Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 114

The Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) and Yabloko are moving toward either a merger or a coalition, the leaders of the two liberal groups said yesterday. In a televised joint interview aired yesterday evening, Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky and SPS leader Boris Nemtsov said they saw no obstacles to the unification of the two political movements, adding that their ultimate goal was either to form a single democratic party or to create a coalition which would include other democratic parties and groups. Both leaders said an agreement between the two groups would be signed soon. Nemtsov said it was important for democrats to unite in order to prevent the establishment of an authoritarian system. “This agreement is necessary not for Yabloko and SPS, but for the country,” he said. “Very many people turned out to be absolutely unprepared for the onslaught to change the existing system [by] certain figures–[from the] Kremlin, above all. Certain high-level representatives of the [presidential] administration want to establish a dictatorship in the country, and by no means a dictatorship of the law, but a dictatorship of a corrupt bureaucracy” (NTV, June 11). Earlier this month, Nemtsov warned that Putin’s measures to limit the power of regional leaders and centralize Russia’s political system smacked of “political adventurism” (see the Monitor, June 2, 8). But while Nemtsov and others have expressed misgivings about the Putin administration’s potential authoritarian leanings, both Yabloko and the SPS have other Putin initiatives, including its plan to institute a flat 13 percent income tax, which the Duma approved last week.

Yabloko’s central council yesterday declared that it would continue to work toward creating a wide democratic coalition and a unified list of candidates for elections to local self-government organs. Yabloko spokeswoman Yevgenia Dillendorf said that the group had called on its regional branches to take practical steps toward creating democratic coalitions and democratic deputies’ groups in local legislatures. She said that Vladimir Lukin, Yabloko’s deputy chairman who was formerly Russia’s ambassador to Washington, had been given the authority to sign corresponding agreements with the SPS and other democratic groups.

Sergei Yushenkov, a State Duma deputy and a leader of Russia’s Democratic Choice, which is headed by Yegor Gaidar and a part of the SPS, said over the weekend that democratic leaders had come to realize that as separate parties they would not be able to overcome the 5-percent barrier required for party representation in the State Duma. Yushenkov said the merger between the SPS, Yabloko and other democratic groups would take three or four years to merge, but that without such a merger, the democrats could not expect to win more than 40 Duma seats in the next election. With a merger, he said, they could gain 100 seats in the next Duma (Russian agencies, June 10). The Communist Party of the Russian Federation and Unity, the pro-Putin party, currently dominates the Duma. The SPS has the third largest representation, followed by that of Yabloko.