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pravda.ru, December 22, 2003

Putin's Loneliness

By Elena Luybarskaya

General Manager of the Union of National Strategy Stanislav Belkovsky raised the subject of Putin's loneliness several times overthe past several months. Vip.Lenta.Ru decided to conduct its own investigation into last weekend's event from a slightly different standpoint.

A new Presidential campaign began on December 11th, 2003 in Russia. There is only one candidate so far. His name is Vladimir Putin. He was nominatedby a group of initiative voters who gathered in Moscow's Institute of Steel and Alloy on December 21. The nomination was held in strict accordance with the rules. Representatives from the Central Elections Committee were invited to witness the procedure.

Three days earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin had informed thenation in a televised interview with the public of his decision to run for President in 2004. He also mentioned his desire to run alone, not from any political party. "United Russia", the party associate with the President immediately stated that "Vladimir Putin's decision to run for President by himself as an independent candidate is right." Members of the party intend to support the President nonetheless.

Everybody knows that Putin will not have any problems finding supporters. He will face other sort of problems. During the same day when the initiative group of friends nominated Putin to run for president, another political party "Yabloko" decided to abstain from the forthcoming elections altogether. The party's leader Grigory Yavlinsky characterized such decision in the following way. He mentioned that there was only a miniscule chance of free and honest elections in the country's current political situation. To clarify his initial remark "Yabloko"'s leader referred to the lack of an independent judicial apparatus, politically independent mass mediaa as well as the lack of any opportunity to finance electoral campaigns independently. According to its official statement, "Yabloko" will not support the President. Yavlinsky also allows for a possible boycott of the forth coming elections.

Other democratic authorities made a similar decision. During a meeting held in the museum of Andrey Sakharov (a significant meeting place for all Russian liberals) on Saturday, December 20th, politicians signed a petition to boycott the elections or to vote "against all". "Based on the results of previous elections held on December 7th, 2003, there is no chance of conducting honest elections. Anyone registering for the forthcoming elections as a democrat will be regarded as a participant of Kremlin's political intrigues." The statement was signed by Boris Nemtsov from "Union of Rightists", Valeria Novodvorskaya from "Democratic Union", Elena Bonner from Sakharov's Fund, along with several dozens of rightists.

KPRF's plenum is scheduled for the end of December. Therefore, the communists' position regarding the forthcoming elections remains unclear. Some sources claim, however, that communists plan to boycott the elections as well. Secretary of the Central Committee (KPRF) Oleg Kulikov stated in his interview to Gazeta.Ru that "the possibility of such a decision is miserably small, but it does exist."

After Nemtsov's and Yavlinsky's public announcements, the communist party might as well boycott the elections. After all the party is already having certain problems with the President. After losing the elections to the State Duma, Zyuganov probably does not want to be humiliated in a race with a rather obvious outcome. At the same time, Zyuganov is the only well-known communist. Any other candidate will be need major advertising and PR. If the communists were to lose these presidential elections, the results could be devastating for the party. This would lead to the party's political death. So an election boycott might actually be a rather wise decision.

Additionally, if Zyuganov refuses to participate, Putin will lose another opponent. Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the LDPR announced recently that he would only participate in the elections as Zuyganov's main rival. Therefore, if Zyganov refuses, so will Zhirinovsky.

Such situation is less likely to appeal to Putin. Even though he needs to win in the first round, the victory should be legitimate in the eyes of Russians. The elections are not considered legitimate when no serious candidates take part. Political bloc "Rodina" could provide the requisite competition to Putin. Glazyev and Rogozin expressed their desire to support Putin. However, their opinions are likely to change due to current events.

Putin may lose his chair in addition to losing his face in case of boycott. If communists, "SPS" and "Yabloko" unite their efforts and manage to persuade the public to vote "against all", the elections could be cancelled. A minimum of 50% of the entire population is required to elect the President. In case "Yabloko", "SPS" and KPRF decide to boycott the elections, 50% of voters will be lost.

It is not surprising that the President has already expressed his opinion regarding such turn of the events. Putin said that boycotting elections is "foolish and harmful, because it may affect the country's political and economic life."

The newest period of Russian history has never experienced abortive elections. Serbia, however, experienced this problem not once, not twice, but three times. Let's just wait and see. Hopefully, Russia will not follow Serbia's example.


See also:

Presidential elections 2004

pravda.ru, December 22, 2003

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