Last-minute calls for unity among Russian reformers have fallen on deaf ears. Yelena Bonner and Boris Fedorov issued separate appeals December 13, calling on the leaders of small reform- oriented parties and blocs to withdraw from Sunday’s parliamentary elections. Otherwise, they warned, the democratic vote will be split and the way opened for a communist/nationalist landslide. Bonner, who is a respected human rights activist and the widow of Andrei Sakharov, addressed her appeal to the Social Democratic Party led by former Moscow mayor Gavriil Popov, the Common Cause bloc led by Irina Khakamada, the Party of Democratic Freedom led by Konstantin Borovoi, and the Pamfilova-Gurov-Vladimir Lysenko bloc. Saying none of them had any chance of mustering the five percent of the total vote needed to win a parliamentary seat, Bonner called on them to stand down in favor of Grigory Yavlinsky’s Yabloko and Yegor Gaidar’s "Russia’s Democratic Choice" which, she said, stand a better chance of winning. Fedorov called on smaller parties to transfer their votes either to his party, "Forward Russia!" or to Yabloko. The appeals were immediately rejected by Khakamada and by a spokesman for Pamfilova’s group, who pointed out that, even if parties wanted to step aside, voting papers have already been printed and no mechanism exists for withdrawing from the ballot. (9)
CHERNOMYRDIN FORECASTS GROWTH. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told a new conference that his government’s main achievement has been to put the economy on the path to growth. "The year 1996 must and will become the first year of economic growth in Russia. The retreat has stopped, we have started moving forward Chernomyrdin said. (10)
Government officials have been saying for months that the economy is about to emerge from a painful slump, and most indices suggest that it has begun to grow again. Official figures show that October gross domestic product was unchanged from a month earlier and three percent lower than a year ago, but the official figures underreport a fast-growing private sector. Inflation — a monthly 4.5 percent in November — is at its lowest level since economic reforms began in January 1992, and the ruble has been fixed for six months within a broad corridor against the dollar. But the currency has been losing ground this month on worries about the outcome of the election.
IMF Extends Latest Tranche of Stand-By Credit to Russia.