Russian liberal calls on court to lift ban

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The Independent Online


Russia's most popular reformist politician, Grigory Yavlinsky, appealed to the Supreme Court yesterday to overrule election officials who have disqualified his Yabloko grouping from taking part in December's race for parliament.

Speaking outside the court, Mr Yavlinsky denounced the ruling of the Central Electoral Commission as "illegitimate". Tass news agency said the court was expected to consider his complaint tomorrow.

Nikolai Ryabov, chairman of the commission, caused a storm at the weekend by saying that just because Mr Yavlinsky's grouping was represented in the parliament, and likely to do well in the coming poll, did not mean it could ignore election procedure. He barred Yabloko on the grounds that it had dropped six candidates without the commission's agreement.

Mr Yavlinsky, who has presidential ambitions, cried foul, and was supported not only by reformers but by some of his political enemies, including the nationalist retired army general, Alexander Lebed.

On Tuesday President Boris Yeltsin, recovering in hospital from his second mild heart attack in four months, demanded to know why Mr Ryabov had banned Yabloko, along with some other parties, including the Derzhava (Great Power) movement of the former Russian vice-president, Alexander Rutskoi.

The row was probably discussed again yesterday when doctors allowed Mr Yeltsin to have his first work-related meeting since he went into the Central Clinic last Thursday. Tass said only that he was visited by his senior aide, Viktor Ilyushin.

Since the outcry over Mr Yavlinsky's disqualification, election officials have said they will reconsider, if the Supreme Court so orders. The chances are the crisis will be resolved, so this seems to be a case of bureaucratic pedantry rather than a deliberate conspiracy.

Opinion polls suggests the Communists and General Lebed's party, the Congress of Russian Communities, may top the poll. But of the available free-marketeers, Mr Yavlinsky seems to be the most popular, better loved than Yegor Gaidar, who introduced painful economic reforms in 1992.

Mr Yavlinsky, 43, is well known in the West as he is one of the few Russian politicians who speaks good English, and is in demand with television stations. In Russia he is famous as the author of the Gorbachev-era "500- Days" plan, a scheme to modernise the economy in 500 days which was never tried.