"Russia’s two largest parties" (as they were described by Kommersant-daily on April 19) both held congresses in Moscow last weekend. (RTR, April 19) One — the pro-government "Russia is Our Home" (ROH) movement — is not a party at all and has no immediate plans to become one. The other — the Russian Communist party (CPRF) — is the only party in today’s Russia with a clearly defined regional and social base and is, arguably, the only Russian group that can truly be described as a political party. While the CPRF dominates the Duma, ROH makes up only part of the amorphous "party of power" that presently dominates the Russian government. Neither organization was in a triumphant mood at its congress.
Tucked away in Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov’s anti-government tirade was an admission that party membership is falling. This, together with the return of a strong reformist team to the Russian government, seems to be what provoked his declaration that the time for compromise is over and that the CPRF is going onto the offensive. He called on Communists to collect signatures demanding President Boris Yeltsin’s resignation and, in an effort to capitalize on mounting public disgust over unpaid wages and pensions, declared a campaign of "extra-parliamentary protests within the framework of the law." Zyuganov said his party would mobilize opposition demonstrations on May 1 and May 9, which are public holidays. But he stopped well short of putting the jobs of Communist parliamentarians in danger. The CPRF would not, he said, try to topple the government by proposing a vote of no confidence since that would lead "not to the cabinet’s resignation but to… a dissolution of the Duma." (Reuter, April 19)
While Zyuganov denounced the government, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin called on ROH to build a "union of democratic forces." Chernomyrdin showed himself to be acutely aware that parliamentary elections are due in 1999 and a presidential election in 2000 and that the organization he leads is not well organized to meet either challenge. ROH declared its intention to run its own candidate in the 2000 presidential elections and, in re-electing Chernomyrdin as its leader, signaled that he is likely to be its candidate. Though Chernomyrdin coyly declined to say whether he will stand for election, there seemed little doubt that he intends to do so. (RTR, April 19)
Russia Signs Protocol Outlawing Death Penalty.