Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 95

It is fast becoming conventional wisdom that Sergei Stepashin, Russia’s acting prime minister, will be confirmed by the Duma in its first vote, which is set for May 19. The logic is simple, yet compelling. The Kremlin can put up one candidate three times–or a different candidate each time–for prime minister. If the Duma votes thumbs down all three times, the constitution requires the president to dissolve the Duma and call new parliamentary elections–meaning that a good many individual deputies may lose their seats (even if their factions do well), and thus lose their beloved legislative perks, such as a car and driver, a Moscow apartment, and so on. Thus if the Duma opposition, in an attempt to recoup after losing face in the impeachment vote, decides to turn down Stepashin in the first vote, Yeltsin may very well decide to put up someone like Anatoly Chubais, whom the opposition could never vote for. This suggests why Stepashin may pass on the first vote, and why Gennady Seleznev, the Duma’s speaker and a KPRF leader, said he detected no “strong allergy” to Stepashin from among the deputies (Russian agencies, May 15).

Stepashin, meanwhile, has reportedly decided to name Aleksandr Zhukov, head of the Duma’s budget committee, to be first deputy prime minister in charge of economic policy. The appointment is not official, and Stepashin has said that he will not announce any cabinet appointments until he is confirmed. But Zhukov said today that he would accept the post on “certain conditions,” which he did not specify (Russian agencies, May 17). According to some accounts, Zhukov spoke to Stepashin on May 14 by telephone and agreed to take the job (Russian agencies, May 16-17).

Vladimir Ryzhkov, head of the Russia is Our Home faction in the Duma, said yesterday that members of his faction would not join the new cabinet, if asked, because it is doomed to be temporary and “technical,” given that parliamentary elections are looming this year and presidential elections next year. Ryzhkov said that Stepashin’s main task would be to make sure that President Boris Yeltsin’s departure from the Kremlin is smooth (NTV, May 16).