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    Monday, June 4, 2007

    Candidate Kasyanov

    It's finally happened. The Russian opposition appear to have unified around a single candidate. Can it be?

    According to The Moscow Times, figures as disparate as Garry Kasparov, Boris Nemtsov and Eduard Limonov all spoke out in support of Kasyanov at a weekend conference in which The Candidate promised "better apartments for half the population and free health care for all." I'm a little unsettled that we haven't heard from Grigoriy Yavlinsky, but only a little.

    Mikhail Kasyanov, unquestionably, was the right person to choose. Putting aside his "Misha Two Percent" reputation - thus far unsubstantiated allegations that he asked for a 2 per cent cut on all business deals he oversaw as prime minister from 2000 to 2004 - he's the only opposition politician who both a) can claim democractic credentials and b) claim some credit for the popular stabilnost of the Putin years. In other words, he's not just some holdover from the Yeltsin years, he's someone who can say "I helped Putin, but he went too far." That's a message that actually might sell with Russian voters who see the Putin years as far better than Yeltsin's time, but are beginning to worry about just where the siloviki are going with all this.

    I once asked Marat Gellman, one of the spin doctors who created Putin and Putinism (though he now has his qualms about the monster he helped give birth to) about the possibility of Kasyanov eventually challenging the siloviki. “To answer that," he told me, "I need to know what kompromat [compromising material] there is against him.” Anyone who has been to the website knows what he means.

    “I don’t know of any and I don’t think [Putin’s allies] know. I think it’s with the Family."

    In other words, the opposition just chose the right guy.

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