The Unity-KPRF agreement to put Gennady Seleznev back in the post of State Duma chairman could mark the beginning of a realignment in Russian politics. During the Yeltsin era, the KPRF and its allies from the “national-patriotic” movement, including the Agrarian Party and the Duma’s Popular Rule faction, constituted the major opposition to both the Kremlin and Yeltsin’s hand-picked prime ministers. The situation now appears to be reversing, with the erstwhile opposition falling in line to support Putin. Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin declared today that the end of the Yeltsin era marked the end of “the period when it was necessary to be in opposition.” The accession of Putin as head of state, Lapshin said, meant the arrival of “a time of creation” during which it is necessary to “to apply all efforts toward the search for constructivism, for the rebirth of Russia, for the improvement of the lives of ordinary people” (Russian agencies, January 19).
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, a leader of Fatherland-All Russia (OVR), expressed an opposing view today in calling Seleznev’s elevation as speaker “one of the first manifestations of the coming dictatorship of the Bolsheviks.” Luzhkov said he was certain that Seleznev’s election was engineered by the presidential administration and the government (Russian agencies, January 19). Meanwhile, the leaders of the four factions which opposed Seleznev’s election–OVR’s Yevgeny Primakov, Yabloko’s Grigory Yavlinsky, Oleg Morozov of Russia’s Regions and Sergei Kirienko of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS), met yesterday evening and agreed to form a joint council to coordinate future actions. This coordinating council was set to hold its first session at 11 o’clock this morning. Former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who allied with Yabloko for last December’s State Duma election, said yesterday that he hoped that this coordinating council would be the basis for a broad center-right coalition. Luzhkov, however, expressed doubts that the four groups could forge a strategic union because “they have different goals and different ideologies” (Russian agencies, January 19).
The KPRF-Unity alliance could be a moment of truth for SPS. The union’s leaders, including Kirienko, Nemtsov, Anatoly Chubais, Yegor Gaidar and Irina Khakamada, have all been distinguished for their anticommunism but have also come out in support of Putin. Severa of SPS’s leaders have said that the organization will support the Putin government as long as it carries out policies which correspond to SPS’s program and platform. Chubais has been the most unequivocal in supporting Putin, who in 1996 worked as Chubais’ subordinate when Chubais headed the Kremlin administration. Chubais has not yet commented on the Unity-KPRF deal to elevate Seleznev. Many of SPS’s rank-in-file, who come from Russia’s perestroika-era democratic and human rights movements, are said to be suspicious of Putin, a career KGB officer.
ALBRIGHT ECHOES PUTIN’S CLAIM TO BE REFORMER, NOT DICTATOR.