 Yabloko endorsed its electoral programme, which contains 11 provisions and harshly criticizes the existing regime and approved the party's electoral list. The delegates upheld a proposal by the party's federal council to include in addition to Yabloko's founders Grigory Yavlinsky and Vladimir Lukin the St. Petersburg economist Igor Artemyev on the list of the party's top three candidates.

In Yabloko Artemyev oversees the housing sector and power industry reforms and is in charge of the alternative budget: Yabloko submits this alternative budget to the lower house every year. Artemyev is not only popular in the northern capital, where in 1999 he came second in the race for governor, but is also known as one of the staunchest and most consistent critics of Anatoly Chubais' initiatives for electricity reform.

Yabloko's decision to nominate Artemyev as its third leading candidate is seen as a demonstration to the SPS that Yabloko has accepted the challenge to fight for liberal votes in the forthcoming poll.

Artemyev's inclusion among the top three candidates was not the only decision passed by the party congress to spite the SPS. Yabloko's approval of the list of candidates nominated in single-mandate constituencies will be more disturbing for the SPS. The list proved to be much longer than originally planned. In line with the latest decisions, Yabloko candidates will vie with SPS members for seats in the State Duma in almost every single-mandate constituency.

In this way Yabloko has demonstrated its readiness to respond to the actions of their liberal rivals who a day before the congress opened notified their potential allies about their decision to pull out of a previously agreed pact, whereby the two parties arranged not to contest the same single-mandate constituencies, so as to not to split votes.

According to Gazeta.Ru sources, Irina Khakamada herself informed Yabloko's leadership of her party's decision. The SPS co-chairperson called Yavlinsky's deputy Sergei Ivanenko, with whom she had headed the working group set up to develop the pact, and curtly announced that the SPS would be rescinding agreements that it had taken almost two years to reach.

Yabloko's response, outlined in comments made by Ivanenko and Artemyev after the congress on Sunday, does not mean that the party is gearing up for total war with SPS. Agreements can be resumed if the SPS take appropriate steps. To that effect, the congress even passed a special document, an address to the delegates of the SPS congress, which opens in Moscow on Monday.

Apart from general greetings, a call to ''adhere to the principles of honest elections'' and a warning against ''using unethical methods of campaigning'', contained in the address to SPS delegates, it notifies them that the agreement can be resumed, should the SPS so decide at their congress.

Yabloko's ratings have risen lately, as it has intensified its criticism of the government, and Yavlinsky forecast on Sunday that it could win up to 12 percent of the vote.

The Communists also held their pre-election congress this weekend. The delegates nominated the party's veteran leader Gennady Zyuganov, an old nationalist and former governor of the Krasnodar Region Nikolai Kondratenko and the Agrarian Party activist Nikolai Kharitonov as the top three candidates on the party's electoral list. Other figures on the list include Nobel Prize winner Zhores Alfyorov and former cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya.

Zyuganov, whose party has been struggling hard to prevent a split, as his former ally Sergei Glazyev, strongly backed by the Kremlin, announced the formation of a separate bloc, said the list reflected a consensus among left wingers. ''What is remarkable here is that 11 of (the top) 18 candidates are not even Communist Party members, but work actively with us,'' he told Russian news agencies.


See also:

State Duma elections 2003


11th Congress of YABLOKO

gazeta.ru, September 8, 2003

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