Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Vote Against Fear, Not for Hope, Sadly

It is passing strange that Anatoly Chubais, the former first deputy prime minister for the economy who was sacked, disgraced and blamed for the electoral humiliation of Our Home Is Russia just a few months ago, should now be on the campaign team of President Boris Yeltsin and taking an active part in getting his former boss re-elected.


One might first ask why someone Yeltsin had dismissed as an electoral pariah should be invited onto the campaign team. But still more curious is that Chubais accepted, joining one of the more surprising groups of allies ever assembled.


For cheek-by-jowl with Chubais on the team we have his nemesis, Mayor Yury Luzhkov. And next to Luzhkov we have perhaps his least favorite person -- chief of the president's security service Alexander Korzhakov, along with Korzhakov's sidekick, Mikhail Barsukov, who heads the successor service to the KGB.


Questions of propriety aside, granted that government officials are not supposed to be involved in running election campaigns, one wonders what it is that unites these people around Yeltsin or what they have to say to each other when locked together in a room.


The sheer diversity of political opinion on this campaign team -- ranging from the messianic free market beliefs of Chubais to the arch conservatism of Oleg Soskovets -- makes it clear that the one thing which does not unite them is a political program. And that is a good lesson for election watchers.


What the campaign team do have in common is their vested interest in the current regime and a justifiable fear of what would happen to them if the Communists win power.


Yeltsin voters this summer similarly will not be choosing a party, program or set of beliefs. They, like Chubais, will be looking for protection from a Communist threat, believing that the only way to succeed in that is to support Yeltsin.


Sadly, the coming elections will be driven primarily by fear on one side and nostalgia on the other, not by hope. This lends credence to the appeals of candidates such as Grigory Yavlinsky that Russians should break such a vicious circle and vote for a third force. But it also makes this unlikely.


As our front page story Thursday suggested, opinion polls show that many voters afraid of Zyuganov would vote for Yavlinsky in the second round, but not for Yeltsin. But Yeltsin is the only one who could make it through to a runoff, and that is unlikely to change.


The stakes on June 16 are so high that too few are likely to be ready to take the risk of voting for any candidate who does not already have proven strength and power.