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#17 - JRL 7062
February 13, 2003
Kremlin betrays rightists in election committee vote
By Boris Sapozhnikov

On Wednesday the lower house voted to elect its representatives to the Central Election Committee. The routine procedure of electing the new members led to a completely unexpected alliance between the liberal Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky and the head of the ultra-nationalist LDPR Vladimir Zhirinovsky, which helped Yablokos candidate keep her post in the CEC. The support of the pro-presidential factions also made Yablokos victory possible, and was a slap in the face for the SPS.

Earlier this week Boris Nemtsov agreed with the communists and the centrists on the list of candidates to the posts of Duma representatives in the CEC. The candidates nominated by Yabloko and LDPR were not included in that list.

The term of office of the incumbent CEC, headed by Alexander Veshnyakov, expires on March 24. By that time, the presidential administration and both chambers of the Russian parliament are to nominate five candidates each to the committee, which comprises 15 members. On Wednesday the State Duma voted to elect its representatives.

It transpired, though, that the list of 5 candidates had already been discussed and approved at a Monday session of the centrist factions. Observers were convinced that their list would be approved on Wednesday, as it was agreed upon with the communists and the rightists. The candidates nominated by Yabloko and LDPR were nowhere to be seen.

Nevertheless, the outsiders, too, proposed their candidates to the CEC. Grigory Yavlinskys supporters said they would fight for Yabloko member Yelena Dubrovina, who currently holds a seat in the CEC, to keep her post, while Vladimir Zhirinovskys bloc was set to delegate the LDPR member Oleg Finko to the election committee.

The list of candidates nominated by the centrists and the communists included Unitys Elvira Yermakova, Fatherland-All-Russias Valery Kryukov, the Communist Partys incumbent representative in the CEC Yevgeniy Kolyushin, Veshnyakovs deputy Olga Zastrozhnaya, nominated by the Peoples Deputy Group, and lawyer Vadim Prokhorov, whose candidacy was nominated by SPS.

Many believed that since the list of candidates had been endorsed by the pro-Kremlin majority in advance, Yabloko and LDPR had absolutely no chance, and would have to run for the Duma seats at the end of the year without their people in the CEC. But on Wednesday, it turned out that their efforts were not in vain.

Before the voting, member of the Duma committee for nation-building Alexander Saliy addressed the deputies with a lengthy address. ''Many things will depend on whom we elect now,'' he said. The deputies listened to their colleague without showing any interest in his words, so that even the Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov had to rebuke them. ''Calm down. Listen to Saliy for five minutes.''

The deputies then proceeded to vote. LDPRs candidate Sergei Abeltsev received 4.7 per cent of the votes, the incumbent member of the CEC Yelena Dubrovina, nominated by Yabloko 36.7 per cent, the Communist Yevgeniy Kolyushin gathered 88.7 per cent of votes, Olga Zastozhnaya 82.4 per cent, Unitys Elvira Yermakova 77.3 per cent, Fatherlands Valery Kryukov 80.4 per cent. Vadim Prokhorov proved the only candidate on the list that had been agreed on by the centrists, with the communists and the rightists falling short of the 226 votes (47.2%) necessary to be elected.

To elect the fifth candidate the deputies had to hold a second round of voting. Taking part were Prokhorov, Yablokos Dubrovina and LDPRs Abeltsev. It seemed obvious that Prokhorov would win that vote, but at the last minute Unitys Oleg Kovalyov, the head of the committee for Duma regulations, interfered and suggested that only Prokhorov and Dubrovina should take part in the second round since the LDPR candidate had secured only 21 votes in the first round, though the deputies did not agree. As a result, 73 deputies voted for Abeltsev, 179 for Dubrovina and Prokhorov fell short of the necessary 226 by just 4 votes.

After his candidates defeat, Zhirinovsky, unexpectedly, called on the deputies to vote for the candidate nominated by his foes from Yabloko, made all the more surprising because LDPR and Yabloko have not been on good terms of late. Earlier this month Yabloko proposed Zhirinovsky ought to be dismissed from the vice-speakers post after the LDPR leaders rant against George W. Bush. In a fit of temper Zhirinovsky even hinted he would have Yavlinsky killed. However, on Wednesday Zhirinvosky urged his colleagues to vote for Yablokos candidate. ''Dubrovina has been on the political scene for ten years, while Prokhorov is a young man. You know what I think of Yabloko this is the most hated party, but support it. This young man is here by chance.''

In the third round SPS candidate Prokhorov lost the vote to Yablokos Dubrovina who got 233 votes. It is still hard to believe that Yabloko owes its Wednesday victory solely to Zhirinovsky. The election of the new CEC representatives in the State Duma is seen by many as yet another confirmation of the secret campaign aimed at distancing the rightists from the Kremlin and replacing SPS with their rivals Yabloko. It is no wonder that on Wednesday the SPS leaders accused the centrists of treachery.

''There was an agreement. We fulfilled our part. And others did not,'' vice-speaker Irina Khakamada told Gazeta.RU. ''The centrists have 240 votes. That is enough to settle all problems, including that of SPS. We have fulfilled all our agreements, supported their candidates, and even the candidates of the CPRF. But apparently, there is a dislike for SPS on a genetic level, as well as the desire to have a tame CEC.''

Treachery or not, the CEC chief Alexander Veshnaykov could hardly conceal his delight at the outcome of Wednesdays voting.

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