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Now less wit in the chamber
The number of Yabloko representatives in the Duma has more than halved.
By Alexei Mikhailov,
Yabloko Rossiyi, No 58 (92)
December 25, 1999

The elections to the State Duma are over. We all observed the tough struggle and the powerful propaganda methods that were used during the elections. We asked the Chairman of the Programme Commission of the Yabloko association Alexei Mikhailov to provide an initial analysis of the campaign and explain his point of view on the possible political implications of the elections for Yabloko.

Question: How do you assess the results of the Duma elections?

Alexey Mikhailov: For Yabloko this is a failure. A complete failure. In addition to the federal list candidates we have only two single mandate candidates out of 224, that are members of Yabloko. This accords us less than one per cent (another three candidates are not members of Yabloko). This is a huge drop compared to 1995. The Yabloko faction has changed - it has shrunk instead of increasing its number of seats in the Duma - it has been halved.

Q: Why did Yabloko perform so poorly at the elections?

Mikhailov: The main reasons for the failure are subjective. It was attributable to the lack of any strategy and planning of the electoral campaign, the inertia of the campaign and inability to quickly react to the situation; no breakdown of Yabloko's propaganda into different audiences and regions; general slackness; lack of counter-propaganda; non-selective work with single-mandate candidates, insufficient concentration of resources on the candidates that had very good chances of winning; introduction and support (including financial support) of a large number of obviously weak candidates; subjective approach in work with candidates and regional organisations; clearly poor management in Yabloko's federal head-quarters; insufficient propaganda through ORT and RTR TV channels and regional television channels, sometimes poor preparation for the free television debates (for example, when I appeared on the ORT programme, I was surprised to learn that I had to participate in the debates with different parties to the ones I had been told about by Yabloko's headquarters. Furthermore we received no assistance from Yabloko's headquarters) for the "Vox Populi" programme of the NTV channel (especially in the discussions with Sergei Kiryenko and Georgy Boos). Other reasons include poor political work with governors, as well as virtual non-participation in the elections of mayors, governors, etc., that were held simultaneously with the Duma elections (for example, there were no Yabloko candidates at these elections). It is high time for a party with a six year history to resolve such problems). If we lack our own candidates, we could support someone else, but failure to participate means failure.

There were also objective reasons for the threefold decline in Yabloko's rating during 1999 - the formation of the "Fatherland - All Russia" and "Unity" blocs, Vladimir Putin's high rating, etc., as well as the principled positions of Yabloko and its leader Grigory Yavlinsky over the situation in Chechnya and the union with Belarus. But a reduction to under 9-10% is, in my opinion, indicative of a clearly abortive electoral campaign (which is indirectly confirmed by the polls of the Public Opinion Fund). Our defeats to the Union of Right-Wing Forces and our failure in St Petersburg are especially painful.

Q.: What do you think about the future division of forces in the new State Duma?

Mikhailov: It is good that the communists will not have majority control the Duma any more. Moreover, it looks as if we will witness a rough balance of forces in the new Duma.

There will be a virtual balance between the CPRF and the "Fatherland - All Russia", "Unity", the "Union of Right-Wing Forces" and single mandate deputies, that are inclined to support "Unity". Yabloko could play a balancing role here, if we had another 10-15 seats. The balance of forces may shift in favour of the Kremlin and the Government due to a separation of "All Russia" from "Fatherland - All Russia". Then the Kremlin may hold a relative majority of votes. Agreements on constitutional laws will be required (two-thirds of the total number of votes).

If we are lucky, Yabloko can propose its candidate as Speaker of the State Duma. Then the positions of Yabloko could be strengthened somewhat, provided that we don't have to sacrifice posts in the Duma committees for the post of Speaker...

The questions were asked by Usam Ozdemirov, Yabloko Rossiyi


ei Stepashin on Grigory Yavlinsky's proposals