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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Belykh, Nemtsov but No Chubais

APBoris Nemtsov speaking at a Union of Right Forces conference on Fridday. He will be a candidate on SPS's party list.
Calling themselves the last "samurai of Russian democracy," the Union of Right Forces kicked off its election campaign Friday by confirming its party lists for the Dec. 2 State Duma elections.

Conspicuously absent from the congress was party stalwart Anatoly Chubais, who stayed away following a veiled warning about the election campaign from President Vladimir Putin.

Leader Nikita Belykh was confirmed to head up the national list for the Union of Right Forces, or SPS. Boris Nemtsov, the former leader of the liberal, pro-business party, got the No. 2 spot, while literary critic Marietta Chudakova was confirmed for the third place on the ticket.

"This troika represents three generations of democrats," Belykh told delegates before the vote. The congress approved the list 129-to-10 in a secret ballot.

Maria Gaidar, daughter of former prime minister and party co-founder Yegor Gaidar, will head the Moscow city list, while Leonid Gozman, board member at national electricity utility Unified Energy System, tops the list in St. Petersburg.

In a rather modest event compared with the previous year's, the delegates in the October Hall of Moscow's Dom Soyuzov also approved a party campaign platform with the slogan "freedom and humanism."

Belykh spoke for about 20 minutes, telling delegates that election success was possible, despite "government television channels working against" the party and "possible criticism from the president's side," in an apparent reference to comments made by Putin at the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi on Sept. 14.

In a comment made at the annual meeting with international Russia analysts and journalists, Putin hinted that SPS co-founder Chubais could use his position as UES CEO to help the party.

"Everyone knows Anatoly Chubais is an SPS leader, both formally and informally," Putin said. "At the same time, he heads of one of our biggest energy companies. As you know, this company, with its huge resources ... is able to provide not only moral and administrative, but also financial backing. I hope they do it according to the law."

A party official, who asked not to be named, said Chubais had decided not attend the congress "just in case," following the remarks.

Belykh replied to repeated queries about the remarks by suggesting reporters "address these questions to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin."

He also dismissed rumors that the party had bowed to Kremlin pressure by not including independent Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov on its lists.

"We did not receive any calls from the presidential administration," Belykh said. "We held long talks with Ryzhkov, but there has never been the question of putting him on the SPS lists."

Nemtsov, who is an adviser to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, was the last to take the floor. He called for candidates to show more humility and avoid the use "of difficult economic words that people won't understand."

"These elections won't be a fight between liberals and Communists, but a fight between cynicism and charity," Nemtsov said. "We should speak simply and get close to the people."

SPS garnered just 3.97 percent of the vote in the 2003 State Duma elections, failing to pass the 5 percent barrier to qualify for seats from its party list, although four deputies did win in single-seat districts. Changes to election law mean that the breakdown of the 450 seats in the next Duma will be determined entirely by proportional representation, with the minimum needed to gain seats raised to 7 percent. The latest poll from the Levada Center, released last week, put the party's support at 2 percent of decided voters.

The SPS party lists will include 316 candidates. By law, parties are allowed to include no more than 600 candidates on their lists for the 450-seat legislature.