Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 195

While Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov seems to be the one to beat in the race to succeed President Boris Yeltsin, one recent poll indicated that Grigory Yavlinsky, head of the liberal Yabloko movement, is the real comer among the likely candidates. The poll, which was carried out by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) to assess the level of support for various potential presidential candidates, found Yavlinsky tied for first place with Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov. Each received the support of 17 percent of the respondents. Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed came in second, at 16 percent, while Luzhkov placed third, with 14 percent. Next came Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who was named by 11 percent of the respondents. Incumbent President Boris Yeltsin was supported by only 2 percent of those polled.

As the newspaper “Nezavisimaya gazeta” noted, the VTsIOM poll sampled 2,400 people across Russia. The polls carried out each week by the Public Opinion Fund and presented on “Itogi,” NTV television’s weekly news analysis program, queried only 1,400. These polls show Yavlinsky with a rating hovering around 10 percent (Nezavisimaya gazeta, October 21).

Yavlinsky recently returned from abroad, where he was receiving medical treatment after suffering a heart attack last month, and reasserted his intention to run for president. He also said he would submit himself to a medical examination before the next presidential election, and that all other candidates should do the same. Yavlinsky has been, and continues to be, a stalwart opponent of President Boris Yeltsin. Earlier this week, however, he lashed out at those calling on Yeltsin to resign for health reasons. Yavlinsky called such “political persecution” of Yeltsin “disgusting,” particularly when it is being done by those who helped Yeltsin retain power in 1996 (“Ekho Moskvy” radio, October 19).

Yuri Luzhkov, apparently recognizing that Yavlinsky’s popularity could grow, has been courting the young economist, perhaps with an eye to making him his prime ministerial choice in a “centrist” coalition. In an interview published last week in “Obshchaya gazeta,” the Moscow mayor said he liked Yavlinsky’s “ability to reason, his hardworking nature and his stand on the matters in general.” While Yavlinsky is more of an economic liberal than Luzhkov, both men have been consistent critics of privatization and other economic policies carried out by the Yeltsin government over the last six years (Obshchaya gazeta, October 15-21).