Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 80

The biggest loser from last week’s battle of wills between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the opposition-dominated State Duma was the Communist Party. Yeltsin’s nominee for prime minister, Sergei Kirienko, was easily elected on April 24, with 251 of the 450 deputies voting for and a mere 25 voting against. The majority of Communist deputies simply did not vote. This extraordinary development left the field clear for Grigory Yavlinsky, whose Yabloko faction did vote against Kirienko, to declare that Yabloko now constitutes Russia’s only opposition movement. (RTR, April 25)

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov fulminated against the vote, calling it “a rape of the institutions of government,” but had only himself to blame for the Communist rout. Up to the last moment, Zyuganov was calling for an open vote and insisting that the Communists would vote against Kirienko. Frightened of losing their jobs and privileges, most Communist deputies refused to toe the party line. “The deputies saved the Motherland–and also their apartments and cars,” the popular daily newspaper, Moskovsky komsomolets, scoffed the following day. Nezavisimaya gazeta was equally dismissive: “The State Duma … saved itself from dissolution, but it will never be able to restore its reputation,” it wrote. (Reuters, April 26)

Twelve Communists went so far as to vote for Kirienko. Zyuganov declared that they would now face party discipline and might even be expelled from the party. (NTV, April 26) They include Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev, a former editor of Pravda, and Aleksei Podberezkin, deputy chairman of the Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee. As the leader of the Russian nationalist movement Spiritual Heritage, Podberezkin was at one time Zyuganov’s closest adviser. Podberezkin retorted that, if reprisals are taken against him and others who voted for Kirienko, it will signify that there are “unwise people” in the Communist Party leadership. (Itar-Tass, April 26)

As for Russia’s new prime minister, Kirienko is due to present his proposals for the composition and structure of the new government to President Yeltsin tomorrow. (April 28) The make-up of the new government is supposed to be announced at the end of this week.