Publication: Prism Volume: 4 Issue: 9

Russia finally got a prime minister on April 24 when the State Duma voted by 251 to 25 to confirm President Boris Yeltsin’s choice for the post, Sergei Kirienko. Many of the 450 deputies candidly admitted that they voted less for the thirty-five-year-old Kirienko, about whose youth and inexperience many expressed doubts, than to ward off Yeltsin’s threat to dissolve the Duma if it refused his nominee a third time.

Kirienko’s victory was secured when Communist parliamentarians defied party discipline and simply refused to vote. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov called for an open ballot and reminded faction members that the party’s Central Committee had affirmed its opposition to Kirienko’s candidacy. When the Duma decided on a secret ballot, Zyuganov instructed faction members to abstain. Terrified of losing their comfortable jobs and privileges, the majority of Communist deputies simply did not vote at all. “The deputies saved the Motherland — and their apartments and cars,” scoffed the popular daily Moskovsky komsomolets.

This extraordinary turn of events discredited the Communist opposition. It also cleared the field for Grigory Yavlinsky, whose Yabloko faction had expressed consistent objections to Kirienko’s nomination, to declare that Yabloko was now Russia’s only credible opposition. The Russian parliament was shown, once again, to be a Potemkin village. “The State Duma… saved itself from dissolution, but it will never be able to restore its reputation,” commented the opposition newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta.