Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 171

There was renewed speculation last week that former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who recently stepped down as chairman of the Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) faction in the State Duma, plans to replace Orel Oblast Governor Yegor Stroev as speaker of the Federation Council, the Russian parliament’s upper chamber (Russian agencies, September 11-12).

Stroev is seeking reelection as governor of Orel and, according to the law on forming the Federation Council, will have to leave parliament if he wins. Meanwhile, a mounting chorus of governors can be heard declaring that Primakov would be a worthy replacement. Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov declared: “Considering Primakov’s political and diplomatic distinction, there could be no better candidate.” Before Primakov can become speaker, however, it will be necessary for one of the governors to choose him to represent his region in the Federation Council (Radio Ekho Moskvy, Vremya MN, September 11).

According to one convoluted but plausible rumor, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who heads the Fatherland movement, will name Primakov as his representative in the Federation Council (Argumenty i Fakty, September 12). Earlier the media noted that Primakov’s departure as head of the OVR faction in the Duma would serve Luzhkov’s interests. It is important for Luzhkov that, prior to the elections to the Moscow City Duma, which are set for December 16, he win Putin’s approval by reaching agreement with Unity, the party representing Putin’s interests in parliament. And, as one observer put it, “whether Luzhkov retains control over ‘his’ Duma will largely determine… who wins the mayoral seat in the next elections” (Moskovsky Novosti, September 11). According to this interpretation, Luzhkov removed Primakov as head of the OVR faction in the Duma in order to replace him with a less prominent leader (the MP Vyacheslav Volodin) who will not annoy the Putin administration (Vlast, September 11). In particular, Volodin will not interfere in the planned merger of Fatherland and Unity. Primakov will be compensated for the loss of his post by being awarded the post of Federation Council Speaker.

Stroev may not, of course, want to vacate the speaker’s post. There were reports that his aides had drafted a presidential decree that would, as a special exception, have allowed him to continue to serve simultaneously both as a governor and as a Federation Council member. The same reports held, however, that the Kremlin had rejected the idea (Argumenty i Fakty, September 12).