Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 192

The Primakov push may be one sign of a growing backlash against Luzhkov’s increasingly open presidential bid. Indeed, Primorsky Governor Nazdratenko and Saratov Governor Dmitri Ayatskov, when asked by NTV about the spate of recent comments from Luzhkov about a possible presidential run, did not avail themselves of the opportunity to support the Moscow mayor’s aspirations.

Likewise, both governors poured cold water on the idea of Yeltsin resigning, which would mean pre-term presidential elections. Ayatskov said Yeltsin was elected until 2000, and that the constitution should be observed. Nazdratenko said Russia, for the first time, had a government which could be trusted, but had little money for carrying out elections (NTV, October 18).

Last week, Luzhkov said for the first time that he saw a possibility of Yeltsin stepping down for health reasons. Aleksandr Lebed, for his part, said in an interview published Friday in the “Interfax-Argumenty i fakty” weekly that pre-term presidential elections would be a “blessing,” but added he had not made a decision to participate in them (Russian agencies, October 17).

Several other major political players said they opposed Yeltsin’s resignation. CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovsky said he was categorically against Yeltsin stepping down, and called Luzhkov’s comment on the president’s health a “strictly political, by no means a medical pronouncement.” Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said “the president of Russia must finish the whole term for which he was elected,” adding that “if his health condition won’t allow it–he himself must decide” (Russian agencies, October 17).

While Luzhkov has only said so far that he may, under certain circumstances, run for president, he would appear to be continuing work on building bases of support in Russia’s regions. Last week, for example, the Saratov Oblast newspaper “Gran” formally endorsed Luzhkov, and announced the creation of a movement to support his presidential bid. The newspaper is backed by the oblast’s consumers union and the Saratov ball-bearing factory, one of the region’s most successful enterprises (Monitor’s regional correspondent, October 14).