Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 64

Participants in the March 26 seminar held in Washington which focused on the Russian presidential elections scheduled for 2000 also discussed those contenders with far slimmer chances of success. Jacob Kipp, an analyst for the U.S. Army, argued that Aleksandr Lebed is, first and foremost, a soldier–and a very good one–who has a no-nonsense, military approach to solving problems. That said, once Lebed entered politics “he took off his uniform and played by the rules.” His record as Krasnoyarsk governor is mixed, and he is now suffering from a lack of finance and media access. In 1996 Lebed had been useful to Yeltsin, to draw votes from Zhirinovsky and to handle the Chechen war. Now, no civilian politician needs links to the army, so Lebed’s prospects for the year 2000 seem limited.

The Jamestown Foundation’s Peter Rutland characterized Grigory Yavlinsky as an honest, talented and principled politician whose very virtues may condemn him to the margins of the Russian political scene. Yavlinsky has carved out a role as leader of the “democratic opposition,” repeatedly spurning offers to join the government over the years. Yavlinsky wants to be president–but there is little sign that he has sufficient public support to get beyond the first round of the presidential race.

Michael McFaul of the Carnegie Endowment looked at the outsider candidates. Most prominent among them is filmmaker Nikita Mihalkov. He has name recognition, money, and the unusual ability to make Russians feel good about being Russian. Apart from actors, a candidate could emerge from the ranks of the governors, such as Samara’s Konstantin Titov. Such a governor could speak up for regions opposing those who want a unitary state–and could play the anticommunist card. A third possible type of contender would be a new prime minister. If Primakov were to leave office during the next eighteen months (because of a fresh economic crisis, for example), then his replacement–presumably a younger, more ambitious man–would be well placed for a run at the presidency. Such a prime minister could be a man such as Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin or Federation Council chief Yegor Stroev.