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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Can Battered Liberal Cause Be Righted?




The first congress of the Right Cause movement was overshadowed on Saturday in news coverage by the infighting and confusion over the new Cabinet. Reporters covering the session at the Hall of Columns didn't want to hear about liberal ideas, but begged the movement's leaders to toss them a few scraps of information about the wars of the Kremlin clans.


It was a convincing sign, if any was needed, of the deep political hole that liberals have dug for themselves - especially those who have served President Boris Yeltsin in his revolving-door Cabinets and thus taken the blame, fairly or not, for Russia's economic woes.


There is a temptation to dwell on the role that some members of Right Cause had in creating the current system of crony capitalism.


It is hard to associate any liberal value with the loans-for-shares privatization program run by Right Cause leader Anatoly Chubais, in which the nation's industrial and mineral wealth was handed off to insiders for pennies on the dollar.


But battered as it is, Russia's liberal movement is a standard-bearer for things Russia needs - rule of law, respect for private property, civil society.


Perhaps defying expectation, Right Cause members have made a modest good start. They showed elementary common sense (not always a hallmark of Russian liberaldom) by leaving Chubais off their election list for December's election, and Chubais was smart to stay off.


In any case, Chubais' distaste for the leftist-dominated State Duma - and the Duma's distaste for him - makes it hard to imagine him grabbing a tray and lining up in the Duma cafeteria next to Gennady Zyuganov.


By naming former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemstov, former finance minister and tax chief Boris Fyodorov and former Duma Deputy Irina Khakamada to head its election list, Right Cause has picked three people with name recognition, at least a smidgen of charisma, and minimized the poisonous associations with the Cabinet.


It has welded together Fyodorov's and Khakamada's groups, both of which won less than 5 percent in the 1995 elections but which together could help the coalition break that 5 percent barrier needed for Duma representation.


Maybe they've learned something from their disastrous 1995 showing and are determined to wage an effective struggle for power, not just to stand on principle as noble losers.


It would be a hopeful thing.