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The Moscow Times, December 17, 2003

SPS, Yabloko Look for a Third Man

By Francesca Mereu

Vladimir Filonov / MT
Khakamada, flanked by Nemtsov, told reporters Tuesday that the presidential candidate should be independent of the Kremlin.
Putting their failed State Duma bids behind them, the Union of Right Forces, or SPS, and Yabloko are struggling to unite to push forward a single candidate for the March 14 presidential election. But the name for the ballot remains elusive, party leaders said Tuesday.

SPS co-leader Boris Nemtsov told reporters Tuesday that talks between the two parties are "at their height" and that they are considering "serious proposals."

The choice is not an easy one, since the right person has to have prerequisites that suit both SPS and Yabloko leaders, he said.

SPS co-leader Irina Khakamada, speaking at the same news conference, said the candidate should be independent from the Kremlin and able to attract the votes of those who cast ballots in past Duma elections for liberal parties.

The deadline is tight, and the parties will come up with a decision by the end of the week, Nemtsov said.

According to the law, presidential candidates without representation in the Duma have until Dec. 31 to announce their bids.

The urgency expressed by SPS leaders, however, did not seem to be shared by their counterparts at Yabloko on Tuesday.

Yabloko deputy leader Sergei Mitrokhin did not show any particular enthusiasm about the talks with SPS, which he dismissed as "vague" in a brief telephone interview.

He said a final decision on how Yabloko intends to cooperate with SPS will be made Sunday at a party congress.

Mitrokhin added that Yabloko might decide to ignore the presidential election all together. "We believe that the results of the Duma elections were falsified, and we might decide not to take part in the presidential bid," he said.

Under an SPS initiative, the two parties last week asked independent Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov and Chuvash Governor Nikolai Fyodorov to consider running for president. Both men refused.

"I don't envy anyone who challenges President [Vladimir] Putin," SPS deputy head Boris Nadezhdin said when asked to explain the reason of the refusals.

Ryzhkov told Vedomosti that he turned down the proposal because Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky was not pleased with it. "I cannot agree to the proposal under such conditions," he said.

In an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio, Ryzhkov said Yavlinsky was positioning himself to be the liberals' candidate. "It would give him the opportunity to rehabilitate himself politically," he said.

Mitrokhin said Yabloko had not even discussed Ryzhkov's candidacy. He said Yavlinsky's candidacy "could be taken into consideration" at Sunday's congress.

Ryzhkov, 37, is the former leader of the pro-Kremlin Our Home Is Russia party. After his party failed to break the 5 percent barrier to get into the Duma in 1999, he decided not to align himself with any faction and has been rather critical of the Kremlin's policies in the last Duma.

Fyodorov, 45, served as justice minister in Yegor Gaidar's government in the early 1990s.

Nadezhdin said SPS and Yabloko should only pick one of their leaders as candidate if they fail to find a better choice.

"The best decision would be to pick up someone who is not an SPS or Yabloko leader," he said.

"We are still looking for a third person. If we don't find someone like Ryzhkov or Fyodorov, then we can think about leaders like Nemtsov or Yavlinsky."

Yavlinsky has run for president twice. In 1996, he came in fourth with 7.41 percent of the vote, and in 2000 he came in third with 5.8 percent.

On Monday, SPS and Yabloko leaders decided to create a single council comprised of six representatives from SPS and six from Yabloko.

Nadezhdin said that one of the SPS-Yabloko council's main tasks will be to choose a common candidate for president.


See also:

the original at

Presidential elections 2004

The Moscow Times, December 17, 2003

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