Kasparov running out of moves

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MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Romanov.) Garry Kasparov's recent trip to North Ossetia to drum up support turned into humiliation when he was bombarded with eggs.

Such forms of protest are, of course, unacceptable, but even long-time Kasparov admirers such as myself can understand why he was targeted.

As head of the opposition Committee 2008 - named for the year when Russia is scheduled to elect a new president - Kasparov has gained a reputation for criticizing President Vladimir Putin's regime both at home and abroad, frequently and not always fairly. This is part of the political process, in which emotions often boil over.

The problem in North Ossetia was that Kasparov was looking to make political capital in a region still feeling the pain of last September's Beslan tragedy, in which many children died. Kasparov thus crossed the moral line separating a serious politician from just a talking head without scruples.

Politicking over the smoldering embers of such a tragedy and playing on the emotions of the suffering - never mind deliberately fanning the flames of the volatile North Caucasus - are in bad taste, and this is why Kasparov was targeted.

Power struggles are one thing, but trying to split a country is quite another, especially a country worn out by shocks like Russia. Attempting to spark a "color" revolution in Russia like the ones in Ukraine and Georgia is not the smartest thing the currently marginalized liberal opposition, including Kasparov, could do, for many reasons.

First, any revolution is bad per se. Pitirim Sorokin, the former leader of the Right Socialist-Revolutionary Party and subsequently a Harvard professor, said in 1917 that "revolutions awaken in man not only a beast but also a fool."

Second, the countries where color revolutions happened have not benefited. Mikheil Saakashvili's popularity is falling in Georgia, the European Union has noted his dictatorial manner, and Georgian intellectuals are sending letters of protest. Ukraine has also been a disappointment. The only results of the revolution have been a large-scale review of privatization, a brazen campaign of political persecution, recently imposed media "governance," and promotion of supporters of the revolution to positions of power at all levels.

Formally, Kasparov is a democrat close to the Union of Right Forces (SPS), which failed to clear the 5% hurdle to get back into parliament at the 2003 Duma elections. In recent years much has been said about the reconstruction of the liberal camp, but nothing has changed. The democrats are split and divided, and their projects do not have a single idea to attract even pro-liberal voters.

Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of the Yabloko party - another casualty of the last Duma elections - was correct when he recently said that the opposition cannot hope to succeed only by criticizing the authorities. Rather, it should offer at least a few alternative, fruitful and attractive ideas to implement after the election.

This is exactly what the right-wing opposition lacks, including Kasparov's Committee 2008. Carrying turbulent North Ossetia is not enough to win the election, especially as the egg incident shows that the right-wing opposition is far from popular there, too.

It is difficult to say how events will turn out in 2008, but Kasparov is most certainly not the white knight who will save Russian democracy.

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