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Nezavisimaya Gazeta, December 24, 2003

The Joint Democratic Council Begins Thinking for Two Parties

By Anatoli Yegorov

The Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) and Yabloko launched their new joint project yesterday: the Joint Democratic Council. This is an inter-party body to which each party has delegated six members. Boris Nadezhdin from the SPS and Sergei Mitrokhin from Yabloko spoke about the body to the media. The Council will convene for its first meeting at noon today. The following are the only matters of procedure on the agenda; the Council is likely to take some weeks to consider the big issues of its own "political survival." Nadezhdin predicts: "The SPS and Yabloko have fairly different views on many issues, so the talks will be difficult."

The first task set for the Council by its creators was to select a single presidential candidate to represent the democratic forces. Now this task is off the agenda. As Nadezhdin admits, finding "an independent, oppositional candidate" proved extremely difficult; and now there is no point in continuing the search, for "technical reasons" - there is not enough time. Yabloko lost faith in the single candidate idea even earlier than the SPS, so now both parties will have to find some other uses for their Democratic Council.

One field for collective action would be to challenge the Duma election results. Yabloko has collected over 20,000 copies of protocols from district electoral commissions, as well as several
thousand reports from its own observers on election day. The processing of these documents is not yet complete; however, Yabloko leaders say that enough irregularities have already been detected to "cast some doubt on the official voting results."

Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky recently sent an official letter to the Central Electoral Commission, demanding "a recount of ballot papers for the federal electoral district, across its entire territory." The letter names some polling stations where the data on protocols received by observers were inconsistent with the results recorded by district electoral commissions. Yabloko is prepared to present all this information to the law enforcement agencies at any time.

Nadezhdin says the SPS is also working on some "parallel book-keeping," and the SPS also has some data to share with the CEC and judicial bodies - if they have any interest in punishing those responsible for fraud, that is. The Novosibirsk branch of the SPS has already informed the Novosibirsk central district court that the law was broken in electoral district No. 126. The SPS representative there recorded 190 cases of citizens registered as living outside the district being given ballot papers without presenting any evidence of having been removed from voter rolls elsewhere; this could be used to deliberately distort voting results. Like Yabloko, the SPS is certain that the CEC and the courts will attempt to brush aside their complaints, so both parties will have to put some effort into ensuring that at least the most malicious violators of electoral legislation are punished.

The Council's second area of activity will be to develop common tactics for the liberals during the presidential campaign. Both parties have already made their decisions on the main issue: they
will not field candidates. Sergei Mitrokhin said yesterday: "Staying out of this election is a matter of political survival for the SPS and Yabloko." However, they still need to decide on how to express their protest against what is essentially an alternative-free election of the head of state. Even many SPS and Yabloko activists don't believe that simply refusing to field candidates is a strong enough move. The radicals think both parties ought to call on their voters to boycott the election or vote against all candidates. Nadezhdin says: "Voting against all candidates is pointless. But influencing voter turnout is not entirely pointless."


See also:

State Duma elections 2003

Democratic Coalition


Nezavisimaya Gazeta, December 24, 2003

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