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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Coalition Forms for Luzhkov

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov stepped up his campaign to grab the presidency in the next elections, calling Monday for the formation of a centrist bloc just as a group of moderate political parties formed a coalition in his support.

The mayor has floated the idea that he may run for president in 2000, but has no political party of his own. He has disavowed links to any parties, but is believed to be quietly accelerating his efforts to create his own political support.

On Monday, Andrei Nikolayev, a former border guards chief who now serves in the State Duma, brought together six centrist, left-centrist and socialist parties to sign an agreement forming an alliance. He heads the Union of People's Power and Labor movement, which has been seen as a vehicle for Luzhkov since Nikolayev founded it earlier this year.

Ostensibly the new alliance was formed as a collective attempt to boost the morale of a nation tired of unsuccessful reforms. But the underlying message in the merger of the little-known political movements was one of unparalleled support for Luzhkov's presidential efforts.

"I think I speak for everyone here when I say Luzhkov is the only man to take on the role of president," said Socialist Party of Workers leader Alexander Maltsev, one of the signatories of the document.

Nikolayev also signed a cooperation agreement Monday with Vladimir Shumeiko, former deputy prime minister and founder of the Reforms f New Course party.

"We cannot deny that Yury Luzhkov is the most suitable and desirable candidate for the post of future president of the Russian Federation," Itar-Tass quoted Shumeiko as saying. "The regions see in Luzhkov a centrist and a financial manager and they can support him."

Luzhkov was coy about any link to the newly formed coalition. But at the same time as the signing ceremony, he was across town giving a speech on the same theme. At a conference on political centrism at Moscow State University, he reiterated calls for the creation of a party of political centrism.

"Here in Russia the leftists constitute a separate radical force. On the other side are radically minded liberals. But there is nothing in between," he said. "Centrism is a strategy that will lead Russia to a civilized path of development."

Avoiding questions about links to the newly formed union, Luzhkov said only that Nikolayev was an independent political figure who had the right to declare his political preferences.

But in recent weeks, Luzhkov has pushed for his own political alliance that would back him in the presidential elections. He has no formal link to Nikolayev, although the former general is gushing in his praises of the Moscow mayor.

At the same time, Luzhkov regularly meets with him, and analysts said it was with Luzhkov's considerable support that Nikolayev won election to the Duma from Moscow's Orekho-Borisovo constituency earlier this year.

As well as Monday's coalition, Nikolayev has reached cooperation agreements with other groups, including the Agrarians, and is trying to court the Yabloko faction.

But Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky, who has said he is running for president, remains skeptical about forming an electoral bloc.

"We are planning our strategy to run on our own in the presidential and parliamentary elections and are not looking to create a coalition," he said in an interview on NTV's Itogi program Sunday. "We will not give the presidency away to anybody."

But if Luzhkov is trying to create a viable coalition to back him in the elections, the parties openly affiliated to him are tiny. Monday's agreement also was signed by one-time presidential hopeful Martin Shakkum of the Socialist People's Party; Anatoly Panfilov, who heads the ecological "Kedr," or Cedar, party; eye surgeon Svyatoslav Fyodorov, leader of the Self-Governing Workers Party, who ran for president in 1996; and head of the Russian Union of Youth, Vyacheslav Lashchevsky.

Analysts say Luzhkov is after the support of the Communists who have good electoral infrastructure and could carry the vote in the regions where he has much less support than in Moscow. Luzhkov has made no open overtures, but Communist Party boss Gennady Zyuganov is believed to support a union with Luzhkov.

Also Monday, a coalition between right-center democratic parties continued to form, Duma deputy Sergei Yushenkov said.

"The unification process undoubtedly goes on, but less pompously than on the left wing," Interfax quoted Yushenkov as saying.

He added that up to 100 deputies were prepared to form a faction of pro-market and democratic forces in the future. Possible members included former Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, Yegor Gaidar of Russia's Democratic Choice and leader of the Our Home Is Russia faction Viktor Chernomyrdin.