Russia's veteran liberal Yavlinsky vows Duma comeback

10th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia's veteran liberal politician Grigory Yavlinsky on Tuesday vowed to return his Yabloko party to parliament in December polls that will test Vladimir Putin's decade-long dominance.

"If the turnout for the polls is 60 percent or more, Yabloko will receive more than 10 percent," Yavlinsky, 59, predicted at a presentation of the party's manifesto in Moscow.

"We don't have time to look at worst-case scenarios," Yavlinsky added.

Yavlinsky, an economist and prominent reformer of the late Soviet era who fought bitterly against the "shock therapy" reforms of the 1990s, was one of the founders of Yabloko and remains a widely recognised figure to this day.

But with his party squeezed from politics by Putin's ruling United Russia group, Yavlinsky stepped down as pary leader in 2008 in favour of Sergei Mitrokhin and largely vanished from the country's political life.

The one-time boxer made his unlikely return last month, announcing at a Yabloko congress that he would be heading the party's list of candidates for the December 4 polls for the State Duma, the lower house.

He now appears on billboards, gesturing in a jacket and open shirt, with the slogan "Russia is demanding changes. We will give you back hope!"

The party's manifesto criticised the government for leading the country to "stagnation and degradation."

Yavlinsky called Putin's party "the party of business and bureaucrats" and joked about President Dmitry Medvedev's modernisation campaign and penchant for gadgets.

"Modernisation of Russian society .. is not a new iPad or even a new iPhone or even Skolkovo," he said, referring to a planned technology hub outside Moscow.

Yabloko has lost all its leverage in parliament since Putin's initial rise to power in 2000, and Yavlinsky's decision to run has upset some liberals who have called for a boycott of a poll whose outcome seems predetermined.

Often winning decisive votes in the raucous Duma sessions of the 1990s, Yabloko was down to just four seats in the 450-member chamber in 2003, and had lost even those by the 2007 polls.

"Eight years ago no one would even have believed that Yabloko could again stand in polls. We have come to the polls and given everyone the chance to vote for a real alternative," Yavlinsky said.

The party also lost its last seats in Moscow's city parliament in 2009, in polls widely criticised for ballot stuffing.

"Of course we are worried about such falsifications, but it's a question of turnout. If the turnout is high, it will be completely different," Yavlinsky argued, urging voters not to heed calls to boycott the polls.

A recent poll by the independent Levada centre found that four percent of Russians would back Yabloko in Duma vote, while 51 percent backed United Russia.

© 2011 AFP

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