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Gazeta.ru, December 22, 2003

Yabloko snubs Putin and elections

By Yelena Rudneva

Photo by Konstantin KutzilloGrigory Yavlinsky will not take part in Russia's presidential elections next March, and his party will not support Vladimir Putin. These were the results of a two-day post-election congress held by the Yabloko party at the weekend. For the first time in the history of Russia's oldest liberal party, the participants at its congress considered calling for a vote of no-confidence in veteran leader Yavlinsky, but only one-third of the delegates backed the initiative.

In all 300 delegates from 75 of the country's regions took part in the 12th such congress held, by tradition, in the village of Moskovsky outside the capital. They had gathered to decide the fate of their party after it fell short of the five per cent minimum required to win seats on party lists in the parliamentary elections earlier this month.

Despite that defeat the majority of delegates are still optimistic about the future of the party with long-standing leader Grigory Yavlinsky at its helm.

According to Yavlinsky's key-note address to the gathering, Yabloko aims to create a large democratic party ''that will truly unite the democratic opposition for the next four years''. ''We will learn to work outside parliament,'' Yavlinsky told the press after the congress.

By tradition, Yavlinsky was supposed to open the congress, but before he had a chance to speak a delegate from the Tver region proposed a vote of no-confidence in the party leader. Gazeta.Ru sources confirmed that the matter was raised at the congress several times. Some suggested a vote of no-confidence; others wanted to dismiss the leadership before the end of its

One delegate told Gazeta.Ru that the issue was raised for the first time at the beginning of the session - 22 delegates voted in favour of including it in the agenda, with 197 opposing it.

Taking the floor, Yavlinsky suggested listening to his report first of all, and then returning to the leadership question. The issue was raised a second time late on Saturday evening, after Yavlinsky had reported on the party's work during the election campaign and assessed the current situation in the country.

Again some of the delegates called for Yavlinsky's dismissal. According to Gazeta.Ru sources, the second discussion was initiated by deputy chairman of the party Sergei Ivanenko. This attack on Yavlinsky, too, failed, although as many as 67 delegates voted to include the issue on the agenda; 197 were resolutely against.

The most important decision taken by the congress was its refusal to field a candidate in the presidential polls. The decision was passed by 134 votes to 23.

Addressing a news briefing held after the congress on Sunday, Yavlinsky explained that he saw no point in competing in the contest, as the winner was already predetermined a long time ago. ''The party thinks that the political situation in Russia now is such that free, liberal elections are impossible,'' he said. ''There is no possibility of obtaining independent financial sources or an independent court system; there is no independent national media. We have therefore decided not to nominate a candidate.''
At the same time, the party said it would not support President Putin in the race. ''It is pointless in conditions, when in order to nominate a candidate for the presidential elections and to receive financing for the campaign one must apply for permission to the officials in the [presidential] administration, taking part in the election, not to mention supporting the President,'' one Yabloko member told Gazeta.Ru, in a comment on the congress decision.

In the two weeks since the parliamentary elections, Yabloko and the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) held consultations on nominating a single candidate to represent Russia's democratic forces in the presidential campaign but failed to reach a compromise.

''In the two weeks since the election we have had intensive consultations with our colleagues from Yabloko...more productive than in the past,'' SPS leader Boris Nemtsov told Ekho Moskvy radio. ''We unfortunately failed to find a joint candidate.''

Earlier, SPS suggested that it may call on its voters to boycott the presidential poll. If turnout falls below 50 percent, the result becomes invalid, the right-wing party said.

Yavlinsky gave no indication at the congress whether his party would call for a boycott, saying that the decision on the issue would be made once the names of all the candidates have become known.

Summing up the results of the parliamentary campaign, Yavlinsky said the party's biggest mistake was that ''we should have understood earlier that to win 5 per cent in Russia, 20 per cent of the vote must be gathered.''

The congress backed the creation of a ''democratic coalition with other democratic parties and movements'' and supported the initiative of SPS to create a united democratic council. Vladimir Lukin, Aleksey Arbatov, Igor Artemyev, Boris Misnik, Sergey Mitrokhin and Viktor Sheynis
have been delegated to work in the body, which is being set up by the two parties on a parity basis.

The creation of the democratic council was suggested by the Union of Right-Wing Forces a week ago. They have already put six of their own representatives on the council, including three co-chairmen - Boris Nemtsov, Irina Khakamada and Yegor Gaidar.

The resolution adopted by the congress says the party should focus during the next four years on contesting regional and local elections. The 'Yablokites' stressed that ''keeping a full check on the observance of electoral legislation at elections in the regions'' would be the most
important priority. The resolution links the defeat sustained by the party at the recent Duma elections to ''unrestricted use of administrative resources and massive falsifications in the count''.


See also:

Presidential elections 2004

Democratic Coalition

The 12th congress of YABLOKO

Gazeta.ru, December 22, 2003

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