Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 163

President Boris Yeltsin meets with his advisers in the Kremlin this morning to decide whether to risk a showdown with the opposition-dominated Duma by nominating Viktor Chernomyrdin as prime minister for a third time. (BBC, September 8) Yesterday, the Russian parliament rejected Chernomyrdin for the second time, saying his five-year leadership was to blame for Russia’s present financial crisis. The vote was 273 against and 138 in favor, with one abstention. (RTR, September 7) The Duma must now vote again within a week. If Yeltsin renominates Chernomyrdin and the Duma rejects him for a third time, the president must dissolve parliament.

The president chaired a roundtable meeting yesterday attended by eight members of the upper house of parliament (the leaders of Russia’s interregional economic associations plus Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov), eight leaders of the factions of the lower house of parliament, acting Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, trade union representatives and presidential staffers. The Chernomyrdin camp tried to tempt the opposition with some rather minor concessions. The leader of the pro-government “Russia is Our Home” (ROH) movement, Aleksandr Shokhin, proposed that Chernomyrdin be given a 100-day trial period. (NTV, September 7) Yeltsin proposed a probation period of six to eight months. Yeltsin also signed draft amendments to Russia’s law on the government, giving the Duma more say in the membership of the cabinet by obliging the prime minister to consult parliament over the appointment of deputy premiers. (RTR, September 7) The deputies would have none of this. They made it clear that they would approve Chernomyrdin only if Yeltsin himself promised to take early retirement. They also gave Yeltsin the names of potential premiers whose candidacies they would be prepared to consider. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov proposed Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, Communist Deputy Yuri Maslyukov, former Central Bank chairman Viktor Gerashchenko and Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov. Primakov’s candidacy was seconded by Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky. Yavlinsky said afterwards that Yeltsin appeared not to have thought of Primakov before and to be interested by the idea. (Itar-Tass, September 7)

Most observers nonetheless expect Yeltsin to nominate Chernomyrdin a third time. Yeltsin would be acting out of character were he to do otherwise. More than that, if he went along with a Duma nominee, he would turn himself into a lame duck for the remainder of his presidential term. Yeltsin may still hope that deputies who want to hang on to their privileges will break ranks with their faction leaders and approve Chernomyrdin on a third vote. This worked when Yeltsin nominated Sergei Kirienko for the third time in April. It may not work this time. Deputies have less to lose now than they had then. A recent opinion poll shows that the Communist Party (CPRF) is now easily the most popular party in Russia. Also standing to increase their representation were parliamentary elections held now are Yavlinsky’s Yabloko and Aleksandr Lebed’s People’s Republican Party (PRP). The CPRF would win 26 percent of the vote, Yabloko 11 percent and the PRP ten percent. ROH would win eight percent while Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democrats would drop sharply to five percent. (NTV, September 6)