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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gaidar and Nemtsova to Run for City Duma

MTMaria Gaidar, seen on Kamergersky Pereulok, heads the DA! youth group.
The daughters of Yegor Gaidar and Boris Nemtsov are hoping to kick off political careers of their own by running for seats in the Moscow City Duma.

If Maria Gaidar, 22, and Zhanna Nemtsova, 21, win in December's elections, they will become the youngest deputies ever elected to the city legislature. The youngest deputy now is 33, while the average age is 46.

After growing up in politics, the two feel more than qualified for the posts, and Nemtsova, who will run as an independent, is quick to stress that her own viewpoints do not necessarily coincide with her father's.

Political analysts said, however, that the young women faced a struggle to carve out names for themselves and to win seats in a vote that promised to be among the toughest in Moscow history.

"Difficult? True. But not impossible. The main thing is the substance of what I will have to offer," said Gaidar, who will run as a party-list candidate for the liberal Union of Right Forces party, or SPS, which was co-founded by her father, a former prime minister who was the architect of the liberal reforms of the early 1990s.

She said she had been interested in politics for as long as she could remember. "Due to the specifics of my family, I have always been very politicized and well informed, reading all of the newspapers and magazines I could get my hands on and watching analytical shows when they were still on the air," Gaidar said over a cup of mint tea in a central Moscow cafe. She smoked five or six cigarettes during the hourlong interview.

Gaidar, a graduate of the Economics Academy and a researcher at her father's Institute of Transitional Economy, acknowledged that mustering the support of Moscow's mostly apolitical young people would be a challenge.

Many politicians recently have been going out of their way to court young people and invest in youth organizations. Both Gaidar and Nemtsova are affiliated with the Union of Right Forces' youth organization, while Gaidar runs the DA! movement, which seeks to get young people involved in political activities. As part of the youth drive, Mayor Yury Luzhkov last month ordered all City Hall department heads to hire deputies under 35 years of age.

In a clear attempt to help United Russia garner more votes in the upcoming elections, Luzhkov said this month that he would run for a City Duma seat as the party's top candidate in the party-list vote. The City Duma's 35 seats are divided between deputies who run on party lists and those who run in districts.

Nemtsova conceded that her decision to run as an independent candidate in a yet-to-be-decided district could make it more difficult to win. "I do not want to count on other people. I always want to see the results of what I do, and I will see them if I run on my own," said Nemtsova, who used to say that her lifelong dream was to become mayor of Sochi, her father's hometown.

Zhanna Nemtsova

She was 13 years old when her father moved the family to Moscow upon being promoted from Nizhny Novgorod governor to deputy prime minister by then-President Boris Yeltsin. Nemtsov went on to co-found and lead SPS. He resigned as SPS leader after the party failed to win seats in the 2003 parliamentary elections.

Nemtsova said her ideology differed slightly from her father's and that she disagreed with him on social issues. "My father is a classical liberal, and I am more of a social democrat," she said by telephone, adding that she considered a law that replaced state benefits with meager cash payments to be a major mistake.

Widely praised by liberals as necessary, the law took effect in January but was poorly implemented, triggering rallies by pensioners across the country.

Nemtsova said she was also worried about media freedom and about signs that a one-party regime was emerging with United Russia. She said President Vladimir Putin had too much power concentrated in his hands. "Everybody repeats these [concerns], but nobody does anything about it," said Nemtsova, who is working as a lecturer at the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations as she studies for a master's degree.

Gaidar said that as a deputy, she would focus on everyday issues that affected residents. "I understand that the Moscow City Duma is not a tribune for addressing global political problems, and that people will expect concrete things to be addressed," said Gaidar, who majored in economics and taxes.

Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank, predicted that Gaidar's chances of victory were slightly higher than Nemtsova's, since Gaidar would run on the SPS ticket. "Muscovites do not hate Gaidar and blame all their economic hardships on him, as people do in the regions," he said.

Pribylovsky said Nemtsova's chances would increase if she picked a relatively wealthy district and if no strong liberal candidates ran in the same district.

Sergei Mitrokhin, the deputy head of the liberal Yabloko party and a three-term State Duma deputy who is considering a bid of his own for a City Duma seat, warned that voters would not be able to elect Gaidar or Nemtsova on their own merits. "This idea smacks of nepotism, and I don't understand it. Voters will judge them only as their fathers' daughters and nothing else," he said.

The two candidacies are evidence of a deepening crisis in SPS, which has never recovered from the painful 2003 parliamentary elections, said Alexei Makarkin, a political analyst with the Center for Political Technologies.

Makarkin also said press freedom and criticism of the Kremlin would not be campaign themes this fall. "Addressing those issues in the campaign would look rather odd, if not ridiculous," he said. "Muscovites are very pragmatic and expect candidates to address their everyday needs: new junctions and overpasses to reduce traffic, children's playgrounds and the issue of stray dogs in their neighborhoods."

The elections are scheduled for Dec. 4, and the campaign season kicks off at the end of September. Controversy, however, has been brewing around the elections for months. The role of the next City Duma is set to increase under a new law that grants additional powers to regional legislatures, including the power to confirm the president's appointment for Moscow mayor.

Pribylovsky said he would not be surprised if the children of other politicians also decided to run. "After all, bringing a child into politics is not the worst way to arrange a career for him or her," he said.

Alexei Rogozin, son of Rodina leader Dmitry Rogozin, maintains the nationalist party's web site and once ran its youth movement. Igor Lebedev, the 32-year-old son of Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, is serving a second term as State Duma deputy and heads the ultranationalist party's Duma faction.

Nemtsova and Gaidar said they had consulted with their fathers about their bids but were not relying on them to win.