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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Agrarians Abandon Allies for Luzhkov




Leaders of the leftist Agrarian Party on Friday announced their intention to abandon their Communist allies, betting instead on joining the alliance between Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov's Fatherland and the All Russia movement led by powerful regional governors.


But the alliance apparently still isn't a done deal, as the Agrarians have set stiff conditions for joining. And their hoped-for leader of the three-way group, former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, hasn't even said yes yet.


But Agrarian leader Mikhail Lapshin predicted that Primakov would emerge to take the helm of the bloc Monday, when Lapshin meets representatives of Fatherland and All Russia to finalize a plan to run together in December's parliamentary poll, Interfax reported.


The Agrarians' conditions are steep: 25 percent of the spots on the bloc's combined candidate list for the State Duma, the addition of their name to the name of the bloc, and the right to go their own way once parliamentary elections are over, Interfax reported.


Lapshin claimed that Fatherland-All Russia had accepted those conditions, but Fatherland officials were not available to comment.


According to polls by the Public Opinion Foundation taken in late July, the Agrarian Party, which professes to represent rural interests, polls 2 percent. All Russia consistently polls 1 percent or less but gets equal billing with Fatherland largely due to the governors' ability to determine the outcome of races for the Duma, or lower house of parliament, in their areas.


Five percent of the popular vote is required to share in the 225 Duma seats that are handed out according to the percentage of the vote a party gets. The other 225 go to candidates who run in individual districts.


The Agrarians' defection is another blow to the Communist Party's struggle to rein in its fractious leftist allies in hopes of keeping Luzhkov from replacing them as parliament's dominant party.


It's also an indication of Primakov's power to attract political allies, even though he hasn't committed himself. If Primakov joined up, Fatherland-All Russia would rival the Communists for first place in the Duma race, according to polls by the VTsIOM agency.


Primakov held talks Thursday with ousted Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin. Stepashin also suddenly became a hot political commodity when he was fired Monday. Fatherland leaders have said Stepashin, too, would be welcome.


There are sharp divisions among Agrarian Party members, of whom about half, analysts say, would prefer to join the Communists' Duma bid. The chief opponents of joining Luzhkov are Duma faction leader Nikolai Kharitonov and the other members of the faction, which was cobbled together from independents and loaners from the Communist Party after the Agrarians fell short of the 5 percent barrier in 1995 elections.


The chief supporters are Lapshin and Gennady Kulik, a former deputy prime minister ousted with the Primakov government in May.


Kulik and other Agrarians who have held government positions seem interested in good relations with what may be the next ruling party, said Boris Kagarlitsky of the Institute for Comparative Political Studies.


The Agrarians may also be trying to escape their leftist elder brother's shadow, Kagarlitsky said.