Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 130

The Belarus scenario is not the only one being talked up (see the Monitor, July 6). According to another, the Kremlin may want to move up the presidential contest rather than postpone it. Postponing it would not get rid of those candidates the Kremlin and its “oligarchic” allies see as the major threats to their interests–Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who continues to enjoy the highest rating of any Russian politician. Thus the best tactic would be to hold the presidential vote as soon as possible, before either Luzhkov or Primakov have had time to prepare their campaigns. Over the weekend, a newspaper cited leaks from the presidential administration that a scenario which former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko has been advocating, in which Yeltsin steps down and the presidential and parliamentary elections are held concurrently in December of this year–may come to pass. This would force Luzhkov to decide whether to run for the presidency unprepared, or to opt for a sure thing by running again for Moscow mayor (that contest is also scheduled for December). Luzhkov, presumably, would choose the latter.

The other part of this scenario is removing Soviet founder Vladimir Ilych Lenin’s mummified remains from the mausoleum on Red Square, followed by a ban on the Communist Party (KPRF). The ban could be applied in such a way as to prevent leaders of all the KPRF factions–from KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov to Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev to radical Duma deputy Viktor Ilukhin–from either running for president or leading their own electoral blocs in the parliamentary contest (Novye izvestia, July 3).

The ultimate goal of such maneuvering, presumably, would be to make Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin Yeltsin’s successor. A presidential preference poll by the Public Opinion Foundation released yesterday showed Stepashin with a 6 percent approval rating–well behind Zyuganov (17 percent), Primakov (16 percent), Luzhkov (14 percent) and Grigory Yavlinsky (9 percent)–and tied with Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed. But the poll also showed Stepashin would defeat everyone except Primakov in a run-off (NTV, July 4).

However, according to still another scenario, Kremlin insiders want Yeltsin to step down to allow early elections, but not before replacing Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin with First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko, effectively making the latter Yeltsin’s successor (Moskovsky komsomolets, July 6). One unnamed Kremlin official who is apparently pushing for Aksenenko to become the heir apparent was quoted as saying: “We understand that Stepashin is an electable figure, and that Aksenenko is, let’s say, much less electable. But understand: on the other hand, we can trust Aksenenko” (Vlast, July 6).

It is likely that all the scenarios in the air are Kremlin contingency plans, and that no consensus has been reached within the Kremlin inner circle on how to proceed. While it may be surprising, some observers claim there are those in the Kremlin who actually want a legitimate transfer of power from the Yeltsin administration to a new one through genuinely democratic elections (Vlast, July 6).