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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yavlinsky: Time to Join In the Fray

It is good to see Grigory Yavlinsky back in fighting form. The scrappy ex-boxer and liberal reformer, leader of the Yabloko movement, virtually disappeared after his disappointing fourth-place showing in June's presidential elections, and his voice, critical but articulate, has been sorely missed.

The message Yavlinsky delivered at last weekend's party congress is not likely to appeal to the powers that be: Russia is turning into a corrupt oligarchy, he said, with a venal regime incapable of implementing even the simplest economic or social reforms.

There is a measure of truth to this, as to many of Yavlinsky's unwelcome assertions.

It was also a delight to see Yavlinsky make Yevgeny Kiselyov squirm on the Sunday evening news program "Itogi." Yavlinsky, undoubtedly a clever debater, turned the tables on the journalist's attempt to embarrass him concerning the poorly organized presidential election campaign he led to such resounding defeat.

Yes, said Yavlinsky, there were mistakes. But my main miscalculation, he added, was underestimating the extent to which the media was working for President Boris Yeltsin.

Kiselyov was visibly discomfited. He could not, for obvious reasons, retort that Yavlinsky was far less critical of press bias when Kiselyov's independent television company, NTV, was solidly behind him, with almost fawning coverage of his every move.

The trouble with Yavlinsky is that there is always a suspicion that his "purity" -- the fact that he has never been co-opted by the Kremlin -- comes mainly from his own weakness as a politician and organizer. Yavlinsky has not been co-opted largely because he has been too arrogant and rigid to get a job in government.

This has its attractions. Being marginalized has left Yavlinsky with the exclusive mantle of Russia's democratic opposition. Others were just as democratic, but they were led astray and often persuaded to back heinous policies by their link with power.

But Yavlinsky's uncompromising stance has sabotaged his prospects of ever having his programs implemented and provides him with all too ready an excuse for his failures.

A sterner test of his principles would come if he took up a job in the government. He would then be faced with the unpalatable choice of either joining the fray and compromising with those he has deemed power-hungry and incompetent, or burning up in a rage of opposition as did Alexander Lebed.

Either way, he would then be able to answer those who ask: "Yavlinksy? What has he ever done?" Nobody asks that of Lebed, whatever they may think of his politics. As a fellow hopeful for the next round of presidential elections, Yavlinsky should think hard about that.