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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hidden Agenda in Yavlinsky's Favored Union

Russia's most popular reformist leader, Grigory Yavlinsky, said Thursday that a union between his Yabloko movement and the other major liberal party, Russia's Democratic Choice, was quite possible -- for next year's presidential polls, with himself as the adopted candidate.

At a press conference Thursday, Yavlinsky sought to clarify his stand after stating unequivocally last week that no such union was possible under any circumstances. The Yabloko leader said the two parties' differences lay mainly in economic policy and that they shared many political views.

He said that while he believes that reformist forces must contest the December election separately to let voters choose between several ways of conducting economic reforms, in next June's presidential race these forces must form a united front.

"In the presidential election, the methods of reforming the economy will recede into the background," Yavlinsky said. "The issue will be who holds power in Russia and what political regime Russia will have for quite a long time afterwards.

"Here we need a very broad union, a coalition that would present the democratic opposition, which could offer the people a complete alternative to the current government, including a common candidate for president and a common list of ministers," the Yabloko leader added.

This union, he was quick to stress, was offered entirely on his terms and under his auspices.

"If there is a presidential election, I intend to run and to win," he said, when asked about the identity of the "common candidate."

Yavlinsky reiterated that he saw no chance of uniting with Russia's Choice, led by Yegor Gaidar, for the parliamentary election because, he said, Gaidar's policy as a leading government minister between 1991 and 1994 had had unsatisfactory results.

"It would be difficult to unite with a party that sees fit to sacrifice social programs to phantoms like keeping inflation down to one percent a month, which they never seem to be able to do, anyway," Yavlinsky said. He added that Russia's Choice had ignored what he termed President Boris Yeltsin's "authoritarianism" for too long, only changing its stand on Yeltsin after the war in Chechnya began.

"But we are not looking for any kind of repentance on their part," Yavlinsky said. "It is all a matter of specific negotiations."

Yavlinsky said that his party had formed a commission, headed by legislators Vladimir Lukin and Alexei Arbatov, to hold a series of talks with other political movements to discuss strategy in both the parliamentary and the presidential polls.

For the December election, the Yabloko leader said reformists needed to form two or three major blocs, one of them centered around Yabloko and another one possibly around Russia's Choice. That way, Yavlinsky said, they would both be fair to their voters by clearly delineating their stands on the economy and allow smaller reformist parties to get into the State Duma by latching onto the larger groups.

The Lukin-Arbatov commission, he said, is set to begin negotiations with the Democratic Party of Russia, the Democratic Russia movement and Vladimir Lysenko's Republican Party on possible blocs. It would also talk with Russia's Choice about a common strategy for the June presidential race.

"When I talk about a coalition government, I do not mean one minister being a Communist, another a follower of [ultranationalist Vladimir] Zhirinovsky and a third one a member of Russia's Choice," Yavlinsky said. "Such a government would be unworkable. But in a coalition government, it is possible for members to have different professional views on how economic reforms should go."

Yavlinsky did not seem to have any doubt that Russia's Choice would negotiate after he snubbed its offer of a union last week. Gaidar's party is now engaged in a frantic search for a coalition partner, and Gaidar recently even said it could "certainly cooperate with the party of power," meaning Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's bloc, Our Home Is Russia, which Gaidar had previously denounced as a party of bureaucrats.