Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 132

President Boris Yeltsin said today that the democrats will gain a majority of seats in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, in the next parliamentary vote, which is set for December of this year. During a meeting with a group of regional leaders, Yeltsin said that everything should be done to ensure that democratic groups in every region of Russia win (Russian agencies, July 9).

Yesterday, Yeltsin met with seven regional leaders–including Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, who is the de facto leader of All Russia (Vsya Rossia), one of the electoral blocs recently formed by Russia’s regional leaders. Yeltsin’s apparent goal in calling the meeting was to convince All Russia not to merge with Fatherland (Otechestvo), the political movement formed last year by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. The Kremlin has reportedly been pressing Shaimiev not to enter into a coalition with Luzhkov, but just earlier this week, the Tatarstan president said that he saw Luzhkov’s movement as All Russia’s only possible ally in the parliamentary contest. One of the All Russia regional heads who met with Yeltsin yesterday told a newspaper that the governors hoped to get Yeltsin’s approval for a merger of All Russia with Fatherland–an unlikely prospect (Kommersant, July 9).

According to some media reports, the Kremlin has been working on forming a supercoalition which would bring together the various center-right movements with those formed by the regional leaders in order to be prepared for the electoral battle with Fatherland and the Communist Party. Prior to the 1995 parliamentary vote, the Kremlin formed two parties–Russia is Our Home, led by then premier Viktor Chernomyrdin, and a second led by then State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin. Both parties, collectively described as the “party of power,” did poorly in the election (especially Rybkin’s). In a newspaper interview published this week, Yeltsin said that there should be no “party of power” this time around, and called instead for a “wide coalition of progressive politicians, both federal and regional” (Izvestia, June 5).

It is unclear, however, whom Yeltsin and the Kremlin will consider democratic and “progressive” and thus worthy of support. In past elections, the Kremlin worked against, for example, Grigory Yavlinsky’s Yabloko, essentially keeping all news of the party and its leader off state television. It seems likely that the Kremlin will take either a similar or a more aggressive approach to Luzhkov’s bloc, even though Fatherland calls itself democratic and is probably no more or less so than, say, Russia is Our Home or Voice of Russia, the bloc recently founded by Samara Governor Konstantin Titov.