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gazeta.ru, December 24, 2002

Liberals Want Chubais Off the Political Scene

By Maria Tsvetkova

The liberal Yabloko Party leader Grigory Yavlinsky, after consolidating support from his party activists at a conference held last Saturday, entered into a decisive battle Monday with the leadership of the Union of Righ-Wing Forces (SPS), long viewed by many as a potential ally of Yabloko in next year's parliamentary elections.

Yavlinsky issued an ultimatum to SPS leaders Boris Nemtsov and Irina Khakamda, saying that to form an election coalition with Yabloko they must first expel Anatoly Chubais and Sergei Kiriyenko, whose political pasts undermine the reputation of the parties on the right.

A news conference held by Yavlinsky on Monday shattered Russian democrats' hopes for a merger in time for the upcoming parliamentary election campaign. To eliminate any doubts that the two major liberal parties would run for the State Duma in 2003 separately and each nominate its own candidate for the presidential post, the Yabloko leader presented a document entitled the Charter of the New Democratic Coalition.

The Charter was reviewed and endorsed by the Yabloko leadership at its session on Saturday and was forwarded to the general democratic conference -a regular gathering of all Russia's democratic parties and movements - for signing. The document lays down the general criteria for selecting the parties with which Yabloko is ready to form a coalition for the 2003 election to the lower house, and contains a clear answer to the question concerning the possible participation of SPS in a Yavlinsky-devised coalition.

The document does not name the actual individuals whose involvement in the collation is deemed unacceptable for Yabloko, although it seems perfectly clear who they are.

"People's confidence in the new association of democrats will be negligibly low if the backers of the war in Chechnya, the architects of the criminal privatization programme, builders of state financial pyramids and forces behind defaults, carried out to meet selfish ends are to lead the democratic coalition," the Charter reads.

"Persons responsible for the establishment of a corporate-criminal oligarchic system in the country, including those who, in the opinion of the majority of citizens, are to blame for the main failings of the 1990 reforms, cannot be nominated to state positions. They should also not hold leading positions in parties which join the charter," the document runs.

"Those are the members of the SPS, people with whom we cannot cooperate out of principle, such as Anatoly Chubais and Sergei Kiriyenko," Yavlinsky explained at a news conference to make sure he had been understood.

He also let it be understood that the SPS could enter the coalition, provided that those individuals were expelled. At any rate, Yavlinsky said that he had nothing against the co-chairpersons of the party, his Duma counterparts: "For us, it is quite acceptable to cooperate with Irina Khakamada and - to a great extent - with Boris Nemtsov."

Despite his 'special' attitude towards Nemtsov - it is no secret that there is no love lost between the two - Yavlinsky refused to comment on the SPS proposal to nominate a single candidate for the presidential elections in 2004. "That will be discussed after the election to the State Duma," he said.

The last time SPS attempted to work out a plan of joint action for the presidential election was at the All-Russian Democratic Conference, held several days before terrorists seized the Nord-Ost musical theatre in October.

The attempt was always doomed to failure. As early as last summer the SPS made Yabloko an offer, whereby the right to nominate a single candidate would be granted to the party that secured the highest number of votes at the parliamentary election.

Yavlinsky rejected the idea not only because of differences in the programmes of the two parties, but also because of the spending power that the likes of SPS co-chairman and powerful head of the national energy monopoly Anatoly Chubais along with a range of influential businesses, could bring to an election campaign.

However, now the nomination of a single candidate is of no advantage to Yavlinsky for another reason. In the two months since the Nord-Ost hostage drama, his doubts concerning Yabloko's chances of overcoming the 5 per cent voting threshold necessary to enter the lower house seem to have vanished completely, and a real chance of winning without the help of their liberal rivals has emerged.

After holding the session of his party's governing body and gaining grassroots support, Yavlinsky has decided to break with the SPS. With a year to go before the voting, such a step may seem rash and unjustified, but only on the face of it. In actual fact, Yavlinsky's tactics are fairly pragmatic - even if there is no disunity in the forces on the right (though even that is doubtful), it is high time for them to think about it.

See also:


State Duma elections 2003

gazeta.ru, December 24, 2002

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