Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 162

Both houses of the Russian parliament are due to meet today to debate the candidacy of Viktor Chernomyrdin as prime minister. The State Duma, entrusted by the constitution with the role of approving or rejecting the president’s nomination, is expected to reject Chernomyrdin for the second time. Although the fifty members of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic faction, who abstained in the first round, say they will vote for him this time, the Communists and their nationalist and agrarian allies insist that they will again reject him, as does the Yabloko faction.

The Federation Council, which has no constitutional role on this issue, is expected to give Chernomyrdin its strong moral support when he addresses the upper house today. Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed told Russian TV last night that he would back Chernomyrdin today and was confident that other members of the Federation Council would do likewise. “The upper house is far less politicized than the Duma,” Lebed said. “Every senator has from one to five million people behind him. These people need to be paid their wages, pensions and benefits… That is why they [regional governors] are more pragmatically minded.” This, Lebed predicted, would “make the Duma think.” (NTV, ORT, September 3)

Chernomyrdin has spent much of the past two days in meetings with Russia’s regional governors, who are strongly represented in the Federation Council. The majority have said they will support him. The governors see the present crisis as an opportunity to increase their own powers vis-a-vis the center. As Lebed made clear last night, he and other regional leaders see the present crisis as one of Moscow’s making which is having extremely unpleasant economic consequences for the regions. In return for supporting Chernomyrdin’s candidacy, therefore, the governors are demanding that the federal government renegotiate the balance of power between the center and the regions and give the regions the power to insulate themselves against future shocks originating from the center. (NTV, ORT, September 3)

Arkhangelsk Oblast Governor Anatoly Yefremov echoed Lebed yesterday when he said it was time to change the balance of power between the center and the regions. Yefremov called for most of the money collected in taxes to stay in the regions. In the present system taxes are collected in the regions and transmitted to the center whence they are redistributed again between the regions in the form of transfers. Only a couple of regional leaders have so far spoken against Chernomyrdin’s candidacy. They include the powerful governors of Samara and Saratov Oblasts, Konstantin Titov and Dmitri Ayatskov. Both will be enthusiastic supporters of greater regional power over taxes, however. Russia’s governors do not see the present crisis as one of their making, and intend to use it as an opportunity to both renegotiate their relations with the center and reduce their present vulnerability to wild fluctuations in the economic situation.