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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Liberals Looking to Unite by 2007 Vote

Leading democratic parties and reformers are looking to combine forces in advance of the 2007 parliamentary elections, creating a single party to challenge United Russia.

"If the democrats fail to get into the State Duma in 2007, Russia runs the risk of having a nationalist, xenophobic and imperialist president," said Boris Nadezhdin, a deputy leader of the Union of Right Forces, or SPS. "Everyone now understands that it is necessary to unite to prevent such a scenario."

In addition to SPS, also taking part in the talks to form a single party are Yabloko; the Republican Party; the new People's Democratic Union, founded by former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov; the Party of Development of Enterprise; and Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion-turned-liberal reformer.

It is unclear what the party's name will be or which leading reformers will join it, Nadezhdin said. He added that it was unknown whether Kasyanov, who plans to run for president in 2008, will join the new party.

Kasyanov could not be reached for comment. The people's Democratic Union has attracted the likes of former presidential candidate and SPS co-chair Irina Khakamada, and former SPS member Ivan Starikov.

Kasyanov accused President Vladimir Putin's government of intimidating successful business owners, censoring the media, applying the law selectively and steering money away from the relatively impoverished provinces and toward Moscow.

Vladimir Ryzhkov, an independent Duma deputy and head of the Republican Party, said his party, SPS and the Party of Development of Enterprise would combine forces for December's regional elections in Perm, Interfax reported.

It is not known under which banner the candidates will run.

Kasparov's spokeswoman, Marina Litvinovich, said Kasparov would help create a single democratic party but would not be a member of it.

Yabloko spokeswoman Yevgenya Dillendorf said her party was optimistic about the new party's prospects.

Analysts, including Mark Urnov of the Higher School of Economics, noted that democratic reformers must set aside their differences before they can build a party together.

Dmitry Orlov, director of the Agency for Political and Economic Communications, a think tank, said it was unlikely leading democratic standard-bearers would be able to unite in the near future.

One major hurdle is the new set of rules for party registration.

In December 2004, the Duma approved legislation requiring parties to quintuple membership from 10,000 and have regional branches with at least 500 members in more than half of the country's 89 regions; previously, regional branches were expected to have just 100 members.

Critics have accused the Kremlin of trying to clear the political field of all but a handful of parties with the bill.