Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 238

The Fatherland-All Russia coalition (OVR), headed by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, already seems to be suffering from internal splits. Officials of the coalition–which came in third place in the recent State Duma elections, with some 13 percent of the vote–met yesterday. Afterwards, they announced that OVR would establish a single faction in the Duma led by Primakov, but that two other groups of deputies, one representing regional interests, the other agricultural interests, would also be formed. In setting up such interest groups, the OVR leaders seemed to be making a virtue of necessity, in view of the fact that the Agrarian Party, fifteen to sixteen of whose members won election as part of OVR’s party list, announced yesterday that it would set up its own group in the new Duma (Russian agencies, December 22). Some OVR leaders, however, deny that the coalition is fracturing. One of its leaders, Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev, denied today that yesterday’s decisions to create three separate Duma groups means that a “split or divorce” within OVR is looming (Russian agencies, December 23).

Despite Aushev’s assurances, the centrifugal tendencies within OVR are hard to deny. Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, a key member of All Russia, said yesterday that his group and Fatherland should form separate Duma factions. Meanwhile, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, All Russia’s founder, said yesterday that he had assured Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that OVR would “cooperate with the government and support it.” A group of All Russia leaders, including Rakhimov, Shaimiev and St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, met with Putin yesterday. No members of Fatherland attended the meeting, and it is not at all clear that all of OVR’s leaders have agreed to support Putin’s government, or will see it as being in their interest to do so (Russian agencies, December 22). In any case, it is difficult to see how the coalition will be able to come to a consensus on its position vis-a-vis the government, given that Primakov, who on December 17 announced his plans to run in the June 2000 presidential election, is likely to be Putin’s main opponent. Some observers have predicted that Primakov and Luzhkov and others within OVR (mainly from Fatherland, in all likelihood) will gravitate toward an alliance with Communist Party of the Russian Federation.