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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gaidar Launches Campaign For Duma

A political alliance of President Boris Yeltsin's closest supporters launched its parliamentary election campaign over the weekend with the nearest thing Russia has seen to a glitzy Western-style political event.

But Russia's Choice, led by First Deputy Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, emerged from its founding convention looking slightly bruised and not as unified as the organizers had clearly hoped.

The alliance named several top government officials to head its list of candidates for the parliamentary poll, which is scheduled to take place Dec. 12 in tandem with a referendum on a new constitution being drawn up by Yeltsin's team.

Top officials who will be in the running include: First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shumeiko; Finance Minister Boris Fyodorov; Sergei Filatov, the presidential chief of staff; Anatoly Chubais, who heads Russia's privatization drive; Mikhail Poltoranin, head of the Federal Information Center, and Gaidar himself.

They will run as candidates for the half of the new 450-member lower chamber to be elected by proportional representation. The other half of the Duma will be chosen by electoral districts throughout the country.

The convention, held at the Filmmaker's Union building off Mayakovsky Square, received major publicity on the airwaves and seemed geared to present a united pro-Yeltsin front to voters following the confusion and bloodshed of the Oct. 3-4 White House rebellion.

But signs of a split among the coalition's members and the appearance of a rival bloc led by other government officials cast a shadow over the event.

Key members of the team that got Yeltsin elected president in 1991 failed to get on the Russia's Choice ticket, including Gennady Burbulis, one of Yeltsin's closest advisers, and Father Gleb Yakunin and Lev Ponomaryov, leaders of the Democratic Russia movement that spearheaded the campaign two years ago.

Yakunin scorned his omission, indicating that Democratic Russia would "come out stronger from the elections" while Russia's Choice would "collapse, because it is built on sand", Interfax reported.

In addition, President Yeltsin, who had been expected to address the convention, did not appear.

His chief of staff, Filatov, said that Yeltsin had decided not to be associated with one political group, but rather to remain above the fray. It was still a disappointment for the assembled 1, 000 delegates who had begun referring to their group as the "presidential party".

Meanwhile, the Party of Russian Unity and Accord, led by Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, also held its opening conference in Novgorod in northwest Russia, calling for non-radical approach to reform and a greater role for Russia's 89 provinces.

Delegates included Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Shokhin, Sergei Stankevich, a Yeltsin political adviser, and Ramazan Abdulatipov, a former parliamentarian who left the White House only on the eve of the Oct. 3-4 violence.

At the Russia's Choice congress Gaidar set a no-nonsense tone saying the party should be a "party of order", leading the way in economic reforms. "We should promise a stable currency, stable authority, stable legislation protecting private property and the distribution of funds to the genuinely needy", he told the congress.

The desire of Yeltsin's supporters for order may have come in part from a realization, of how close they came to losing control during the Oct. 3-4 revolt.

Dmitry Volkogonov, a top Yeltsin military aide who was also named a Russia's Choice candidate to parliament, said Sunday that Russian security officials had wavered in their support of the president in the key hours after parliament rebels had overrun loyalist police barricades around the White House.

Buoyed by victory over the hardliners, many Yeltsin supporters suggested that he renege on his promise to hold an early presidential poll next June 12.

Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev told the Russia's Choice convention to loud applause that Yeltsin should serve out his full term till 1996.

However, there were signs Monday that members of the White House opposition were regrouping and intending to fight in the December poll.

Nikolai Pavlov, a former hardline deputy, said he hoped to run for the new parliament along with Sergei Baburin, one of the most prominent legislators in the siege, under the Russian Common National Union party. Both were jailed then released after the siege.

Another Yeltsin opponent, Viktor Aksyuchits, also said Monday he would fight the poll as head of the so-called Christian Democratic Party of Russia.