Cablegate: Yabloko Party Launches Party List

DE RUEHMO #4772/01 2711507
R 281507Z SEP 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

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1. (SBU) In conversations since the September 15 - 16 Yabloko
congress, Yabloko federal list number two Sergey Kovalev,
party member Andrey Piontkovskiy, and a member of Yabloko's
Murmansk delegation to the congress described to us a party
whose continued stress on human rights, as manifested in the
nomination of Kovalev, was a source of pride. They
acknowledged that a source of frustration for many in the
party was the year-in, year-out inevitability of Party
Chairman Grigoriy Yavlinskiy, and attributed his continued
leadership, in part, to the inability of others in the party
to acquire national name recognition, given the party's
limited access to the media. All interlocutors took in
stride the increased factionalization of the party,
especially efforts by its "Democratic Platform" to ally
Yabloko more closely with Other Russia. In a post-congress
meeting, Party Chairman Yavlinskiy seemed almost bored with
politics, but did launch one tirade against alleged Kremlin
support for Yabloko's historical rival SPS. Yabloko has
compiled a long, but not strong, list for its run at the
Duma, and the party appears unlikely to gather even the
4-plus percent of the votes it won in the last national
legislative elections. End summary.

Party List Politics

2. (U) Yabloko's September 15 - 16 congress in Moscow region
drew 196 delegates from around the country who spent the
weekend refining the party's national list in advance of the
December 2 Duma elections. The delegates reportedly spent
much of the first day's closed session wrangling over the
shape of their district map, and ultimately decided to field
377 candidates in 97 districts. There was reportedly much
tension on day one between those delegates who worried that a
small party like Yabloko would have difficulty running bona
fide campaigns countrywide, and those who lobbied hard to see
their district remain unmerged with neighboring districts,
which would ensure a place in the sun for their region's

The Troika

3. (SBU) Also controversial was the composition of the
party's Federal troika. Although the fate of Chairman
Grigoriy Yavlinskiy was never in doubt, his management of the
nomination process raised temperatures among some of the
delegates. In the second day of the congress, which was open
to the press, still unhappy delegates complained that the
discussion of the troika had begun at 10:30 p.m. Saturday,
when many delegates were too tired to participate
meaningfully. A defensive Yavlinskiy countered that, with
its administrative business behind it, the later hour
provided the perfect time for a calm discussion of campaign
strategy and the merits of individual candidates. Proposals
that debate of the troika be continued at the September 16,
open, session were deflected by Yavlinskiy.

4. (SBU) The most controversial choice for the federal troika
was former human rights figure Sergey Kovalev. Delegates at
the congress told us that the choice of Kovalev, who some
voters associate with defense of the behavior of the Chechen
rebels and insufficient concern for Russians and Russian
troops while ombudsman, might further diminish Yabloko's
already very faint chances of winning at least four percent
of the vote on December 2. At least two other candidates
were nominated for the number two slot, Green Party Chairman
Aleksey Yablokov and Federal Antimonopoly Service Chairman
Igor Artemev. Both nominees withdrew their nominations;
under pressure, one delegate suggested to us, from the
Yabloko party leadership. In a post-congress conversation,
academic and commentator Andrey Piontkovskiy described
Kovalev's nomination as an important sign to that part of the
electorate that values "principle over opportunism." He
described Yabloko voters as "Russia's future," although he
acknowledged that the future they were voting for would not
arrive anytime soon. (Piontkovskiy was also reportedly
considered a candidate for the troika, but could not be
included as he has Georgian, as well as Russian citizenship.
He took Georgian citizenship in order to show solidarity
during the expulsions of Georgians from Russia in fall 2006.)

Yavlinskiy, Kovalev's

MOSCOW 00004772 002 OF 002

5. (SBU) Yavlinskiy's keynote speech rather defensively
described Yabloko's tendency to focus on Russia's problems as
a kind of patriotism. The rest of the speech was devoted to
enumerating those problems, but offering few remedies for any
of them. On Yavlinskiy's list were an excessive dependence
on gas and oil, lack of protection for private property, the
desperate need for military reform, improved relations with
Russia's neighbors, the lack of rule of law and with it a
lack of constraints on the powers-that-be, the yawning gap
between the rich and the poor, which was producing a "divided
society." The key values still to be embraced by Russia,
Yavlinskiy concluded, were respect for private property,
support for the efforts of small entrepreneurs, and
protection for the less fortunate.

6. (SBU) In his turn at bat, human rights crusader and troika
number two Sergey Kovalev launched a take-no-prisoners attack
on the Putin government. (The congress was covered by
Russian state television, which showed various outtakes on
the September 16 news. None of Kovalev's remarks were
broadcast.) In a subsequent conversation Kovalev, asked how
he squared his participation in an electoral process
administered by a regime he categorically rejected, argued
uncomfortably that it was important that dissent be
registered, even if it is filtered through a flawed system.

7. (SBU) A post-congress meeting found Chairman Yavlinskiy
disinclined to discuss his party's prospects, beyond
asserting that it was still possible for a rightist, liberal
party to cross the seven percent threshold to the Duma.
Yavlinskiy became animated only in describing alleged Kremlin
support for Yabloko rival SPS. Yavlinskiy asserted that
senior GOR officials had confirmed that SPS patron and RAO
UES Chairman Anatoliy Chubais had received Putin's nod to tap

as much as $150 million in the parastatal's funds for his
party's campaign (an assertion indirectly confirmed by Putin,
who told Valdai participants that Chubais had money, but
needed to identify a message that would resonate with voters
and overcome differences with rivals). Yavlinskiy also
dismissed SPS frontman Boris Nemtsov as too dim to realize he
was a puppet, SPS Deputy Chairman Leonid Gozman as "neocon
for whom the end justifies the means," and SPS as little more
than a protection racket for big business.


8. No one believes that Yabloko, which won only 4.3 percent
of the vote in the last Duma contest; was bumped out of the
March 2007 elections in St. Petersburg, one of its
strongholds; and averaged about 3.5 percent in the four March
regional elections where it remained on the ballot, can find
its way into the Duma this time around. Some believe that the
party's, and Yavlinskiy's reappearance on national television
means Kremlin support, which could produce a mathematical
miracle on election day. Kovalev, Yavlinskiy, and
Piontkovskiy disagreed, and saw the coverage as gauged to
create interest in the election among the electorate and
allow the election managers to argue that they are being
evenhanded in their treatment of the parties without giving
Yabloko the coverage it would need to compete with the liked
of United Russia. The continued, fragmented state of the
liberal-leaning opposition, and its inability to find a
message that would resonate with voters also plays a role in
the diminished prospects of Yabloko, SPS, and the other
western-leaning parties in Russia.


© Scoop Media

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