Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Russian nationalist parliamentarian, predicted yesterday that President Boris Yeltsin will run for a third term in office in 2000 and that his opponent in the final round will be retired General Aleksandr Lebed. (Itar-Tass, May 13) Lebed is currently running for governor in Krasnoyarsk Krai, where the final round of the election will be held on May 17.
Russia’s Constitutional Court has not yet ruled on the legality of a third term for Yeltsin, whose health may also rule out a further presidential bid. Yeltsin’s family is considered likely to oppose his running for a third term, though most observers assume that Yeltsin himself will want to run. Lebed has said he will not run for president in 2000 if he is defeated in Krasnoyarsk on Sunday.
Until Lebed decided to run in Krasnoyarsk, the received wisdom was that Russia’s next presidential election would be won by “whoever runs against Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov in the second round.” The likelihood that Lebed will upset this equation explains this week’s decision by the Central Committee of Russia’s Communist Party to throw its weight behind the reformist incumbent in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Vitaly Zubov. Zubov has promised that, if he wins a new term, he will set up a coalition “government of popular trust” and co-opt leading communists into it.
Zyuganov told a press conference in Moscow yesterday that Lebed would be “a threat to all of Russia” if he were elected in Krasnoyarsk. Zyuganov said Krasnoyarsk Krai is “a self-sufficient entity able to dictate terms to the center” and, if Lebed is elected there, “he will start dictating terms to the Kremlin as early as tomorrow.” (Itar-Tass, May 13) The communists have long been calling on President Yeltsin to set up a coalition government at the national level, but he has ignored their demands. Nor have the communists experimented with a coalition in any of the regions under their control. Their support for Zubov’s reelection is most likely fueled, therefore, less by interest in a coalition government and more by fears about the possible obliteration of their party to which Zhirinovsky referred.
INVESTIGATORS WANT TO QUESTION FORMER PRIVATIZATION CHIEF.