Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 192

The idea of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov as a candidate for the next presidential elections–slated, constitutionally, for the year 2000–is suddenly gaining currency. In an interview Sunday night on “Itogi,” NTV television’s influential weekly news analysis program, two regional governors strongly supported a Primakov candidacy. Yevgeny Nazdratenko, governor of Primorsky krai in Russia’s Far East, told interviewer Yevgeny Kiselev–who raised the possibility of a Primakov presidential run–that Primakov could win the presidency if two events came to pass. First, Primakov would need to team up with a regional governor. Second, Primakov would need to ask the State Duma, the lower chamber of Russia’s parliament, to pass a law recreating the post of vice president. President Boris Yeltsin abolished the vice presidency in 1993 after Aleksandr Rutskoi, his vice president, led an armed revolt. Rutskoi is now the governor of Kursk. Saratov Governor Dmitri Ayatskov called the idea of a Primakov presidential bid “brilliant.”

Primakov’s name was included for the first time in “Itogi’s” weekly presidential preference poll. This week’s poll found that Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov had now caught up with Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, with both men finding the support of 19 percent of the respondents. Zyuganov’s rating dropped two percent from last week. Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed was backed by 14 percent of the respondents; Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky, by 10 percent; Primakov, by 9 percent (NTV, October 18).

It would appear that parts of Russia’s political establishment have made a conscious decision to begin pushing Primakov as Yeltsin’s successor. On October 17, for example, Mikhail Gorshkov, director of the Russian Independent Institute of Social and National Problems, told Russian agencies that his organization’s research had found that Primakov now has the greatest chance to win pre-term presidential elections. No polling data, however, was given. On the other hand, Vyacheslav Nikonov of the Fund Politika said that Primakov would probably poll ahead of Yavlinsky in a first round of voting, but would have no chances of making it into a run-off (Russian agencies, October 17).