A number of leading Russian political analysts weighed in yesterday about the impact of Yeltsin’s illness on the “correlation of forces” in Russia’s high politics. The heads of two private thinktanks–Igor Bunin, director of the Center for Political Technologies, and Georgy Satarov, president of the INDEM Foundation–said they believed that pre-term presidential elections could benefit Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. But Sergei Karaganov, chairman of the Council on Foreign Defense Policy, argued that Primakov would benefit the most, even though the prime minister has repeatedly denied harboring presidential ambitions. Karaganov said that the “degradation” of presidential power was bringing “substantial harm” to Russia, leading to the country’s “dissolution” and the continuing decline of the economy. Karaganov, who predicted that this year will be “extremely unstable” because of weakness of presidential power, has called for Yeltsin’s resignation several times. Karaganov is a leading member of Russia’s foreign policy establishment and has worked closely with Primakov. Karaganov said, however, that were presidential elections to take place in 2000, as scheduled, it would be very difficult to convince Primakov, who is 68, to run because of the heavy “physical and political load” the elections would entail. At the same time, Karaganov indicated that the elections in 2000 are likely to be canceled if the country is still mired in crisis (NTV, January 17).
A weekly presidential preference poll commissioned by NTV’s “Itogi” and conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation found this week that Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov would win the first round of a presidential election, garnering 20 percent of the vote. Luzhkov and Primakov would come in second, each with 15 percent. Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky would be third, with 11 percent of the respondents, and Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed, fourth, with 8 percent. In a run-off, however, Primakov was predicted to beat Zyuganov, 43 to 26, and any other rival (NTV, January 17).
LUZHKOV AGAIN SUGGESTS YELTSIN IS TOO ILL TO RULE.