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Vedomosti, January 27, 2003

Yavlinsky Will Go His Own Way

Sponsors have failed to reconcile two right-wing parties

By Bulat Stolyarov, Vitaly Ivanov

Yabloko sponsors have failed to persuade Grigory Yavlinsky that his party and the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) should combine their candidate lists for the parliamentary elections. The Yabloko leader has refused to take second place on the electoral list, as he was invited to do, and also act as the single right-wing presidential candidate in 2004 elections; even despite Anatoly Chubais' promise to quit the SPS to secure Yavlinsky's agreement.

According to the National Public Opinion Research Centre (VTsIOM), 8% of respondents were prepared to support Yabloko in October 2002, 9% in November and 7% in December. The SPS's popularity rating was steadily declining: 11% in October, 10% in November and 5% in December.

SPS leader Boris Nemtsov described the point of the SPS's offer to Yavlinsky: "Since the business community - almost all theoligarchs - who support both parties favour unification [of the SPS and Yabloko] and the formation of a real third force in parliament, we sent business leaders to negotiate with Yavlinsky." In Nemtsov's words, the leader of Yabloko was offered second place on the party's electoral list, with the first position occupied by Nemtsov, and the third by Irina Khakamada. Moreover, the SPS said it would give Yavlinsky the right to be the "single democratic candidate" in the presidential elections of 2004, and accept his condition of Anatoly Chubais' departure from the SPS.

"During the two weeks prior to his departure for Davos, two negotiators tried to convince him [Yavlinsky] to agree to a unified list, but in vain," says Nemtsov, who believes that such a coalition could get a hundred seats in the Duma. In his words, the business leaders were unable to speak from a position of strength - quarrelling with a friendly party before the elections was not part of their plans.

According to a source from Russian United Energy Systems (RAO UES) who asked to remain anonymous, one of the negotiators with Yavlinsky was Mikhail Khodorkovsky, CEO and co-owner of YUKOS. Our RUES source said: "Since almost all the renowned oligarchs are sponsoring the SPS, and Yabloko is being financed by Khodorkovsky alone, we decided to ask the investor to conduct negotiations. Moreover, Misha [Khodorkovsky] isn't glad that the two parties which he is sponsoring are at war, which is destroying the point of his investment."

Two co-owners of YUKOS confirmed to us that they were financing Yabloko, after specifying that there had been spending their own money. This is how First Deputy Chairman of Yabloko Sergei Ivanenko replied: "If they confirm this information, we do so as well."

Leonid Nevzlin, co-owner of YUKOS and senator, says: "In view of our wish to create a strong democratic coalition, we don't think exerting pressure on both parties is possible." In his words, "they [the parties] must at least agree to stop the PR-war in the media" and seek extra votes "not at the expense of one another, but at the expense of non-democratic movements."

As a source in RUES management explains, "the SPS could gain votes at the expense of United Russia, whereas Yabloko would be better off moving to the left, in the direction of the communists, especially since they are quite successful in this area."

In the opinion of Gleb Pavlovsky, president of the Effective Policy Foundation, the oil tycoons were right not to issue Yavlinsky with an ultimatum - either you merge with the SPS or you'll remain without financial support. "If Khodorkovsky had refused [to finance Yabloko], Yavlinsky would easily find money in the free political market," Pavlovsky says.

Ivanenko of the Yabloko party, who rules out the possibility of a combined electoral list, asserts that the parties are efficiently cooperating even without that, and have already coordinated the nomination of their candidates in 50 electoral districts.

See also:


State Duma elections 2003

Presidential elections 2004

Vedomosti, January 27, 2003

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