Political animal takes Russia to tusk

November 8, 2002

A new political party has been launched in Russia that aims to enlist millions of academics, scientists and students as its core supporters.

Slon - the acronym for the Union of People for Education and Science and the Russian word for "elephant" - said it would champion the long-neglected interests of millions of intellectual workers in its aim of improving the education system and building a knowledge-based economy.

The party was established by a former parliamentary deputy of the liberal Yabloko party, Vyacheslav Igrunov, and the former head of Yabloko's Moscow youth organisation, Andrei Sharomov.

The founders said Russia's development had been put back decades by the country's failure to create a knowledge-based economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Instead, it concentrated on energy and raw materials industries. They said they would look to these companies for support.

"Only by following the example of Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, where many years ago the governments wisely invested in science, research and innovation, can Russia expect to transform its economy," Mr Sharomov said.

Political analysts estimate that Slon could gain 4 million to 5 million votes if it registered in time to compete in December's elections. This would be enough to win between 15 and 20 seats in the Duma, Russia's parliament.

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