Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 79

Russia’s State Duma is due to vote today for the third and decisive time on President Yeltsin’s choice of Sergei Kirienko as prime minister. Kirienko addressed parliament this morning in person and appealed for approval. To be confirmed, Kirienko needs a simple majority of 226 votes. So far, the Duma has vetoed Kirienko twice. On April 10, he got 143 votes. In the second round on April 17, he got only 115. This was 111 short of the 226 needed for confirmation.

Support has been building in Kirienko’s favor all week. The fact that the Duma decided this morning to vote by secret ballot sharply improved his chances of approval. Leaders of the largest parliamentary bloc, the Communists, said yesterday that they would vote against Kirienko. Nationalist, agrarian and smaller communist splinter groups, however, said they would allow their deputies to vote according to conscience. Faced with an open and potentially humiliating split in the ranks of the opposition, the Communist faction backed down this morning and gave up its earlier insistence on an open vote. This frees rank-and-file deputies to vote for Kirienko in order to avoid new elections and keep their seats .

President Yeltsin yesterday took a number of unprecedented steps in his bid to secure Kirienko’s approval. He met the speakers of the two houses of the Russian parliament, neither of whom wants to see parliament dissolved. He addressed a letter to all members of parliament, asking them to approve Kirienko. He also personally telephoned the leaders of all the Duma factions, including Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov. Yeltsin appealed to Zyuganov to put the good of the state above that of party. (RTR, April 23) What Zyuganov replied is not recorded: He might well have responded that, if Yeltsin’s first concern was to save Russia from the turmoil of a parliamentary dissolution and fresh elections, the president could have chosen a candidate more acceptable to parliament. Instead, Yeltsin stuck stubbornly to his nominee, a previously virtually unknown thirty-five year-old who, before his move to Moscow eleven months ago, managed an oil company in provincial Nizhny Novgorod.