Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 18

Some observers questioned why Primakov put forward his initiative during a period of relative calm and peace among the various branches of power. Few political storm clouds are on the horizon. For example, despite the ongoing Duma proceedings, Yeltsin is highly unlikely to be impeached. Another potential source of friction–a possible Yeltsin move to dissolve the Duma–is obviated by the constitution, which prevents the head of state from dissolving the parliament’s lower chamber either one year before or one year after planned parliamentary elections (Tribuna, January 27). Parliamentary elections are scheduled for December of this year.

According to one “version,” Primakov’s demarche showed that he has simply decided to go for broke and fill the power vacuum which continues to grow with Yeltsin’s ongoing health problems. If this scenario is correct, and the various political forces in the country agree to his non-aggression pact, he will have supplanted Yeltsin as Russia’s “guarantor of stability,” and possibly next in the Kremlin (Kommersant daily, January 27). According to another version, Primakov simply wanted to distract attention from the worsening economic situation, and to ensure that the parliament approves his government’s draft budget and various tax measures (Vremya MN, January 27). In this scenario, however, Primakov grossly miscalculated the potential political repercussions of his initiative. He may now earn Yeltsin’s renowned wrath toward potential rivals and find himself in the ranks of Russia’s former government heads.

“Kommersant daily” today laid out another possible explanation for Primakov’s move. The newspaper reported that, at the end of last week, a group of Russia’s “oligarchs” met with Primakov and expressed their dissatisfaction with his government, hinting that they could bring about its fall before the summer. In this version, Primakov’s demarche was a defensive move, aimed at trumping any possibility that he and his cabinet will be fired (Kommersant daily, January 27).

Meanwhile, according to another report published today, the Kremlin is planning to form a new “party of power,” made up of regional leaders and based on what remains of Russia is Our Home, the party formed in 1995, at the Kremlin’s request, by then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. According to this report, the Kremlin wants to recruit Primakov to head the new party, but could wind up picking a key regional leader, such as Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov, if Primakov continues to resist associating himself with any single party (Segodnya, January 27). This report noted that Primakov may be playing his own “independent political game.” In this regard, Sergei Karaganov, deputy director of the Institute of Europe and a close Primakov ally, wrote this week that Yeltsin’s illness could lead to Russia’s disintegration. He suggested that a union between the prime minister and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov could create the basis for an “authoritarian modernizing regime” which could thwart centrifugal tendencies (Vlast, January 26).