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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Former Premiers Try To Forge Rightist Bloc




A former prime ministers' club gathered at the dacha of the recently fired Sergei Stepashin on Friday evening in an attempt to form a right-of-center political bloc to fight for State Duma seats in December's parliamentary elections.


Viktor Chernomyrdin announced Friday he wanted his Our Home Is Russia Movement to form a political bloc with Sergei Stepashin and Sergei Kiriyenko's New Force political party. All three former prime ministers were present, along with former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais.


A union between these Kremlin loyalists would be good news for President Boris Yeltsin's entourage, which needs a friendly force in the State Duma, now run by the communist opposition.


A declaration on cooperation was to be announced Saturday, Interfax reported, citing sources close to the negotiations. But such a union would be already fraught with personal enmities and ideological differences, and there is no guarantee a deal would hold.


Indeed, even as negotiations were being conducted, there were already signs that the right of center parties will not be able to form an alliance.


Dashing from an Our Home Is Russia meeting to speak with Stepashin, Chernomyrdin appeared to rule out a deal with a key right-wing political group, Right Cause, led by his former deputies Boris Nemtsov and Chubais.


"Right Cause? There is no such cause," Chernomyrdin said.


Nemtsov, however, said that Our Home would "effectively sign its own death warrant" if it didn't align with Right Cause.


And Kiriyenko - who has flirted with opposition politics by calling for Yeltsin's resignation and changes to his Constitution - said he "never did and never would participate in parties of power," referring to Chernomyrdin's Our Home as the tenuous "party of power."


Even Our Home is deeply divided on whether to run alone or in a bloc.


These were not exactly promising signs of a strong alliance. But if they do not come together, the individual parties may not find enough support to earn the 5 percent of the vote needed to be represented in the Duma. All the right-wing groups suffer from dismally low poll ratings due to the unpopular economic policies conducted by their governments. Right Cause, analysts believe, suffers especially for its association with Chubais, the author of the privatization program that benefitted a narrow circle of financial interests.


However, Stepashin may just serve as the glue that holds the alliance together.


By far the most popular of the Kremlin loyalists, Stepashin has been courted by several parties, including Right Cause and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov's Fatherland. According to a recent poll by the Public Opinion Foundation, he possesses the third largest potential electorate, after his predecessor Yevgeny Primakov and Luzhkov, both of whom have joined forces, creating a formidable opponent to the Kremlin.


Indeed, in the past two days Stepashin has made attempts to seal as many political alliances. On Thursday, rumors flew that he would run with the liberal Yabloko party. But Stepashin announced later that evening that he refused to tie his own hands.