Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 229

The new center-right coalition set up by former Acting Premier Yegor Gaidar and Anatoly Chubais, the architect of Russian privatization, had its first meeting in Moscow on Thursday. Among the participants were former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, two former deputy prime ministers–Boris Nemtsov and Boris Fedorov–and a host of other ex-government ministers, along with Aleksandr Yakovlev, one the founders of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika policy. A number of big names from Russia’s cultural world were also on hand, including the writers Lev Razgon and Anatoly Pristavkin and the artists Lia Akhedzhakov and Mark Rozovsky.

The meeting was closed to the media, but the leaders of the new bloc announced at a press conference afterward that their main goal was to run a unified bloc of candidates in next year’s parliamentary elections. They said they hoped to receive about 8 percent of the vote, thereby surpassing the 5-percent threshold required for party representation in the State Duma. The coalition, they said, was open to any political parties other than those who uphold a communist or fascist ideology (Russian agencies, December 10). The participants also announced that Chubais, who currently heads United Energy Systems, Russia’s electrical power grid, will be in charge of organizational matters; Nemtsov, relations with Russia’s regions; Fedorov, economic issues; Yakovlev, political issues; Gaidar, the coalition’s program.

Thus far, the new bloc has been unable to agree on a name: The participants apparently rejected “Pravoye Delo,” or Right Cause, which Chubais had already said publicly was the likely name for the grouping (Kommersant daily, December 10). The question of who will lead the coalition also remains unresolved. Chubais, current head of United Energy Systems, Russia’s electricity grid, has stated repeatedly that Sergei Kirienko is the best candidate for the spot. But while Kirienko was present at yesterday’s inaugural meeting and has agreed to sit on the coalition’s organizing committee, he reiterated that he will register his own group, called “Novaya Sila,” or New Force, by December 19, the justice ministry’s deadline for registering parties planning to participate in next year’s parliamentary elections (Nezavisimaya gazeta, December 11).

One plus for the new group is apparent backing by the president. Oleg Sysuev, first deputy head of President Boris Yeltsin’s administration, who signed the new coalition’s original statement of intent, attended yesterday’s meeting. Sysuev will not have any official function in the coalition, because government officials are forbidden from formally working in any political party or movement. The fact that Sysuev survived the recent shake-up of the presidential administration suggests that his support for the Gaidar-Chubais coalition is shared by Yeltsin.