Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 155

Despite their failure to win over Sergei Stepashin and Viktor Chernomyrdin’s Russia is Our Home, leaders of Russia’s right forged ahead yesterday with their proposed coalition. Former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko announced that the coalition will be called the “Union of Right Forces,” and that its list of candidates for December’s parliamentary election will be headed by former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov (who heads the Young Russia movement) and former State Duma deputy Irina Khakamada (who heads the Common Cause group and briefly headed a state committee to support small business). Kirienko also said that Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, who heads the Voice of Russia movement, had agreed in principle to join the coalition (Russian agencies, August 24).

The coalition was reportedly formed after “tense consultations” which included Kirienko, Nemtsov, Khakamada and Titov, along with former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar (who heads Democratic Choice of Russia) and United Energy Systems chief Anatoly Chubais (who runs the electoral staff of Right Cause). A one-time ally, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Federov, said that he does not plan to join the coalition, though he is carrying out “consultations” with its leaders. Federov heads the “Forward, Russia!” movement (Russian agencies, August 24).

As for the coalition’s aims and ideology, Kirienko said that it will be a “rightist opposition, not a party of power.” Indeed, the coalition’s leaders–all of whom have served in senior government posts under Yeltsin and some of whom, it could be argued, helped create Russia’s current system–were at pains to distance themselves from the Kremlin. Nemtsov said that it is time to “quietly bid farewell to the elderly and very ill people in power,” and called for strengthening the powers of the government while limiting those of the president, including his right to dismiss the government. Nemtsov also said that the coalition will oppose “the [developing] nomenklatura-administrative capitalist system.” In a similar vein, Khakamada said that the coalition’s central ideological principle would be to protect the citizen from the bureaucrat.

Observers were split over the Union of Right Forces’ prospects. “Moskovsky komsomolets”–which is sympathetic to the rival center-left coalition headed by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov–called the rightists’ prospects “melancholy,” while “Izvestia”–which is sympathetic to the “young reformers”–predicted that the new coalition will seriously strengthen its position in Russian politics if it is able to mount a campaign similar to Yeltsin’s 1996 presidential campaign (Moskovsky komsomolets, August 25; Izvestia, August 24). Sergei Markov, director of the Institute of Political Research, said that the coalition could become a serious political force even if it fails to gain the 5-percent vote requisite for Duma representation, as long as it manages to stay together. Vladimir Ryzhkov, who heads the Russia is Our Home faction in the Duma, called the coalition’s chances to make it into the Duma “not great,” but wished it luck (Russian agencies, August 24). The decision of Russia is Our Home not to enter the coalition reportedly followed a nasty dispute between Ryzhkov and Gaidar (see the Monitor, August 23).

The Union of Right Forces will hold its founding congress on August 29.