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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Liberal Ex-Ministers Pick Election Slate




Down, but hoping they're not yet out, former leaders of the government's liberal bloc chose their team for the December parliamentary elections at the first congress of the Right Cause coalition Saturday.


Movement leaders and former Cabinet ministers Anatoly Chubais, Yegor Gaidar, Boris Fyodorov and Boris Nemtsov presided over 435 delegates and 1,100 guests at the Hall of Columns near the Kremlin.


Fyodorov, a former finance minister, former Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov and former Duma Deputy Irina Khakamada were elected to top the coalition's list for Duma elections.


Nemtsov said he hoped the coalition would win as much as 10 percent of the vote. But the decision to leave prominent economic reform architects Chubais and Gaidar off their ballot list was a telltale sign of the liberals' struggle to distance themselves from unpopular policies carried out when they were in government.


Gaidar ended Soviet-era price controls during his stint as acting prime minister in 1992, and Chubais presided over a privatization program that turned over state enterprises to political insiders at rock-bottom prices.


Former liberal Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko has so far refused to ally his Novaya Sila, or New Force, movement with the coalition for precisely this reason.


"Its time to bring an end to the myth created by the Communists that the democrats are responsible for Russia's economic woes," Nemtsov said.


"We made only one mistake and that was not to explain fully to the people what we were doing," he said, drawing wry smiles from Chubais and Gaidar.


Nemtsov said the coalition faced an uphill battle, trying to coax the centrist Our Home Is Russia Party, or NDR, as well as the liberal Yabloko party into the coalition. He called on all democrats to forget the differences of opinion and personality clashes that have riven the movement.


"We have only one task - to fight for power," Fyodorov said. "We want no less than 10 percent of the vote."


But analysts said that Right Cause would do well to get the 5 percent it needs to gain representation in the State Duma and was unlikely to be bolstered by any support from the NDR or Yabloko.


"Their inability to join forces with Kiriyenko is likely to split the vote, leaving both groups out of the Duma," Andrei Piontkovsky, political analyst at the Center for Strategic Studies, said.


Even though Kiriyenko appeared at the congress to voice his support, he will refuse to join because he knows the names of Gaidar and Chubais have been too discredited, Piontkovsky said.


The presentation of the coalition's election platform was overshadowed by tales of intrigue swirling around the appointment of the new Cabinet and rumors that Chubais' clan was locked in a power struggle with his old adversary Boris Berezovsky over influence in government. One by one, the leaders of the coalition were mobbed by journalists anxious to grill them on the political infighting in the government.


Gaidar used his address to the congress to urge President Boris Yeltsin to give more independence to new Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin.


"Stepashin has not been given enough authority to form his own government. I hope the president has enough sense left to stop undermining Stepashin's role," Gaidar said in an interview with The Moscow Times.