Vladimir Ryzhkov, first deputy speaker of Russia’s State Duma, told a press conference yesterday that parliamentary elections might well be called in March or April of 1999. Drawing attention to how acute the country’s social and economic problems are, Ryzhkov said that, come the fall, President Yeltsin may have no choice but to call a snap election. (Russian agencies, July 8) Yesterday’s news was ominous. Faced with an acute shortage of cash, the government was forced to tap into its reserves to service its debts. (Financial Times, July 9) The government is also having to face the fact that its hopes of a quick cash fix by privatizing Rosneft, the largest oil company still in state hands, are likely to be dashed since the sale is unlikely to proceed. Bids had been invited by July 16 but the two consortiums most likely to bid have already announced that they will not be taking part. (See Monitor, July 7)
Some 1,500 defense workers rallied in downtown Moscow yesterday to protest unpaid wages and call for early presidential and parliamentary elections. In Vladivostok, 4,000 disgruntled workers took to the streets. (Russian agencies, July 8) The Russian media, never chary of speculation, are full of predictions of imminent coups and snap elections. The State Duma is taking all the precautions it can to ward off the threat of dissolution. Since the president may not dissolve parliament while impeachment charges are pending, the Duma has tasked a multiparty commission with drawing up a bill of indictment. The commission met for the first time on June 29 and plans to work through the summer vacation. Its task is to have a charge sheet ready for use by the Duma at any moment that the president makes a move toward dissolution. (Kommersant-daily, June 30)
Ryzhkov said yesterday, however, that the commission’s multiparty character means it is doomed from the start. “The Communists are likely to accept all charges, while Yabloko is likely to reject all except launching the war in Chechnya,” he said. The most likely outcome, he predicted, is three separate indictments: one accepting all the charges, another accepting some of them and a third terminating the commission’s work. (Russian agencies, July 8)
YELTSIN AXES RAIL PROJECT.