The center-right coalition made up of such luminaries as former Acting Premier Yegor Gaidar and privatization architect Anatoly Chubais has reportedly hit another snag–one which could be deadly. “Kommersant daily” reported today that former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, who was among the politicians who signed a statement last week announcing the coalition’s formation, has been holding talks with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, head of the centrist grouping “Otechestvo” and a leading presidential aspirant, about a possible political alliance. After the Gaidar-Chubais coalition announced its existence last Friday (November 27), Kirienko–while not disavowing it, as did Saratov Governor Dmitri Ayatskov–appeared to back away from it, saying he planned to form his own political party (see the Monitor, November 30). Unnamed sources close to Kirienko told “Kommersant daily” that after Kirienko lost the premiership in the wake of last August’s financial collapse, he stayed in contact and has maintained good relations with Luzhkov. The newspaper noted that Luzhkov, who has been highly critical of Gaidar’s economic reforms and Chubais’ privatization, never actively criticized Kirienko. The paper continued that Kirienko could serve to “fix up” and “democratize” the Moscow mayor’s image. It said also that Luzhkov had earlier tried to recruit another young politician, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, but was unsuccessful. Nemtsov has joined the Gaidar-Chubais coalition (Kommersant daily, December 1).
Kirienko’s defection would deal a potentially lethal blow to the new center-right coalition, which is planning to contest next year’s parliamentary elections. Chubais, who currently heads United Energy Systems, the state electricity monopoly, has said several times that Kirienko is the coalition’s natural leader, simply because polling data shows him to be the most popular among the coalition’s leading lights. Oleg Sysuev–first deputy head of President Boris Yeltsin’s administration and another of the coalition’s signatories–said: “We counted very much on Kirienko. If he goes over to Luzhkov, it means the center-right has died” (Kommersant daily, December 2).
…WHILE GAIDAR HOPES TO WIN AS MANY SEATS AS THE COMMUNISTS IN THE NEXT PARLIAMENT.