Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 24

Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov’s efforts to shape a preelection truce hit another speed bump yesterday when Russian State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev said that he might be willing to cooperate with Primakov–but only if President Boris Yeltsin resigns. Seleznev, a Communist Party member, told reporters that Primakov had agreed to discuss his proposal for a political truce with the leaders of the main parliamentary factions on February 10.

Seleznev’s remarks dovetailed with those of Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov. He told reporters yesterday that he wanted better cooperation with the government. But he also said that the Communist Party has a political truce proposal of its own. This would include radical changes in the government’s economic policies, a government commitment to pay off wage and pension arrears, and a “qualitatively” new tax policy. Zyuganov also called on Yeltsin to quit, and said that new rules should be introduced to prevent the president from dismissing the government without parliament’s consent (Reuters, Itar-Tass, February 3).

Primakov’s now much-discussed proposal for a kind of political “non-aggression pact” accompanied a January 22 letter to Seleznev (see the Monitor, January 26). The Primakov initiative sought, outwardly at least, to promote “political stability” in the run-up to parliamentary and presidential elections. The plan called on Yeltsin to refrain from dissolving the Duma and dismissing the government in return for a pledge from lawmakers to cease their efforts to impeach him.

Yeltsin has already rejected Primakov’s truce proposal, and said he will not surrender any of his constitutional powers. Primakov probably expected a more positive Communist Party response; the party has, in general, tried to accommodate the Russian prime minister. Indeed, Primakov’s proposal, which has reportedly soured relations between the prime minister and the president, seems for the time being at least to have had the opposite effect of what was intended. It has raised political tensions instead of lowering them, and thus further complicated efforts to deal with Russia’s economic crisis in the lead-up to the elections.