Kasyanov Announces Opposition Coalition with Yabloko

Mikhail Kasyanov. Source: Ljplus.ruIn an unexpected development for Russia’s political opposition, former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov announced on Thursday that his opposition party, the People’s Democratic Union, would be entering into a coalition with the liberal Yabloko party. Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin was quick, however, to stress that negotiations were still ongoing.

People’s Democratic Union (RNDS) representative Yelena Dikun told Gazeta.ru that the former prime minister, who became an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after being dismissed by the then-President in 2004, said that Yabloko has responded with “fundamental agreement” to his proposal to create a political coalition. Kasyanov had said earlier that the goal of such a coalition would be to present a unified list of candidates from the democratic opposition to run in the 2011 parliamentary elections.

“The RNDS and Yabloko are now working on coordinating a joint political statement,” said Dikun, without commenting further on details of the negotiations.

Yabloko’s leadership, however, immediately denied the announcement. “I refute the idea that we’ve given our agreement; there wasn’t any,” party leader Sergei Mitrokhin told Gazeta.ru. “There’s an appeal from Mikhail Kasyanov, and we haven’t refused to discuss it. There’s an ongoing electronic correspondence, I have all the letters saved – why Kasyanov took it as a “fundamental agreement” to create a coalition, I don’t know.”

Mitrokhin stressed that creating a political coalition was a gradual process: “It’s not possible to race through this – that would bring about something frivolous,” he said.

The Yabloko leader did say that such a coalition would not succeed if the two parties remained separate. “[A coalition] would be possible as a fraction within Yabloko; there are no other methods in the current situation,” he said, adding that creating a unified list of candidates for the elections was impossible by “hooking on from the outside.”

Declining to comment on Mitrokhin’s statement, Dikun said only that “I confirm my statement.” Konstantin Merzlikin, a deputy representative from RNDS, said that negotiations were indeed still ongoing, but were focused on determining what political platform the coalition would be based on. “It’s important to us that the coalition begin its work long before the elections,” he added.

Regarding Mitrokhin’s statement that the RNDS may have to become a fraction of Yabloko, Merzlikin responded that it was too early to say. “We are discussing the possibility of creating a coalition,” he stressed. “Whether or not this process will develop into a merger, time will tell.”

In addition to Yabloko, Kasyanov had issued the February 4 appeal for unification to the opposition movement Solidarity and Garry Kasparov’s United Civil Front. Solidarity co-leader Boris Nemtsov, also a former prime minister, said that while his party was declining the offer, “the unification process is very important – but it will not be simple to do.”

“Until now, Yabloko has not been seen in any of the processes for unification,” Nemtsov elaborated. “We will be glad if Mikhail Mikhailovich’s effort works out, but for me personally, it’s hard to believe.” Nemtsov’s former party, Union of Right Forces, held unsuccessful negotiations for several years to unify with Yabloko.

Nevertheless, Solidarity was more than ready to welcome Kasyanov into their ranks. “Our doors are open to him,” Nemtsov said. “Almost all the RNDS members besides him belong to Solidarity. We’ve told him a thousand times – come join us.”