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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gaidar Sets Deadline To Endorse Candidate

Yegor Gaidar, leader of Russia's Democratic Choice, said Friday his party has not yet decided which presidential candidate to back, while Nizhny Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov urged President Boris Yeltsin to negotiate with other noncommunist candidates.

Gaidar told a news conference his party's political council had decided to ask its regional organizations to hold conferences over the next 10 days "to define their own suggestions concerning the presidential elections."

At the end of April, "we will synthesize these suggestions, and our position in general will be clear," Gaidar said, adding that a "final decision" will be reached at a party congress scheduled for May 17.

Russia's Democratic Choice did not break the 5 percent threshold necessary for representation in the State Duma in December's elections. But the party and Gaidar, the architect of Russia's post-Soviet economic reforms, retain influence within the pro-democratic sector of the Russian electorate.

Nemtsov, for his part, said Friday in Nizhny Novgorod that to increase Yeltsin's re-election chances, the president "must immediately negotiate" with Yabloko party leader Grigory Yavlinsky, former general Alexander Lebed and prominent eye-surgeon Svyatoslav Fyodorov," Interfax reported.

Nemtsov also said Yeltsin has to "really stop the war in Chechnya, dismiss power ministers who have discredited themselves and publicly recognize his mistakes."

Gaidar said there had been "hot discussion" among members of his party's political council over whom to back. He said Sergei Kovalyov, the human rights activist and outspoken critic of the war in Chechnya, wanted the party to back Yabloko's Yavlinsky.

Kovalyov and other democrats, including Yelena Bonner and Arkady Murashev, also a Russia's Democratic Choice official, have formed a committee to back Yavlinsky's candidacy.

Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, he said, called on the party to back Yeltsin.

Gaidar, who has been critical of both Yavlinsky and Yeltsin, said both had moved closer to his party's positions on some issues. He said Yavlinsky's recent statements on financial-monetary policy were significantly different from those expressed several months ago.

Yavlinsky criticized the government's economic policy Thursday, but lavished praise on the Central Bank, which has been carrying out tight monetary policy.

Gaidar praised Yeltsin for moving toward a negotiated settlement in Chechnya and for his decree permitting private ownership of land.

He added, however, that "today it would be incorrect to say that the policies of one or the other candidate suits us."

Meanwhile, in an interview published Friday in the government newspaper Rossiiskiye Vesti, Academy Award-winning director Nikita Mikhalkov laid out his reasons for supporting the incumbent.

"Yeltsin is a real Russian man, and Russia is of feminine gender and it needs a real man," said Mikhalkov, a member of the pro-Yeltsin party Our Home is Russia.

Yavlinsky said Thursday that Yeltsin should consider withdrawing from the race to prevent Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov from winning the presidential contest.