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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Liberals Warn of a 'Brown Revolution'

President Vladimir Putin could well stay in power beyond 2008 or have a loyal figurehead succeed him if the opposition does not unite and to challenge him, liberal leaders said at a conference on democracy Wednesday.

Putin could try to have a loyal follower elected in 2008 so that he could return to the Kremlin four years later, said Boris Nemtsov, a former leader of the Union of Right Forces party, or SPS.

"This candidate would be very unpopular and the Kremlin would have to fix the elections to get him elected," he said.

Nemtsov, who is an economic adviser to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, warned that in such a situation a revolt similar to Ukraine's Orange Revolution would probably take place.

"But in our country the color would be not orange but brown. Fascist ideas will take over and the crowd would likely turn its anger on people from the Caucasus," he told the conference, which was organized by the Indem think tank and the International Republican Institute.

SPS and Yabloko speakers said they were worried that the Kremlin could change the Constitution to enable Putin to stay on in power after 2008. Putin has repeatedly denied plans to run for a constitutionally barred third consecutive term, but has recently hinted that he could run again in 2012.

Boris Nadezhdin, a deputy SPS leader, said the Kremlin could tacitly help a nationalist party win the 2007 State Duma elections and then try to keep Putin in power as the sole leader able to combat the threat of nationalism and xenophobia.

"This is one of the scenarios the Kremlin is mulling so that they can warn people of the danger such a party poses to the country, and then call on Putin to serve another term," Nadezhdin said.

This scenario could be avoided only if liberal and left-wing opposition parties worked together in the next Duma elections to prevent nationalists from dominating parliament, he said.

Opposition parties should campaign on the slogan of "keeping political competition in the country," he said.

Senior Yabloko party member Sergei Mitrokhin urged the opposition to come up with a "simple joint political program that people can easily understand."

"This is the only way to get our message across," he said.

But speakers said they were pessimistic about the future of democracy and admitted that despite many efforts, they had been unable to come up with a united plan to fight the Kremlin.

Yet according to a recent nationwide poll by the respected Levada Center, none of Putin's top loyalists would enjoy strong support from voters in the 2008 presidential election.

Some 44 percent of respondents would vote for none of Putin's allies, the poll found.

Of the possible candidates, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov received the support of 13 percent of respondents, while Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov received 7 percent each.

The poll of 1,200 people, conducted Sunday, had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.