06MOSCOW11632, YABLOKO AT A LOSS AFTER OCTOBER 8 ELECTIONS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW11632 2006-10-17 14:47 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO1783
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #1632/01 2901447
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 171447Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4038
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 011632 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/RUS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/17/2016 
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM PREL RS
SUBJECT: YABLOKO AT A LOSS AFTER OCTOBER 8 ELECTIONS 
 
REF: A. ST PETERSB 585 
 
     B. MOSCOW 11388 
     C. MOSCOW 07666 
     D. MOSCOW 11413 
 
Classified By: DCM Daniel A. Russell:  1.4 (b, d). 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (C) In an October 11 meeting, Yabloko Deputy Chairman 
Sergey Mitrokhin and Political Department Head Galina 
Mikhaleva said the party is facing an existential crisis 
following the poor results of the October 8 elections, where 
the party polled in the two percent range.  Mitrokhin charged 
red tape, excessive financial controls, and government 
intervention hampered the party's ability to compete; others 
maintain Yabloko is vulnerable to charges of membership 
padding and embezzlement.  Mitrokhin affirmed that the party 
will not merge with any of the other democratic opposition 
unless under its own terms, and labeled the second place 
Party of Life "the sovereign opposition."  Time is running 
out for the opposition to unify, but Yabloko seems prepared 
for extinction.  End Summary. 
 
------------------------------------ 
Precedent Set in October 8 Elections 
------------------------------------ 
 
2. (C) Yabloko received 2.02 percent of the October 8 vote in 
Primorskiy Kray and 2.47 percent in Sverdlovsk Oblast, the 
only two regions where the party was on the ballot.  Prior to 
the elections, the Russian Supreme Court barred Yabloko from 
participating in Karelia, saying that the local party branch 
did not have a quorum when it chose its candidates. 
Mikhaleva said, however, that the Justice Ministry had 
already registered the party, so there was no logic to the 
Supreme Court's decision in contradicting the Justice 
Ministry.  She said Yabloko had a strong organization in 
Karelia with over 4500 members, and United Russia (YR) felt 
intimidated by the preliminary polls showing Yabloko with 
20-30 percent in favor so it figured out a "legal" way to 
eliminate the competition.  Mitrokhin claimed a dangerous 
precedent was set in Karelia: it was a sign to other 
governors and regional leadership that they can do the same 
thing with opposition parties in future elections (ref A). 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
Death by Red Tape or Malfeasance or Duplicity 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
3. (C) Mikhaleva said that smaller parties -- such as 
Yabloko, Union of Right Forces, and the Republican Party -- 
were drowning in the red tape created by the new election 
laws (ref B, C).  In addition to the restrictions imposed by 
election laws passed in 2005 and 2006, the parties have to 
submit financial reports every 3 or 4 months and pay an 
elections deposit of USD 800,000 in Moscow and USD 3,000,000 
in St. Petersburg.  She said it is impossible to collect 
signatures without defects.  For example, if a person wrote 
down Lenin St. instead of Lenin Street, that would be 
considered incorrect and not counted.  She added that not 
having access to mass media was also a major problem and 
asked rhetorically "if Yabloko holds a public rally, but it 
is not covered by the media and only a few passers by see it, 
did it actually happen?" 
 
4. (C) An alternate view was provided by Public Chamber 
member Andrey Przhezdomskiy, who separately told us that the 
Central Election Commissioner's office discovered numerous 
violations in party lists, which were padded with 
non-existent voters living on "Lenin Ave." or other, 
similarly eponymous streets.  Yelena Mizulina, a Duma deputy 
for 10 years, first in Yabloko, then in the Union of Right 
Forces (SPS), who is now the government's representative to 
the Constitutional Court, said that Yabloko is the only party 
that maintains closed financial records and charges that 
Yavlinskiy does this specially to hide the fact that he 
misappropriates party funds.  According to Mizulina, Yabloko 
can never agree to unite with any other party because that 
would require exposing the party financial records to more 
public scrutiny and that his conflicts with SPS leader Boris 
Nemtsov, et al., were just a pretense to prevent unification 
for other reasons. 
 
5. (C) Moscow Helsinki Group Head Lyudmila Alekseyeva, who 
agrees in principle with Mikhaleva's contention that lack of 
media access impedes the formation of a real opposition, was 
caustic on recent accommodations by Yabloko.  For a liberal, 
 
MOSCOW 00011632  002 OF 002 
 
 
she maintained, there were no attractive political parties 
left.  Both Yabloko and SPS, in declining to participate in 
the Other Russia conference and in silencing their public 
criticism of the President, had parted ways with significant 
portions of their base.  The leaders were guilty, but 
Yavlinskiy most of all.  Even if Yabloko and SPS were to 
merge, she predicted, they would fall short of the seven 
percent threshold absent a boost from "friends" in the 
Presidential Administration. 
 
------------------------ &#x
000A;A Merger Highly Unlikely 
------------------------ 
 
6. (C) Mitrokhin dismissed merging with SPS or the Republican 
Party, despite their proven success when they have united. 
Yabloko and SPS ran separately in the December 2003 Duma 
elections, and neither party reached the then-five percent 
threshold.  But in December 2005, the two parties temporarily 
set aside their differences and joined forces to take part in 
the Moscow City Duma elections and cleared the 10 percent 
threshold.  Their combined list garnered 11.1 percent of the 
vote.  However, Mitrokhin said SPS is too tainted by the 
reforms in the 1990s and they can't see eye-to-eye with one 
another on most issues.  He was almost derisive towards the 
Republican Party, saying that party head Vladimir Ryzhkov 
traveled to Astrakhan ten times before the vote and still 
only managed one percent.  He said merging with the 
Democratic Party of Russia was also out of the question since 
it was a "Kremlin party."  He said such parties were 
"spoilers" designed to siphon Yabloko's votes.  He echoed 
Grigoriy Yavlinskiy's view that all other parties must 
subordinate themselves to Yabloko if they unite. 
 
7. (C) Over the last 15 years, Yavlinskiy has never formed a 
coalition with anyone, except under his own leadership. 
Earlier in 2006, Yabloko incorporated the Green Party and 
Soldiers' Mothers as factions in the party because their 
leaders believed there was no other option since their 
membership is below the 50,000 threshold for registration. 
In addition, a human rights faction was formed this year 
based on the national movement For Human Rights, led by Lev 
Ponomaryev.  Mikhaleva said the factions function more or 
less independently within the party and retain their 
distinctiveness.  However, the above three factions, combined 
with the womens' and youth factions, prevent Yabloko from 
successfully articulating a distinct political message. 
 
------------ 
Re-Branding? 
------------ 
 
8. (C) Some Moscow political commentators have suggested that 
the only way for Yabloko to remain in the political landscape 
would be through re-branding.  However, Mitrokhin 
categorically said Yabloko had no intention of re-branding 
itself.  He commented rather sarcastically that the only way 
the party would re-brand itself would be to become 
non-democratic or change its name. 
 
------------------------- 
Thoughts on Party of Life 
------------------------- 
 
9. (C) When asked about the excellent performance of the 
Russian Party of Life (RPL) in the October 8 elections (ref 
D) Mitrokhin called RPL "the sovereign opposition" and said 
that the Kremlin was trying to artificially imitate Western 
political structures.  He said RPL was an administrative 
construction that was packed with Kremlin-backed bureaucrats 
and businesspeople. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
10. (C) Time is running out for Yabloko and the rest of the 
"democratic opposition" to unify, with December 1 the 
deadline for registering a new party combination for the next 
round of elections in 17 regions in March 2007.  Moscow 
political circles are united in their bafflement over 
Yavlinskiy's insistence that he must be the center of any 
political merger, organized on his terms.  As the October 8 
regional elections indicated, it is a recipe for political 
extinction. 
BURNS

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