THE FEAT OF HERCULES

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Gerashchenko wants to be the opposition’s presidential candidate

Mikhail Kasyanov has a rival. Viktor Gerashchenko, the former Central Bank chairman who is now chairman of the board at YUKOS, announced on May 15 that he intends to run for president in 2008 as an opposition candidate.


Viktor Gerashchenko, the former Central Bank chairman who is now chairman of the board at YUKOS, announced on May 15 that he intends to run for president in 2008 as an opposition candidate. The Other Russia coalition described this as “helthy competition” among potential candidates. Critics of the “outside-the-system” opposition described it as a split.

Until now, only one member of the Other Russia had declared his presidential ambitions: Mikhail Kasyanov, People’s Democratic Union leader and former prime minister. Now Kasyanov has a rival.

It isn’t really surprising to see Gerashchenko’s name among the presidential hopefuls. The possibility that Gerashchenko might unite the opposition forces was mentioned by United Civil Front (OGF) leader Garry Kasparov back in April, soon after the Dissenter March protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg. But Gerashchenko himself didn’t comment on this theory at the time.

So now the Other Russia opposition coalition has at least two presidential candidates. Kasyanov’s response to Gerashchenko’s announcement was diplomatic: “I welcome Viktor Gerashchenko’s intention to take part in the presidential race.” However, Kasyanov also mentioned that Gerashchenko hasn’t actually joined the Other Russia yet.

Kasparov, who is lobbying for Gerashchenko’s candidacy, told us that the question hasn’t been settled with the party leaders yet, but this “should be decided by party activists and voters,” and a person like Gerashchenko “could well become a consolidating and unifying figure.”

The Other Russia promises to decide within the next four to six weeks how many opposition candidates there should be. Kasparov said: “Let’s start with the fact that it’s now May 2007. Candidate registration will start in December 2007. It seems fairly likely that only one candidate representing the opposition will be registered, but at this stage we don’t know how political events will develop and what kind of script the Kremlin will choose. It seems to me that at this stage, it would be appropriate to work toward one common policy program and several candidates who are prepared to cooperate and support each other.”

At the initial stage, the opposition should discuss three presidential candidates. According to our sources, there are four contenders for the third place on that list, after Kasyanov and Gerashchenko. Experts are mentioning Duma member Vladimir Ryzhkov and Sergei Gulyaev, a former member of the St. Petersburg municipal legislature.

When we asked Ryzhkov whether he will run for president, he declined to answer; but he described Gerashchenko’s announcement as interesting: “This increases political competition. As for whether Gerashchenko could become the sole opposition candidate – that’s a difficult question, since the decision isn’t up to him. Obviously, the opposition’s common candidate should be accepted by all opposition forces – not only the organizations in the Other Russia coalition.”

A working group headed by Georgy Satarov is writing a policy program for the candidates. OGF spokeswoman Marina Litvinovich told us: “The program’s main focus will be on dismantling the regime: how to return Russia to the democratic path of development.”

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