Three center-right electoral blocs planning to participate in December’s parliamentary election agreed on July 23 to form a coalition and put forward a single slate of candidates. The three are Right Cause, which was represented at the meeting by United Energy Systems chief Anatoly Chubais; New Force, led by former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko; and Voice of Russia, headed by Samara Governor Konstantin Titov (Russian agencies, July 23). In a July 24 interview, Chubais said that the “programmatic goals” of the three blocs are virtually identical. He also said that it was possible that the new coalition will back Kirienko’s attempt to unseat Yuri Luzhkov as Moscow mayor. Earlier this year, Luzhkov moved up the date of the mayoral vote to coincide with the federal legislative elections.
The new coalition marks a significant step toward uniting the fractious center-right of Russia’s political spectrum. On the other hand, at the meeting, the fourth major center-right group, Russia is Our Home (headed by former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin), was conspicuous by its absence. According to the Moscow rumor mill, Chernomyrdin is said to be unable to envision himself on the same ticket with such figures as Chubais, former Premier Yegor Gaidar and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, all of whom have been critical of Chernomyrdin, or of Kirienko, who replaced Chernomyrdin as premier in 1998. In addition, even the younger, more liberal leading member of Russia is Our Home, Vladimir Ryzhkov, has evinced skepticism about rushing into an alliance with Chubais, Gaidar and Nemtsov, all of whom served in high posts under President Boris Yeltsin and are in some measure damaged goods in the eyes of the electorate. On the other hand, Chubais said on July 24 that he was sure that Russia is Our Home would not contest the December parliamentary election alone, suggesting that the bloc’s failure to join the coalition would be “a tragedy for Russia” and that to join would demonstrate its “maturity” (Ekho Moskvy radio, July 24).
Meanwhile, attempts to form a rival center-left coalition have reportedly hit snags. According to a report today, problems have cropped up in negotiations between Fatherland, the movement headed by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, and All Russia, the bloc of regional leaders whose de facto leader is Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev. The Tatarstan leader again emphasized on July 24 that he saw Fatherland as a potential ally, but added: “This movement was created earlier and it has incorporated different parties and movements–differing in their goals, programs and, shall I say, ambitions of their leaders,” he said. Speaking in more general terms about the impending electoral campaign, Shaimiev said that the ambitions of some leaders was hampering integration into a bloc. Shaimiev would reportedly support a merger if the resulting coalition were led by former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, meaning that Shaimiev and Luzhkov would be equals in the coalition’s hierarchy (Vremya MN, July 26). Primakov again called for uniting “healthy forces of the center,” naming Fatherland, All Russia and the Agrarian Party (TV Center, July 24). He has not, however, said what his own political role, if any, might be.
STEPASHIN CALLS FOR REEQUIPPING THE RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES.