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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Luzhkov Done With Communist Bid

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has been flirting for the past few months with the idea of forming an electoral alliance with the Communist Party, but this week he said that the romance was over.

The question now is whether he will seek other allies before the elections or whether the ebullient mayor is strong enough to go it alone.

Near the end of the summer, Luzhkov was speaking of forming a "left-center" party and Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov was describing Luzhkov as a potential "fellow traveler."

"It was quite natural for Luzhkov to want to form a coalition with the Communists," said Yevgeny Volk at the Moscow office of the Heritage Foundation. "They wanted to make use of his popularity. He would have been an independent figure with no particular political inclinations." The Communists offered Luzhkov a national organization he lacked.

But in an interview published this week, Luzhkov said he rejected a coalition with the Communists, attacking them for their refusal to condemn anti-Semitic remarks by party member Albert Makashov.

A State Duma proposal backed by the Communists to resurrect a statue of secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky in downtown Moscow may also have played on his mind, observers said.

Volk said that with the Communists moving further to the left today, both Zyuganov and Luzhkov realize they will lose votes if they compromise by creating an alliance, and the courting season has turned sour.

Luzhkov this week changed his rhetoric of a left-center coalition and is now situating himself in a center which is "neither leftist nor rightist." The Communists' revanchist rhetoric will only hurt him in that strategy, providing a target for his enemies.

"The Communist Party is no longer an option for Luzhkov," said Andrei Piontkovsky, director of the Center for Strategic Studies. "Both have gone their separate ways."

Rumors are still circulating of alliances with the Yabloko and Our Home Is Russia parties to boost Luzhkov's vote among the intelligentsia and the middle classes.

Luzhkov rejected outright a coalition with a right-wing liberal bloc that includes former Prime Ministers Yegor Gaidar, Viktor Chernomyrdin and Sergei Kiriyenko and former Deputy Prime Ministers Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov. Luzhkov reviles these politicians, whom he describes as "radical monetarists" responsible for Russia's financial crisis.

While Chernomyrdin is not a potential ally, Luzhkov may yet cut a deal with his Our Home Is Russia party. The leader of the Our Home faction in the State Duma, Alexander Shokhin, has shown signs of wanting to join Luzhkov, announcing last week he did not exclude "political cooperation" with Otechestvo, Luzhkov's newly formed political vehicle.

The move would leave Our Home leader Viktor Chernomyrdin without a party, but analysts said the group had all but disintegrated anyway.

Our Home was created as a vehicle for the government before the 1995 parliamentary elections but, with the unpopular Chernomyrdin maintaining his intention to run for president, Shokhin and most of his deputies are abandoning ship and joining the party they think will best represent their interests, observers said.

"Shokhin most certainly needs Luzhkov at this point," Volk said. "The question is whether Luzhkov needs Shokhin."

Another option would be for Luzhkov to join forces with Grigory Yavlinsky's Yabloko party. But with Yavlinsky likely to run for president himself, there would be a conflict of interest, analysts said.

"In any case, the bulk of Yabloko's votes for the 1995 parliamentary elections came from Moscow and St. Petersburg," said Volk. "Luzhkov needs support in the provinces, where Yabloko is not particularly popular."

Depending on the results of the St. Petersburg legislative assembly elections, Yabloko may revise its stance, he said. The party did well in a preliminary vote last week. If they do as well in the final vote, they may well stand alone, he said.

One thing is clear: Luzhkov must muster support in the provinces, where most of the electorate feels resentment toward him. With 85 percent of the country's wealth based in Moscow, many presume Luzhkov stole the money from the provinces to furnish the capital.

"Luzhkov and his Otechestvo movement are steaming through Moscow," Piontkovsky said. "But if he cannot transfer that popularity to the rest of the country, it will be extremely difficult for him to become president."