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Nezavisimaya Gazeta, January 24, 2003

Yavlinsky Receives an Offer to Compete with the President

By Andrey Savitsky

Talks on a merger between Yabloko and the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) have reached a crescendo. We have learned the gist of some carefully- concealed proposals for a compromise merger between the SPS and Yabloko. In brief, the unification plan consists of the following. In the Duma elections the two parties would form a single bloc, with a common list of candidates. Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky would moderate his ambitions and agree to take second place on the lists, with the first reserved for SPS leader Boris Nemtsov. In exchange for Yavlinsky's "sale" of the top position, the SPS would agree to "surrender" the man in charge of its coffers: Anatoly Chubais. He would not be on the party lists at all, nor would he be entrusted with management of the election campaign. At the same time, Yavlinsky would gain an additional political bonus: he would become the sole presidential candidate from the democratic forces.

However, it is still unclear if the support of all democrats in the presidential elections would be a great gift for Yavlinsky. The crux of the compromise consists specifically in exchanging first place for Nemtsov to "remove" Chubais. According to our source separate talks were launched at the beginning of this week and are underway "in Moscow, mostly on neutral territory".

Yesterday, when we already knew the details of the "peace plan", the Public Opinion Foundation released some fresh poll results. If the election took place this Sunday, 6% of respondents would cast their votes for Yabloko, and only 3% for the SPS. Given this picture, it is difficult to explain why Yavlinsky is at the negotiating table at all; and, moreover, why he has carefully concealed the fact that the SPS had made him an appealing offer.

At yesterday's briefing in the Duma, Sergei Ivanenko, Yavlinsky's deputy in the party and faction, confirmed that there had in fact been some discussions between the parties. At the same time, Ivanenko said: "Yabloko has a steadfast political position and as in the past has no intention of merging with the SPS." Moreover, according to Ivanenko, future cooperation between the two parties (for instance, in single- mandate electoral districts) is possible only if the SPS completely abandons the idea of a merger. Ivanenko compared the SPS with "a virus that survives by devouring healthy cells". Now, according to the Yabloko representatives, the SPS is seeking to "devour" them.

However, Ivanenko hinted that the final answer to the initiative of the SPS would be provided closer to the weekend. In other words, the talks continue.

If, despite Ivanenko's statements, the discussion does end with the signing of a merger plan, this could be a serious political loss for Grigory Yavlinsky. His readiness to compromise gives rise to several theories about events. The Yabloko leader may simply be tired of being a leader; so in future it will be easier to hide behind Nemtsov's back. If this merger is imposed on the parties from the outside, it could also confirm longstanding rumours that Yabloko has become much more "controlled": second place is not the choice of Yavlinsky, but that of his sponsor. Finally, this merger could provide evidence that Yavlinsky has simply lost touch in politics, and now believes that support form the SPS at the presidential election will offer a big advantage for Yavlinsky. It will only become clear whether these assumptions are right within the next few days.

See also:


State Duma elections 2003

Presidential elections 2004

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, January 24, 2003

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