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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Left Wing Signs Pact To Back Zyuganov

Left-wing parties signed a formal pact Monday to back Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist Party's presidential candidate, while a group that recently christened itself the Third Force promised to have a single presidential champion of its own by the week's end.

Those signing Zyuganov's pact during a ceremony in the party's Duma offices included traditional allies such as the Agrarian Party, as well as smaller pro-communist groups who would like to see the main Communist Party take a harder line.

"We, the left ... must unite in order to win the elections," said Nikolai Ryzhkov, formerly Mikhail Gorbachev's Soviet prime minister and the head of a pro-communist party, Power to the People. "Today is only the first step. Those who care about the motherland should join."

Viktor Anpilov and Sergei Baburin -- leaders of fringe hard-line groups -- did not sign the pact. Both men have criticized Zyuganov's party for not supporting an immediate restoration of the Soviet Union, and Anpilov said Monday he was disappointed that Monday's pact again failed to call for that. Looking for cracks in the apparently solid leftist-communist coalition has become a favorite pastime among political observers. But the left seems to have a sense of purpose lacking elsewhere. As Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin told Interfax, "Now is not the appropriate time for experiments on the left flank of Russian politics."

Nevertheless, many on Monday were discussing Aman Tuleyev, a high-ranking member of Zyuganov's Communist Party who is also running for the presidency, though as a party-sanctioned tactic. When election day draws near, Tuleyev is to step aside and urge his supporters to fight on for Zyuganov. Over the weekend, however, NTV's "Itogi" program showed Tuleyev campaigning in the Kemerovo region and hinting he would not step aside.

Analysts said Monday that Tuleyev was most likely just campaigning as best he could, and would in the end support Zyuganov.

While Zyuganov was building his coalition Monday, some other political celebrities were rallying around a new organization called simply the Third Force. Names bandied around as members of this organization include economist Grigory Yavlinsky, nationalist and film-maker Stanislav Govorukhin, eye doctor Svyatoslav Fyodorov, former vice president Alexander Rutskoi and retired general Alexander Lebed.

Political observers are so far skeptical of the Third Force's ability to unite such a collection of egos -- much less to play a real role in the nation's political life. Yavlinsky's spokesman could not confirm suggestions he would participate; Rutskoi's spokesman said he was "thinking about it," while Lebed's people were also taking a wait-and-see approach.

Nevertheless, a spokesman for Govorukhin -- who is handling much of the organizational work for the Third Force -- said the group would announce Thursday a single candidate from among the five that it would back.

"It's a pretty artificial union of quite different candidates with no real supporters, no strength, no money and no organization," summed up Nikolai Petrov of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Viktor Kremenyuk of the USA/ Canada Institute said the Third Force was "marginal, at best ... it's neither a force, nor a third alternative to Yeltsin and Zyuganov, it's simply a complement of all those left with nothing to do."

But noting that the Communist Party claims already to be lobbying the Third Force, Kremenyuk said its appearance was part of an old political tradition: "They are trying to present themselves as a certain strength, and then they will try to bargain with the real forces to give their votes to them in return for something," perhaps positions in a future government.

Supporters of President Boris Yeltsin, meanwhile, gathered over the weekend to found the Russian Movement for Public Support of Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin's former chief of staff, Sergei Filatov, was elected chairman of the movement's coordinating committee.

Filatov -- noting proudly that the founding congress had gathered, among others, 110 cultural and sports celebrities -- said he expected both Yavlinsky and former prime minister Yegor Gaidar to soon fall in behind Yeltsin's campaign.

Our Home Is Russia, the party led by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to a mediocre finish in December's Duma races, will assist the movement but remain independent, Filatov said.

"You can always find some ambitious politicians who will with pleasure participate in this sort of organization ... The very fact that an organization is created lets people speak on the television, draw attention to themselves, and so on."