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#12 - JRL 7173
Yezhenedelnyi Zhurnal
No. 17
May 5-11, 2003
Yabloko's Cabinet dismissal initiative appears to have originated in the Kremlin
Author: Alexander Ryklin
Source: Yezhenedelnyi Zhurnal, No. 17, May 5-11, 2003, pp. 20-21
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]


Grigori Yavlinsky's Cabinet dismissal idea has backfired

In late April, the federal Yabloko party (leader Grigori Yavlinsky, Duma faction small, 17 deputies, but monolithic) launched an attack on the executive branch. Seven accusations were hurled at the Cabinet: "antisocial policy", "failure of vital economic reforms", "inability to ensure security of the country and its citizens, to cut down the crime rate", "protection of interests of major monopolies and oligarchic structures", "hazardous decisions", "inability to implement the administrative reforms", and "essentially abandoning the military reforms".

Every more or less influential political party in Russia nowadays is criticizing the Cabinet for incompetence. Communists as traditional critics of the "anti-people's regime" are not alone because centrists, the right, and even LDPR are dissatisfied with the performance of the government as well. (A note: Union of Right Forces leader Boris Nemtsov criticizes Mikhail Kasianov and Co. just like all the others, but always emphasizes that the government is purely "technical" and dependent on the Kremlin, and therefore it is the executive branch of the government in general that is to blame.) In other words, Yabloko's initiative is not exactly unprecedented.

Cabinet chief of staff Alexei Volin commented on Yavlinsky's move as follows: "Our politicians are not what I'd call inventive. Whenever an election campaign approaches, they always attack the government, expecting to win votes. All this reminds me of a crowd in a bus, waiting to approach the ticket seller. In this particular case, tickets to the next Duma are at stake. The only question is whether the conductor has any tickets to sell, and whether the bus is the one they need in the first place."

In fact, not all Duma leaders chose to shrug off Yavlinsky's initiative. Gennadi Raikov of the People's Party was clearly irritated when approached for comments on the rumors concerning an impending Cabinet dismissal. The essence of Raikov's tirade boiled down to this: if the Cabinet has to fear something or someone, it is surely not Yabloko, with its insignificant Duma faction. The politician's scathing comments are understandable. It was his own party that was supposed to attack the Cabinet in the near future - or so the Kremlin expected.

About a month ago, we speculated that the push for a Cabinet dismissal might become the central election script for all pro-Kremlin parties. The Kremlin is understandably worried by the pitiful rating of United Russia, the major centrist force in Russia. Its popularity is below that of the communists, United Russia's only rivals in the war over the future Duma. Bureaucratic war in the upper echelons of United Russia seems to be over, and the unpredictable Alexander Bespalov was replaced as the party leader with predictable Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov. The personnel changes probably made the party even more controllable by the presidential administration, but failed miserably to solve the existing problems with voters. On the contrary, it must have aggravated the problems. Russians don't like the police - whether ordinary cops on the streets, or senior police ministers.

It is clear that United Russia will need something bold and new to overcome the existing trends by autumn. The Kremlin assumed that its attack on the government, resulting in appearance of a new Cabinet, might have demonstrated the increased influence of the party. The decision was made to prepare the public and general opinion gradually, in stages. It was the People's Party, the left wing of the centrist front, that was to initiate the anti-Cabinet campaign. They planned it for after the May holidays, with the communist slogan of "The government is the enemy of the working people". Needless to say, Yavlinsky with his initiative sent all these plans down the drain and deprived Raikov of the opportunity to show to the nation how much he cares. Moreover, Yabloko's initiative to a certain extent compromised the Kremlin's whole plan to boost the popularity of its tame party.

"You always claim that Yabloko is controlled by the regime," complained a political consultant close to the Kremlin. "There is one simple thing you are missing. It is impossible to reach agreement with Yavlinsky. Remember the Chechnya referendum? Yavlinsky gave a solemn promise to leave it alone. And what happened then? He was mud-slinging in every available newspaper. The same applies to this rubbish concerning the government and its dismissal. There will be speculations now that this is 'the Kremlin's hand', and that Yavlinsky came up with some vital political scenario. In fact, he scuttled it. I only hope that everyone will forget by autumn that the topic was initially brought up by Yavlinsky. But he will not let us forget it... In fact, I do not doubt that the idea to use Yabloko for an attack on the Cabinet came from the government itself. Yavlinsky may be playing in the dark. The idea may have been suggested via Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Well, the government is essentially invulnerable now. For the near future at least."

When we told Volin of the assumption that the government itself came up with the idea of its own dismissal, he merely sneered. On the other hand, Volin did not categorically deny his or his colleagues' involvement.

One thing is clear, in any case. Yavlinsky's proposal to dismiss the government has actually strengthened the position of Kasianov and his Cabinet.

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