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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cool Response Postpones Yeltsin Supporters Rally

A conference planned by former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar to rally the reformist political wing around President Boris Yeltsin, faced with a lukewarm response, is being put off, a leading reformer said Friday.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us," said Lev Ponomaryov, chairman of the Democratic Russia movement and a close ally of Gaidar's. "The congress may now take place in the late autumn, the winter or even the spring."

The congress, designed to nominate Yeltsin as the choice of the demokraty for president in 1996, was originally fixed for September.

Gaidar, who heads the Russia's Choice faction in the State Duma, last week urged other potential candidates for the presidency to stand down and give Yeltsin a clear run at a second term. He said he hoped to reach a deal on this with the leaders of reformist factions in parliament, Sergei Shakhrai, Boris Fyodorov and Grigory Yavlinsky.

"We are planning to hold consultations with many sides to try and find a common language," Ponomaryov said.

However, the initiative is reminiscent of doomed attempts to create a "democratic alliance" in last December's parliamentary elections, when four reformist parties competed with each other and the spoils of victory went to the nationalist and communist opposition.

Shakhrai, whom some regard as a potential presidential candidate, sounded extremely cautious when asked about the project Friday, saying only: "I regard any attempts to unite democratic forces as a positive step."

Yavlinsky, who has set himself up as a democratic alternative to Yeltsin and has already started a kind of mild presidential campaign, is unlikely to agree to the plan. In an interview with Obshchaya Gazeta published Friday he said he had no plans to join the government and was busy working on an independent grass-roots party. The only leading politician to endorse Gaidar's idea so far has been Anatoly Sobchak, the mayor of St. Petersburg, but even he said that discussion was pointless until Yeltsin declared openly whether he would run again in 1996.

"If we begin today to unite around Boris Nikolayevich and some time on the eve of the elections he says, 'I am withdrawing my candidature and I will not run for a second term' then that will do immense harm to the formation of a democratic movement," Sobchak said in Rossiiskaya Gazeta Friday.

Yeltsin has the right to run again in 1996 under the new constitution, but has not said publicly whether he plans to do so. Some of his entourage are in favor of postponing the polls till 1998.