Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 133

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has apparently accelerated his attempts to woo former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov into a political alliance. A source in Fatherland (Otechestvo), the political movement founded by Luzhkov, told the Interfax news agency yesterday that the movement’s political council had invited Primakov to top its electoral ticket in the December parliamentary vote. The reported decision followed a statement by Luzhkov the day before (July 10) that he not only saw Primakov as a potential ally, but that he would be glad to have the chance to be an ally of Primakov. There has so far been no word on Primakov’s response, if indeed he has expressed one.

The tone of Luzhkov’s comments suggest that he might be willing to rein in his presidential ambitions for another five years and let Primakov head a presidential ticket, with Luzhkov serving as his prime minister. According to one view, should Luzhkov’s Fatherland and its allies do well in the December Duma vote, they might be in a position to amend the constitution so that the prime minister is chosen by the majority party in parliament–as it is in most parliamentary democracies–and has enhanced powers (NTV, July 11). Luzhkov might accept such a position under a Primakov presidency.

Were Primakov to join Fatherland and head its ticket, he would likely be named speaker of the State Duma, a position he could occupy while campaigning for the presidency. In any case, it is not difficult to understand why Luzhkov is working hard to get Primakov on his side. Opinion polls still show Primakov with far and away the highest trust rating of any Russian politician, and virtually tied with Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov in a first-round presidential vote. Zyuganov, who has become little more than a vehicle for expressing discontent, loses–the polls indicate–to almost everyone in a run-off.

In addition, were Primakov to agree to head Fatherland’s slate of Duma candidates, it would probably dissipate the reluctance of the electoral bloc All Russia (Vsya Rossia) to form an alliance with Fatherland. All Russia’s leaders, including Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev and other prominent regional leaders, are sympathetic to Luzhkov but are reportedly under pressure from the Kremlin to eschew the Moscow mayor and instead join the broad center-right coalition which the Kremlin is trying to create. Were Primakov to join Fatherland, the regional leaders might have the political cover they need to do the same.