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
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
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
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.
YABLOKO and SPS
State Duma elections 2003