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In Presidential Election, a Fellow Reformer May Challenge Yeltsin With PM-Russia-Politics

September 28, 1993

MOSCOW (AP) _ Boris Yeltsin’s goal in disbanding parliament and calling new elections is to sweep out his hard-line opponents. But in next year’s presidential election, his stiffest competition may be a radical reformer.

So far, the only politicians who have announced they will run are Yeltsin and Grigory Yavlinsky, a 41-year-old economist who three years ago co-authored the ″500-Day Plan″ to move from communism to a free market.

Although the plan was rejected, it catapulted Yavlinsky to prominence and earned him a reputation as a bright, progressive thinker. Some recent polls show him ahead of both Yeltsin and Vice President Alexander Rutskoi.

″Yavlinsky has very real chances, especially if the election campaign is fair - meaning if the president does not use state radio and television for one-sided propaganda,″ said Stepan Kiselyov, deputy editor of the weekly Moscow News.

Rutskoi said last week he was not planning to run in future elections, but the disavowal was treated skeptically by the Russian press. He is still considered Yeltsin’s most likely hard-line challenger in June 1994.

Rutskoi’s prospects, however, appear to have been seriously damaged by his attempt to take power since Yeltsin dissolved parliament Sept. 21. Neither the military nor the public have backed Rutskoi’s claim to be Russia’s legitimate president, and his image has suffered, according to Kiselyov.

″Rutskoi has no chance now, zero,″ the editor said.

Yavlinsky is the only leading candidate who may gain from the stand-off between the hard-line lawmakers, who have discredited themselves in the eyes of most Russians, and Yeltsin, who clearly violated the constitution by dissolving parliament.

The bushy-haired economist has staked out the middle ground, urging Yeltsin and the parliament to end the confrontation by agreeing to simultaneous presidential and legislative elections next year. Yeltsin has rejected any compromise.

″The main thing now is to avoid bloodshed,″ Yavlinsky told The Associated Press on Monday. ″If there’s blood, the whole political situation could go out of control.″

Although Yavlinsky is a staunch advocate of a free market, his technocratic background appeals to some factory directors and bureaucrats who generally sympathize with the conservative parliament.

He said he expects his campaign to be funded largely by donations from ″entrepreneurs, businessmen, and factory directors.″

Born in the Ukrainian city of Lvov, he graduated from Moscow’s prestigious Plekhanov Institute for managers and worked as a labor economist at various state organizations before joining a government commission on economic reforms in 1989.

He became chairman of that commission, and a deputy prime minister, in 1990. The following year, as an adviser to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, he co-wrote the 500-Day Plan with fellow economist Stanislav Shatalin.

Gorbachev initially endorsed the plan, then tried to water it down under pressure from Communists, prompting Yavlinsky to resign as a presidential adviser. The affair gave Yavlinsky a reputation as a reformer who stuck to his guns.

Since then, he has run a consulting firm, named EPIcenter, and helped with reforms in Nizhny Novgorod, a region of central Russia that pioneered the sale of state stores and industries to private owners.

He faults Yeltsin for failing to work with parliament.

″Russia’s president should be prepared to carry out reforms even if parliament is conservative,″ he said. ″In 1992, Yeltsin was not in parliament at all. He did not speak to them, he did not lead them. (Parliament speaker Ruslan) Khasbulatov used that, and now you’re seeing the result.″

A poll last week of 1,000 people in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, found 21.7 percent favored Yavlinsky for president, 2 percentage points above Yeltsin and 11 above Rutskoi. The telephone poll by the Center for the Study and Forecasting of Social Processes had a 3 percent margin of error.

In August, a nationwide poll of 1,032 people by the Public Opinion Foundation showed Yavlinsky with the highest confidence rating of any politician in the country: 33 percent said they trusted the economist, compared to 25 percent for Yeltsin, 20 for Rutskoi. No margin of error was given.

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