Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 71

The State Duma decided yesterday to postpone a vote on whether to impeach President Boris Yeltsin–which had been set for April 15–until the middle or May or later. Gennady Seleznev, the speaker of the parliament’s lower house, said the issue would probably be taken up after the May holidays–meaning after May Day, the first of the month, and Victory Day, which is on May 9. The decision to put off the vote was reportedly backed by all Duma factions except Russia is Our Home, which has been opposed to the impeachment process from the start.

While the decision would appear to be a retreat for the Duma opposition, which has been pushing for impeachment, it probably improves the opposition’s chances of winning a vote. The communists have pledged to make sure that a vote is taken in an open ballot, as opposed to secret voting, which makes it less likely that deputies on record as supporting impeachment will have a last-minute change of heart, for whatever reason. Indeed, the Kremlin condemned the Duma’s decision to delay the vote, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin calling it “purely a… political struggle” (Russian agencies, April 12).

Yeltsin earlier yesterday had told Seleznev that the Duma should either take the impeachment vote on April 15 or drop the issue completely. Today he attacked the Duma for postponing the impeachment vote, saying that it was part of a strategy to keep him under constant political attack, but would fail (AP, April 13).

Some observers believe that the impeachment initiative would likely garner the necessary 300 votes for passage if the vote were open (Moscow Times, April 13). Others–such as Georgy Satarov, a former Yeltsin adviser who now heads the INDEM think-tank–predict that the leftist factions will make sure impeachment fails in the Duma by only a few votes, with the communists voting for it, and some deputies from other factions, such as the Agrarians, voting against it. Satarov claimed that the communists have in the past arranged such face-saving pro-Kremlin outcomes (TV-6, April 11).

Last week the communists and their allies failed to force through a change in the Duma’s rules which would allow open voting by roll-call. Yesterday Gennady Zyuganov, head of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), presided over a meeting of the party’s leadership, which decided to insist on taking another vote on the matter (Izvestia, April 13).