Monday, June 18, 2007
The eternal (losing) candidate
What is Grigoriy Yavlinsky thinking? Can he really be this vain and out of touch with reality?
The Moscow Times is reporting today that Yavlinsky, who ran and lost (badly) for the presidency in 1996 and 2000 is planning another run in 2008.
Just two weeks ago I was celebrating the fact that Russia's liberal opposition had finally got its act together and was apparently ready to throw its support behind a single candidate, former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov. I tempered my enthusiasm by noting we hadn't yet heard from Yavlinsky, but assumed that even he wasn't blind enough to the best interests of the country to mess up what was clearly a good thing.
The question Russians have to answer in the next election should be a clear one: "Is the country heading the right way under Putin and Putinism, or has too much been sacrificed in the name of stability?" A fair and open race that boiled down to the Kremlin's candidate (who increasingly appears to be deputy prime minister and ex-KGB man Sergei Ivanov) against Kasyanov, representing The Other Russia, would put that question provocatively before the public.
(For more on Ivanov, see the profile in London's Sunday Times newspaper. It's written by Mark Franchetti, who is one of the best scribes in the Moscow-based foreign press corps.)
Yavlinsky getting involved, however, will allow the Kremlin to get away with portraying the various liberal candidates (Yukos chairman Viktor Gerashchenko and Soviet-era dissident Vladimir Bukovsky are also both toying with the idea of candidacy) as a bunch of Yeltsin era rabble. Look for the Communists and the far right to be built up so that the Kremlin can once more convince the West that its Putinism or the real baddies.
Yavlinsky, in his two presidential runs, has received 7.4 and 5.8 per cent of the vote. Those numbers will never make him president, but that support might mean the difference between Kasyanov getting into a second round against whoever the Kremlin puts forward.
Yavlinsky is a decent man, who might have been Russian president if the Russian people admired him even half as much as the Western media did in the 1990s. Now, however, someone has to convince him that his moment is well past and it's time to put the country ahead of his ego.
While I'm talking about the 2008 presidential race, I should note that Kommersant had an interesting piece over the weekend that suggested that it might not be Ivanov who ends up as the Kremlin's chosen one. The article quotes Kremlin aide Igor Shuvalov suggesting that "Operation Successor" may yet yield someone other than Ivanov or Dmitriy Medvedev, the other presumed frontrunner for Putin's blessing.
"People are talking of two potential candidates, but my president might yet surprise everyone, and by the end of this year you might learn of yet another potential figure," Shuvalov said. "We have two active individuals - they are the senior deputy prime ministers, with different spheres of responsibility. Both are very liberal-minded, although one is a former KGB officer. Either of them could win. Personally, however, I think that yet another figure may emerge."
Very interesting. Though I have to wonder if he isn't talking about Vladimir Vladimirovich himself.