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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Key Party Abandons Yeltsin as Candidate

Russia's largest pro-reform party, Democratic Russia's Choice, has finally abandoned its support for President Boris Yeltsin, but without naming its own preferred candidate to be the next president.

The governing council of the party, led by former prime minister Yegor Gaidar, said at a special meeting Saturday that it "fails to see how it can possibly support Boris Yeltsin's candidacy in the next presidential elections, should Yeltsin decide to run for a second term in office," Interfax reported.

Russia's best-known reformers began their split with Yeltsin last year and it opened into a chasm with the war in Chechnya. Gaidar, once Yeltsin's most trusted political ally, said in late December that he had telephoned the president on Dec. 11, the day troops marched into the rebel republic, and was still waiting for him to return the call.

But Gaidar said his party still supported the broad thrust of Yeltsin's economic policies, which are spearheaded by First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, a party member. The former acting prime minister added that the party was not intent on bringing Yeltsin down.

"We have of course parted with the president over the question of the Chechen war and we consider that he bears personal responsibility for that decision," Gaidar said, according to Itar-Tass. "But we do not support the idea of impeachment of the president or early presidential elections."

Oleg Boiko, one of the top officials in the party, which is based on the parliamentary bloc Russia's Choice, tendered his resignation after the meeting, saying he could not support the party's line on Yeltsin.

The search is now on for the reformers' presidential nominee for elections due in June 1996. Gaidar has said he will not run himself and no one else in the party is an obvious contender.

Parliamentary deputy Anatoly Shabad said Monday he favored "American-style primaries" to select a single candidate, which should happen at the beginning of next year after December's parliamentary elections.

Lev Ponomaryov, the liberal deputy, who left the Russia's Choice parliamentary faction in December to protest its failure to break with Yeltsin, said should the democratic factions fail to agree on a presidential candidate it would be "lethally dangerous" for the democratic camp.

Opinion polls show the most popular candidate for president is economist Grigory Yavlinsky, a long-standing critic of Yeltsin, but most polls give the likely candidates under 10 percent. Yavlinsky and his Yabloko faction are wary of an alliance with Gaidar, who is associated with the painful reforms of 1992.

Ponomaryov said his Democratic Russia movement, the oldest of the pro-reform organizations, had tried to unite with Yavlinsky, but so far without success.

"We wanted to sign an agreement with them, but they are afraid to soil their white clothing," Ponomaryov said. "We are still associated with many things, but they are not answerable for anything."

Ponomaryov said there was no way he would return to the Russia's Choice parliamentary faction, which he said was stifling.

"Only one man can actively speak out in the faction and that is Gaidar," he said. "Other people don't have a chance to be active, to speak out. It's an authoritarian faction."