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Gazeta, January 24, 2003

Yabloko and the SPS are of each other as Maskhadov and Putin

By Anastasiya Matveeva

Everybody can forget the idea of a merger between Yabloko and the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS). Yabloko, led by Grigory Yavlinsky, has issued a firm "no" to an offer from the SPS, delivered via some business leaders. In other words, next week's meeting between Yavlinsky and SPS leader Boris Nemtsov, dedicated to the merger issue, will probably be pointless.

Yavlinsky is offered second ranking after Nemtsov

According to Gazeta, Yavlinsky was offered second place on the list of candidates in the parliamentary elections, after Nemtsov (the list would have run as follows: Nemtsov, Yavlinsky, Irina Khakamada) and in return would eventually be nominated as the single presidential candidate representing all democratic forces. The SPS guaranteed that Yabloko would have an independent group or faction led by Yavlinsky in the future Duma. "Some business leaders found the plan so interesting that they were actually ready to sponsor it," said a source close to the Union of Right-Wing Forces. "If it had been set in motion, the democrats could have expected to win no fewer than a hundred Duma seats."

"Healthy Yabloko’s Basis"

However, Yabloko did not share such an optimistic view. Yabloko’s representatives deny receiving any offers at all. "There were only some vague hints that the SPS would do something about Yegor Gaidar and Anatoly Chubais," said Sergei Ivanenko, Deputy Head of the Yabloko faction. The negotiations with Yabloko were complicated by the involvement of Gaidar and Chubais with the SPS. Yavlinsky went so far as to demand Chubais' expulsion from the upper echelons of the SPS before he would even give any thought to the proposed alliance. According to Ivanenko, unification of democratic forces is possible "only on the healthy Yabloko’s basis; otherwise we will simply sink together with the SPS." Here Yabloko means that it can include SPS leaders into Yabloko’s list [of candidates], "which does not bar anyone".

Ivanenko proposes that the SPS forget about the union of the principles of the latter: only in this case can the two democratic parties cooperate in single-mandate districts and in legislative activities, and "retain friendly rivalry at parliamentary elections." "Forget about doing away with Yabloko by hugging it to death or any other democratic method," noted Ivanenko.

"A congress or meeting of party activists in the economy"

As an example of the "democratic suffocation", Ivanenko mentioned the Congress of Democratic Forces, established at the initiative of the SPS. Its ad hoc committee met at Nemtsov's office yesterday. The Congress itself is scheduled to meet on March 22 to adopt a common platform for the future elections and a single democratic candidate for president. Documents on establishing an ad hoc committee have already been signed by eight democratic organizations. Yabloko denounces the idea. In Ivanenko's opinion: "This represents an attempt to create an alternative to the Democratic Assembly, and therefore to split the democratic forces." The Democratic Assembly as such has not met for two months already, and appears to be rapidly losing whatever political importance it ever had (Ed. In reality, the meeting of the Working Group of the Democratic Assembly which took place n December 26, 2002, examined the "Platform of the Twenty", the charter of the new democratic coalition. The general meeting of the Democratic Assembly is scheduled on March 2003. Regulations of the Democratic Assembly stipulate that the Assembly should be convened two to four times a year). Some members of the Democratic Assembly (like the "Liberal Russia" leader Sergei Yushenkov) are considering quitting it, as "it doesn't decide anything."

Yabloko states its opposition to the attempts to split the Democratic Assembly. "We shall also act in response: they called their meeting a congress, and we shall conduct a congress or a meeting of ‘party activists in the economy’ (Ed. Allusion to the strange names of meetings in the communist era)," noted Ivanenko ironically.

"A serious political mistake by Grigory Yavlinsky"

In response to a question from Gazeta’s correspondent about his reaction to Yabloko’s stance, Nemtsov noted, "There will be no response. I do not think that PR or media wars would be proper in the situation. There was a unique opportunity (and there still is 0.1% ) to create a strong democratic coalition that would have been able to resolve some major problems like an end to conscription, the war in Chechnya, formation of a middle class, the war on poverty and the crisis in public utilities. We were ready for a serious discussion, without publicity stunts or press conferences. This was the first time in years that we had enlisted the services of the business sector, with business leaders acting as intermediaries to deliver our proposals to Yabloko leaders. We already know, after all, that a direct face-to-face dialogue never amounts to anything. Unfortunately, Yabloko and the SPS remain on different wavelengths, despite all our efforts and the efforts of the business leaders. We consider this a serious political mistake by Grigory Yavlinsky. We are ready for negotiations. But Yabloko is not. It is just like Maskhadov and Putin."

Yabloko's latest rejection of the union offer may actually be the last. "We will not forget it," a source at the SPS told us. The SPS is promising Yavlinsky some serious popularity rating problems, but it may be added here that the SPS itself doesn't have anything to boast about in this particular area today. According to the National Public Opinion Research Centre, both parties garner the support of about 5% of the electorate, and voters are actually worried about their ability to overcome the 5% barrier. At the same time, an alliance of Yabloko and the Union of Right-Wing Forces would have polled 15-20% of the vote. That is why mutual accusations merely diminish the chances of both parties.

See also:


State Duma elections 2003

Presidential elections 2004

Democratic Coalition

Gazeta, January 24, 2003

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