President Boris Yeltsin, who celebrated his 67th birthday on February 1, told a meeting of media bosses in the Kremlin last week that he did not want to infringe the constitution and was not, therefore, planning to run for a third term. Yeltsin said that he did have someone in mind to succeed him, but has told no one of his choice. "Even the candidate does not know. He may dream about it, but he doesn’t know," Yeltsin said. (RTR, January 30)
Presidential elections are not due until July 2000, but speculation is already raging over likely candidates. At the end of each week, "Itogi" television program host Yevgeny Kiselev tells viewers who would be elected if the elections were held that day. Last week, for example, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov was ahead with 18 percent. The non-Communist vote in that "running" was divided: Boris Nemtsov with 12 percent, Yury Luzhkov and Aleksandr Lebed both with 11 percent, and Grigory Yavlinsky with 8 percent. (NTV, February 1)
Two weeks ago, the State Duma asked the Constitutional Court for a ruling on whether Article 92 of the Russian constitution would permit Yeltsin to run for a third term. Moscow insiders say the Court is unlikely to deliver judgment any time soon — to avoid further intensifying the jockeying between Moscow’s political and financial clans. Insiders divide potential candidates into two groups. First are those (such as Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin) they think capable of governing the country but unlikely to appeal to voters. Second are those (such as Aleksandr Lebed) seen as electable but unlikely to be able to manage the economy. At present, only Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov is perceived as falling into both categories.
Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin Downplay Reshuffle Rumors.