Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 220

A center-right political coalition initiated by Yegor Gaidar, leader of Russia’s Democratic Choice and former acting prime minister, has gotten off to an inauspicious start.

The new grouping, initiated last week following the murder of Galina Starovoitova and amidst calls to “unite the democrats,” was announced in an open letter released last Friday (November 27). Among the signatories were Gaidar, privatization architect Anatoly Chubais, former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov. The ousted reformers received backing from Oleg Sysuev, first deputy chief of the presidential administration, while President Boris Yeltsin’s chief spokesman, Dmitri Yakushkin, said that his boss “supports any bloc which speaks out in favor of market reforms.” Both Gaidar and Chubais said last week they would welcome Yabloko, the movement headed by their long-time rival Grigory Yavlinsky, and Russia is Our Home (ROH), headed by former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, into their coalition. Sysuev, for his part, said he could foresee an alliance with Otechestvo, the centrist movement inaugurated last week by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Chubais said he saw Kirienko as the natural leader of the coalition, while Nemtsov said his personal choice for leader would be Chubais (Russian agencies, November 27-28).

The new coalition, however, immediately ran into problems. One of its ostensible members, Saratov Governor Dmitri Ayatskov, disavowed any connection to it, emphasizing that he was still a member of ROH. Kirienko, while not entirely disassociating himself with Gaidar’s initiative, announced that he was forming his own political grouping. ROH’s presidium sent a letter to its regional branches stating that those who had signed on to Gaidar’s initiative were “connected to a right-liberal, radical version of economic reform and also extreme liberal, pro-Western views,” and that the coalition was “doomed to failure” (Russian agencies, November 28). Aleksandr Shokhin, who heads ROH’s faction in the State Duma, said his movement could not support the new coalition because of the role Kirienko and Chubais played in last August’s financial collapse. Kirienko was prime minister, and Chubais the government’s liaison with Western lenders (TV-6, November 29). Luzhkov, meanwhile, said his new movement was strong enough to forego any alliances, and repeated his oft-stated view that the results of privatization, over which Chubais presided, needed to be “reviewed.” Luzhkov added that Yavlinsky’s Yabloko was already “carrying out a powerful, common sense” center-right policy (Russian agencies, November 28).