Boris Yeltsin’s decision to cancel his trip to Vienna for medical reasons has intensified “discussion” about “the health of the president and his competence,” as Vladimir Ryzhkov, vice speaker of the State Duma and a member of the “Russia is Our Home” faction, delicately put it yesterday. Yeltsin’s opponents in the Duma, of course, were less delicate. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov repeated his call that Yeltsin resign voluntarily–adding that “his inner circle is terribly afraid of that.” Zyuganov said he backed a law which had been drafted by Viktor Ilyukhin, head of the Duma’s security committee and a member of the Communist Party’s radical wing, requiring a medical finding on Yeltsin’s health. Ilyukhin, meanwhile, called for a national referendum on whether the post of president should be abolished (Russian agencies, October 26).
“Segodnya” reported in today’s edition (Tuesday, October 27) that the Duma has secretly drafted legislation on state guarantees for the president after his term expires or in the event of his resignation. Were the legislation passed, the president would receive the same pension, social-household and medical benefits as a vice premier. He would also get lifelong membership in the Federation Council, giving him parliamentary immunity from prosecution; the right to speak in both houses of parliament and, at his request, on state television; the right to keep his state dacha and bodyguards, which would also be extended to members of his immediate family. These conditions would be nullified if Yeltsin were impeached.
In a separate article, however, Segodnya said it was unlikely that Yeltsin would leave office before his term expired. “The many presidential aspirants, not to mention the Kremlin itself, are not ready for pre-term elections,” the newspaper stated. Russia’s political elite, it added, was likely to reach “a secret pact” to maintain the status quo, with Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov in the role of “prime minister-vice president” and Yeltsin sitting in his suburban dacha until 2000 (Segodnya, October 27). Meanwhile, two regional leaders–Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev and Tomsk Governor Viktor Kress–spoke out Monday against Yeltsin’s retirement and pre-term elections. But Stroev, in a interview with Spain’s “El Pais,” did call for a more “balanced” distribution of powers between the presidency, the government and parliament, and called on Yeltsin to back this publicly (Russian agencies, October 26).
EVERYONE’S BUILDING COALITIONS.