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Moscow Times, December 10, 2003

Yavlinsky Doggedly Promises to Soldier On

By Oksana Yablokova

A day after waking up to life outside the State Duma, Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky was adamant Tuesday that he would preserve his party and its ideals, however "difficult and unusual" that might be.

On the vexed question of a merger with fellow liberal party the Union of Right Forces, which also garnered less than 5 percent in the party-list vote, Yavlinsky remained characteristically tight-lipped, saying only that the party was looking to build a coalition with other defeated democratic forces.

"The main objective will be to preserve the party for which millions of people have given their votes," Yavlinsky told a packed news conference, in the party's first public reaction to its lackluster 4.3 percent showing.

Flanked by his two deputy Yabloko leaders, Sergei Ivanenko and Sergei Mitrokhin, a dogged Yavlinsky said the party will have to soldier on with its rump of four single-mandate deputies.

"We will have to build a party that will be able to work outside parliament," Yavlinsky said. "That will be quite a difficult and unusual thing to do."

Yabloko did only marginally better than the Union of Right Forces, or SPS, which took 4 percent of the party-list vote and has just two single-mandate seats.

The failure of both parties to pass the required 5 percent barrier in the party-list vote leaves the Duma with only minimal liberal representation for the first time since 1993.

Yavlinsky refused to comment on whether the party had made mistakes in its election campaign, saying only that United Russia and other Kremlin-backed parties were "too strong to compete with."

Some commentators criticized Yavlinsky during the campaign for turning down a merger proposal from SPS co-leader Anatoly Chubais. Talks over a formal alliance have repeatedly stalled after bickering between the parties' leaders.

"We had to conduct the campaign based on the resources we had -- most of it on our own," Yavlinsky said, in an apparent reference to former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a big party financier before his jailing on fraud and tax charges in October.

In contrast to SPS leaders Boris Nemtsov and Irina Khakamada, who have promised to step down if their party did not make it into the Duma, Yavlinsky said that he had no plans to resign.

"Speaking seriously, we do not plan to take any demonstrative steps," he said, adding that Yabloko "for sure" would field a candidate in the March 2004 presidential election.

Asked if Yabloko and SPS might join forces to back Khodorkovsky as a presidential candidate, Yavlinsky said only, "We live in a democratic country, and all candidacies are being considered."

Ivanenko sounded more upbeat on the issue of a merger than Yavlinsky, saying that he was in talks with SPS on Yabloko's behalf.

"As we are both starting from the same low position, the prospects for a coalition look better than before," he said.

Looking to the newly elected Duma, Yavlinsky dismissed it as a "one-party chamber, an extension of the presidential administration."

"They are all the same and agree on everything," he said. "I wonder what will they compete over -- wrestling with each other, or playing soccer? There will not be chess games in the next Duma, that is for sure."


See also:

the original at

State Duma elections 2003

Moscow Times, December 10, 2003

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