SOUND AND FURY…
What a week. Over the course of just a few days, President Boris Yeltsin put an end to Yevgeny Primakov’s less than eight months as head of the Russian government and walked away unscathed from the State Duma’s long-anticipated impeachment vote. Dramatic, indeed.
Yet, as is often the case in Russia, there was a large measure of theatrical sound and fury–and even smoke and mirrors–in this drama. Primakov’s ouster as prime minister, after all, had been rumored for months, with myriad “versions” of how and when he would be ousted appearing the local press with numbing regularity. According one ex post facto version–offered last week by former Economics Minister Aleksandr Shokhin, now an independent Duma deputy–Primakov’s fate was sealed after he met with the heads of the Duma’s factions last week and failed to say that he would resign if impeachment passed.
That may have been the proximate cause, but the reasons were obviously deeper. As the newspaper “Novye izvestia” put it, Primakov, virtually from the start, “alarmed not only Yeltsin and the presidential inner circle, but also the overwhelming majority of the new Russian elite. That, perhaps, was the biggest miscalculation of the experienced apparatchik: He had joined the ranks of the ‘system enemies,’ so that the process of removing the academic from the premier’s post became a overall consolidating cause for many.”
And while the outcome of Saturday’s impeachment vote–specifically, of the vote on the count holding Yeltsin criminally responsible for the 1994-96 Chechen War–was too close to call right up to the wire, the behavior of the Duma in the vote was, in the end, predictable. While the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) and Agrarian factions–the mainstays of the leftist opposition–voted uniformly for all five impeachment counts, a number of other deputies didn’t show up to vote, and eighteen who did handed in spoiled ballots.