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Yabloko - Russian United Democratic Party /
Rossiyskaya obyedinyonnaya demokraticheskaya partiya "Yabloko”

Many experts divided the myriad parties of the 1993 elections roughly into three main blocs: pro-Yeltsin reformists, centrists advocating a slower pace of reform, and hard-liners opposing reforms. The main reformist party was Russia's Choice, led by former prime minister Yegor Gaydar. The main centrist parties were the Yavlinskiy-Boldyrev-Lukin bloc, commonly referred to as Yabloko (the Russian word for apple), headed by economist Grigoriy Yavlinskiy and former ambassador to the United States Vladimir Lukin, and the Democratic Party of Russia, headed by Nikolay Travkin.

Of the pro-reform opposition groups, the Yabloko coalition remained the strongest in 1996, but its influence was limited because it refused to join forces with other reform parties. The candidates of Yabloko and other reformist groups fared poorly in the first round of the 1996 presidential election. After the legislative elections of 1995, many deputies called for the parliament to take a more active role in foreign policy oversight. The reformist Yabloko coalition managed to gain the chairmanship of the International Affairs Committee in the State Duma, somewhat mitigating the anti-Government and anti-Western tone of legislative proceedings. However, many of the State Duma's nonbinding resolutions complicated foreign policy by arousing protests from foreign governments.

Yabloko and Union of Right Forces (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.

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.

The party faced an existential crisis following the poor results of the 08 October 2006 elections, where the party polled in the two percent range. 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.

The 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. In addition to the restrictions imposed by election laws passed in 2005 and 2006, the parties had 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.

Yabloko won only 4.3 percent of the vote in the last Duma contest; was bumped out of the March 2007 elections in St. Petersburg, one of its strongholds; and averaged about 3.5 percent in the four March regional elections where it remained on the ballot. The continued, fragmented state of the liberal-leaning opposition, and its inability to find a message that would resonate with voters also plays a role in the diminished prospects of Yabloko.

Yabloko's September 15 - 16 2007 congress in Moscow region drew 196 delegates from around the country who spent the weekend refining the party's national list in advance of the December 2 Duma elections. The delegates reportedly spent much of the first day's closed session wrangling over the shape of their district map, and ultimately decided to field 377 candidates in 97 districts. There was reportedly much tension on day one between those delegates who worried that a small party like Yabloko would have difficulty running bona fide campaigns countrywide, and those who lobbied hard to see their district remain unmerged with neighboring districts, which would ensure a place in the sun for their region's politicians.

The December 2007 Duma elections were contested by United Russia, the Communist Party (KPRF), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), For a Just Russia, the Union of Right Forces (SPS), Yabloko, and four other minor parties. SPS and Yabloko, parties favoring liberal reforms, failed to clear the 7% threshold to enter the Duma as a party.

The last liberal democratic party with official registration in 2009, Yabloko had minimal visibility at the national level and, for financial reasons, competed only in municipal-level elections. A 2008 leadership shakeup replaced party co-founder Grigoriy Yavlinskiy with Sergey Mitrokhin. The party's regional presence had dwindled sharply, so that, for example, its Volgograd Region branch had only 320 members in 2009, down from several thousand five years earlier. Facing threats from the government that the party owed up to eight million dollars in debts stemming from the 2007 and 2008 campaigns, Yabloko had shrunk its aspirations simply to staying solvent and keeping its party registration.

Yabloko would seem a prime target to be dismantled, perhaps under the pretense of party debts as SPS was in 2008. However, with its meager membership rolls and inability to raise funds, Yabloko ddid not represent a threat to the regime. In fact, the regime can use Yabloko as a symbol that democratic opposition lives in Russia. However, lacking money, national media coverage, or even regional-level electoral ambitions, Yabloko likely will continue to languish in the political wilderness.

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Page last modified: 18-09-2016 13:23:45 ZULU