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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

3rd Force's 2nd Coming

A union in which Lebed were the presidential candidate and Yavlinsky the prime minister would have every chance of winning.

The report of my death was an exaggeration," the great scoffer Mark Twain once wrote. Now, retired General Alexander Lebed could rightly, and to the dismay of his opponents, say the same of his political career. The first round of elections for governor of the Krasnoyarsk region has shown that, regardless of the final results of the vote, Lebed is capable of running for president and winning in 2000.

The Krasnoyarsk region, which is more than four times larger than France, is a model of the rest of Russia. Its inhabitants usually vote as the citizens of the country on the whole do. At the gubernatorial elections, as many people turned out at the polls as normally show up for presidential elections -- up to 77 percent in certain districts. Of them, 45 percent voted for Lebed. This demonstrates the following:

The voters no longer believe in those who were and are now in power, communists and ex-communists-turned-"democrats" alike. As in other regional elections, people vote for candidates with clean moral reputations or those who are effective in their work. For this reason, successful entrepreneurs are elected, for example. Or voters reject the current authorities and so, out of spite, cast their ballots for candidates such as the recently elected mayor of Nizhny Novgorod, Andrei Klementyev, who was immediately arrested.

Lebed is unquestionably outstanding, honest and confident of his professional worth. He is seen as capable of defending the interests of those who do not want to participate in the government's game of Monopoly when the players who are in power change the rules all the time in order to receive even more property, money and power.

The majority of politicians in Russia today could not come to an agreement with Lebed. In this sense, he is close to Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of the only true oppositional faction in the State Duma, Yabloko. He has not tainted himself by making compromises with the current authorities or by "services" performed during communist times.

It was precisely Lebed and Yavlinsky, together with the renowned eye doctor Svyatoslav Fyodorov, who could have formed a "third force" coalition during the last presidential elections that would have been capable of opposing both President Boris Yeltsin and Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov. But no such coalition was put together. Why? What are the prospects for Lebed and Yavlinsky becoming allies, and what would such a union achieve?

When Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov arrived in Krasnoyarsk to save Russia from Lebed, he said he would be a catastrophe for the country: Lebed would remain a general, because he does not know how to do anything else. He does not know what civilian life is. He takes money from very wealthy people, and will have to work off his debts.

Unfortunately, much of this is true. It is a consequence of Lebed's military profession. From this stems his indiscriminate choice of allies, the majority of whom, with time, turn into his enemies.

A strong but not extremist person, Lebed attracts simple people, who consider him capable of handling the current social and economic catastrophe in the country and those responsible for it. But highly educated, albeit now impoverished, professionals fear him. Their candidate is Yavlinsky, even though he, according to many people, including those who vote for him, is too weak.

The Yabloko faction is the only political force that came out ahead as a result of the last government crisis. Even Yavlinsky's ratings for president were raised. I must agree, however, with the several analysts who see Yavlinsky as losing rather than gaining points.

During the last elections, Yeltsin neutralized Lebed by bringing him into the Kremlin as chairman of the Security Council. Now something similar is happening with separate members of Yabloko. The first to break off was Mikhail Zadornov, who was made finance minister. Now Oksana Dmitriyeva heads the Labor Ministry. Proposals have been made to other members of Yabloko. And this puts Yavlinsky, who, along with his faction, refused to vote in favor of the new prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko, in an ambiguous position. Either everything had been agreed upon in advance, or Yabloko is not a united team of like-minded people. Why are the strongest people leaving it?

One thing that prevents Lebed and Yavlinsky from coming to an agreement is that, with the exception of the Communist Party, Russian political parties are created not under programs, but under leaders. Heads of parties are accustomed to collaborating only under a vertical structure of power. And two bears, especially with dissimilar characters, cannot live in the same den.

But a union in which Lebed were the presidential candidate and Yavlinsky the prime minister would have every chance of winning. If Lebed proves to be a good governor of Krasnoyarsk, he could win the presidential elections on his own. Yavlinsky could win if he united with Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov or the former head of the border troops, Igor Nikolayev, for example.

A victory of a "party of professionals," however, which Yavlinsky and Lebed, by complementing each other, could theoretically create, would substantially change the situation in Russia and return hope to the people for a different life. A different outcome at the elections in 2000 would only sharpen the agony of the current nomenklatura system. This would very likely pave the way for another "third force" to come to power, which would not be ashamed of either Nazi ideology or Bolshevik methods of "class struggle."

Tatyana Matsuk is a senior researcher at the Academy of Sciences Institute for Employment Studies. She contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.