The Year 2000 Elections: President Yeltsin Fires the First Salvo

Jyotsna Bakshi,Research Fellow,IDSA

 

Domestic political developments in Russia have occupied the attention of Russia-watchers throughout the world for more than a month beginning with the sudden dismissal of the Chernomyrdin government on March 23, 1998. President Boris Yeltsin has once again demonstrated that he is the most powerful politician in the country. Bold and unpredictable actions are the hallmark of Yeltsin's personality and style. He takes risks, combines steadfastness of purpose with necessary flexibility in tactics and seems to be emerging victorious from every gamble he makes. He shook the country and the world once again by dismissing at half an hour's notice the entire Ministry headed by Viktor Chernomyrdin, his Prime Minister for more than five years. An absolute green horn, 35-year-old Sergei Kiriyenko, the Minister for Fuel and Energy with just one year's experience in the government, was appointed the acting Prime Minister and later confirmed as President Yeltsin's nominee for the post of Prime Minister pending his approval by the Parliament consisting of the State Duma (the Lower House) and the Federation Council (the Upper House). The Communiust-dominated Duma refused to approve Kiriyenko as the country's new Prime Minister in the first two rounds of votes, but did so in the final and crucial third round. President Yeltsin had threatened to dissolve the Duma and order fresh elections in keeping with the constitutional provisions if his nominee was rejected three times. Duma elections are due in 1999. Apparently, the majority of the Deputies did not want to face immediate elections. There is little doubt that intense bargaining and behind the scenes manoeuvring has taken place to ensure Kiriyenko's approval by a reluctant Duma.

Motives Behind Chernomyrdin's Removal

Several motives are attributed to Chernomyrdin's sudden dismissal. Perhaps Yeltsin's "loyal" Prime Minister had taken too much upon himself and had started entertaining Presidential ambitions. At the world economic conference at Davos, Chernomyrdin had sounded almost Presidential. Shortly before his sacking he had completed a highly successful and well-publicised visit to Washington where he had conferred with Vice-President Al Gore, a likely contender for the Presidency in the USA.1 The meeting was construed as one between two future Presidents. During President Yeltsin's frequent bouts of illness, effective control seemed to have passed into the hands of the head of the government to the ire of the former. President Yeltsin was keen to demonstrate to all and sundry that he was the boss and the only power centre in the country. While dismissing the Chernomyrdin government, Yeltsin made it clear that he did not want the members of the Cabinet to indulge in political activity and urged them to focus on concrete economic and social issues.2 Sergei Kiriyenko, known to be a hard-working technocrat with no political ambitions and connections seemed to be the right man.

According to the Russian Constitution, the Prime Minister is No. 2 in the hierarchy and in case of sudden death or incapacity of the President, he becomes the acting President pending Presidential elections to be held within three months. One of the main arguments of the Communist-dominated Duma in rejecting Kiriyeno's nomination in the first two rounds was his youth and inexperience, as in case of the President's death or debilitating sickness, he would not only wield enormous powers but also the control over the nuclear button in the world's number two nuclear power. President Yeltsin, on his part, seems to be sending a message that the future of Russia lies in the hands of the young generation, more prepared to make a complete break from the Communist past. Kiriyenko is regarded to be the first reformist Prime Minister who has the experience of practical work in the market structures in the banking and industrial fields. It has been pointed out that the experience of other young reformers like Yegor Gaidar, Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov was rather of theoretic and administrative nature. From this point of view, Kiriyenko's appointment is seen by some analysts as a big change in the making of the Russian government in the years of the 1990s. Vyacheslav Nikolaev in an Izvestia article calls it the "third liberal revolution". The first "liberal revolution" was associated with Yegor Gaidar, and the second with the Chernomyrdin government and the young reformers Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, who were the first Deputy Premiers in the government.3 The new Prime Minister, Kiriyenko, and some of his young newly-appointed colleagues have the direct experience and feel of the market structures and their functioning in a capitalist economy.

Viktor Chernomyrdin, former chief of the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, was a Soviet era manager who was brought in after the policy of economic "shock therapy" and the introduction of market reforms at "breakneck" speed by pro-West Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar had become extremely unpopular in the country and had led to the growth of Communist and nationalist forces. Viktor Chernomyrdin, who also has his own political party—Our Home is Russia (OUR)—tried to build bridges with different sections of opinion across the broad political spectrum and continued the economic reforms albeit at a slower pace. He succeeded in bringing about macro-economic stabilisation. The steep decline in the GDP to the tune of 40 to 50 percent was arrested and in 1997, the government claimed to have achieved a miniscule growth of around 0.2 per cent in the country's GDP. In fact, in February 1998, the Chernomyrdin government brought out a rather optimistic report setting out the government's socio-economic policy and goals until the year 2000. The report envisaged a 4.5-5 percent growth in the GDP by the year 2000.4 However, the impact of the Asian currency crisis and the recent fall in the world oil prices adversely affected Russia's economy and prospects of quick economic recovery in the near future. Unpaid wage and pension arrears again began to pile up. Reforms in tax and budget and the housing and social sphere seemed to have been frozen. There was no attempt to cut the government expenditure. Privatisation which would have given some additional resources, was not even attempted in this year. On top of it, the government was rocked by scandals (like the book scandal involving Chubais) and in-fighting. It was believed that several government members had become the watchdogs of corporate interests in the Ministry. In such a situation the threat of the Duma to bring a vote of no-confidence against the Chernomyrdin government in the spring this year posed a real threat, and not without any basis and justification. The very authority of President Yeltsin was said to be adversely affected. In his address to the nation, President Yeltsin thus assessed the performance of the Chernomyrdin government:

"The present Cabinet of Ministers on the whole has accomplished the tasks assigned to it, but, unfortunately, it has failed to cope with a number of key issues. True, we have made some progress in the economy, but we are still lagging far behind in the social sphere: people have not yet felt that things are changing for the better. I think that lately the government has clearly been lacking in dynamism, initiative, new concepts and fresh approaches and ideas. And without this it is impossible to make a breakthrough in the economy. In short, this country needs a new team, capable of achieving real, tangible results."5

According to Vyacheslav Nikolayev, President Yeltsin wants to go down in history as a great reformer. However, with a Cabinet headed by Chernomyrdin, it was not possible. Therefore, President Yeltsin took the plunge and gave Russia a new government on March 23. Kiriyenko has no links with the established corporate interests known as the oligarchs in Russia and it is hoped that the policies pursued by his government would reflect the general interests of the country.6

It has also been pointed out that President Yeltsin's decision was also influenced by the frequent comments by the Western leaders who probably asked him why Russia--unlike the post-Communist East European countries—could not proceed forward on the course of "normal" economic development ?

The Year 2000 Elections

That the dismissal of Chernomyrdin is linked with the calculations regarding the year 2000 Presidential elections was made clear by President Yeltsin himself in his address to the nation on March 23. He said that "the 2000 elections are of great importance for us. They are, so to speak, the future of Russia. I have instructed Chernomyrdin" he added, "to concentrate on political preparations for these elections". But it was not made clear as to whose election campaign was referred to—whether President Yeltsin was going to contest again or he had someone else in mind or it was Chernomyrdin who was going to be the official candidate of the present "party of power"?

President Yeltsin's approach to Chernomyrdin has been marked by a peculiar ambivalence. Chernomyrdin was awarded the Order "For Services to the Fatherland" Second Class for his contribution to the development of the Russian state. Yeltsin praised his "soundness and reliability" and added "I have never doubted his loyalty and commitment to the cause of reform and his honesty". But Yeltsin gave Chernomyrdin a mixed rating. The record of the government in the social sphere came in for criticism.7 When subsequently on March 28, Chernomyrdin announced his decision to contest the year 2000 Presidential elections, President Yeltsin's reaction was ambiguous. He seemed to support the decision by saying that as he himself was falling out, "we should strengthen the Kremlin team." But he refused to name Chernomyrdin as his official successor on the plea that successors are chosen in a monarchy and not in a democracy.

The dismissal of the government, in effect, amounted to the removal of only three members, i.e. besides Chernomyrdin himself, that of the First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais and Minister of Interior Anatoly Kulikov. The in-fighting between Chubais and Kulikov—the latter is believed to be closely connected with the big business circles— had become common knowledge. Moreover, Chubais had annoyed and antagonised many people in the country. The Duma particularly had been clamouring for his scalp.

It was made clear that the crucial Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Finance, headed by Yevgeny Primakov, Igor Sergeyev and Mikhail Zadornov respectively, were not to be affected by the government reshuffle. Foreign Minister Primakov, moreover, had always made it clear that the country's foreign policy was Presidential and there was no ego clash with regard to the foreign policy establishment and the conduct of foreign policy.8

Russia's Oligarchs

It is widely agreed that the privatisation of huge state property in the post-Communist Russia has largely benefitted a top few businessmen and bankers, known as semibankirshina (seven bankers), who wield enormous power and influence in the country's economic and political life.9 Small and middle enterprises have not still become numerous and well-entrenched. The country's major newspapers and TV channels are also owned by the Russian and Western tycoons. Russia's "oligarchs" are believed to be closely enmeshed with the powers that be in present-day Russia. The Russian big business—like the giant state enterprises in the Soviet time—are not interested in free competition. In the initial period of transformation of the state controlled economy to a free market economy the emphasis was on privatisation per se. Now with a significant part of the state assets having passed into private hands—that too largely in the hands of a few top business concerns—several economists in Russia and abroad emphasise the need for promoting healthy competition in the economy in order to raise its efficiency and productivity.

In an interview to Financial Times, Russia's business tycoon and former Deputy Secretary of the powerful Security Council, Boris Berezovsky claimed that he had access to the President's ear through the Kremlin's Chief of Staff, Valentin Yumashev and President Yeltsin's daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko. Regarding the dismissal of the Chernomyrdin government, Berezovsky remarked that he and President Yeltsin were "on the same wavelength." Berezovsky particularly welcomed the sacking of Chubais whom he regarded as being responsible for his own removal from the Security Council.10 However, in the intricate game of Kremlin power politics, the dismissal of Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov, close to the Russian oligarchs—the likes of Berezovsky—and the appointment in his place of Sergei Stepashin, known to have no connections with the big business, may be seen as President Yeltsin's move to avoid too much dependence on the oligarchs.

In the aforementioned interview, Berezovsky had said that the Russian big business that had rallied behind President Yeltsin's 1996 election campaign, was earnestly looking for a new Presidential candidate due to President Yeltsin's uncertain health. Prospective Presidential candidates like Alexander Lebed, Moscow's Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and the Communist Party General Secretary Gennady Zyuganov, he said, are not favoured by the big business as they are regarded to be incapable of following the course of reforms. Known reformists like the first Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and Yabloko Party leader Grigory Yavlinsky and even Chernomyrdin are regarded as "unelectable." Berezovsky further added that the Russian big business feels that Chernomyrdin must prove that he is Presidential material by keeping himself afloat without governmental support and prerogatives and further enhance his popular appeal.

Berezovsky's outspokeness and alleged attempts to "influence the personnel decision-making" in forming the new government, were reported to have invoked President Yeltsin's displeasure, who reportedly threatened the Russian billionaire with forced eviction from the country. The President's senior aides and spokesmen tried to hush up the event.11 It is interesting that in the constant musical chairs game taking place around the Kremlin team, the very same Berezovsky has been appointed to the post of the chief of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). His appointment is justified on the ground that the induction of businessmen to the high posts in the CIS executive bodies may be good for business. Berezovsky's name was reported to have surfaced at the time of the recent CIS Summit discussing the issue of a free trade zone in the former Soviet space. Talking to journalists about Berezovsky's appointment, President Yeltsin was reported to have remarked : "Swallow it! It's good for business."12 Apparently, President Yeltsin does not want to irrevocably antagonise new Russia's powerful business tycoons, who had solidly backed his election campaign in 1996.

Duma Speaker Won Over

The Communists, who happen to be the largest single party in the Duma have been repeatedly calling for a coalition government or a national government where their strength in the Duma would be duly reflected. President Yeltsin categorically rejected the idea. But in a bid to get his nominee for the Prime Ministership approved, President Yeltsin did make a conciliatory gesture to the Duma and the Federation Council. He invited the Speakers of the two Houses—Gennady Seleznev of the Duma and Yegor Stroyev of the Federation Council—for "round table talks" of the "four" consisting of the President, the acting Premier and the Speakers of the two Houses. This characterised the evolution of the Russian system from the earlier political culture of diktat and coercion reflected in the October 1993 storming of the Russian Parliament to a more democratic way of resolving differences through talks on the basis of mutual give and take and compromise. What exactly transpired during the talks is not known. But following his talks with Yelstsin, the Communist Speaker of the Duma, Gennady Seleznev was apparently won over. On April 14, Seleznov surprised everyone by calling on his colleagues to vote for Sergei Kiriyenko. The life of the present Duma, said Seleznev, was much more important to him than who becomes the Prime Minister. The Duma Speaker was reported to have asked the President to furnish a list of several candidates for Premiership from which the Duma should be allowed to choose one. But the President was adamant on having Kiriyenko only and threatened to dissolve the Duma if his candidate was not approved. It was widely commented in the media that Seleznev had shifted allegiance to the government's side and that he had divided the ranks of the Communists. It was also conjectured that as a reward for his services, President Yeltsin has offered to groom the 50-year-old Communist leader as his successor. Like Yeltsin, Seleznev also hails from Sverdlovsk region. Seleznev is regarded as the representative of the social democratic wing of the Russian Communist Party, although such a wing has not been officially formalised as yet. He is not an orthodox Communist like Valentin Kuptsov and Anatoly Lukyanov.13

In the crucial third round of vote on April 24, the Duma approved the nomination of Sergei Kiriyenko as the country's new Prime Minister by 251 votes in comparison with the requisite 226, with only 25 Deputies voting against and the rest abstaining in the 450-member House. The final vote was held by secret ballot. The results show that a number of Communist Deputies also voted for Kiriyenko in defiance of the decision of the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Party. In the first two rounds of votes only 143 and 115 Deputies respectively had voted for him. The Russian media was full of speculations regarding the lure of government posts and offers of money to win over the support of the Deputies for the President's nominee for the post of Prime Ministership. One thing at least is clear, that the Communist Deputies have preferred to save their Duma membership rather than face immediate elections, although the media predicted that in view of continuing economic hardships faced by a large number of people, the Communists were likely to improve their standing if fresh elections to the Duma were held in the near future. Perhaps the Russian Communists are turning pink and preferring the cosy comfort of being in harmony with the Kremlin establishment rather than posing irreconciliable opposition to it. The one person left high and dry was the Communist Party General Secretary, Gennady Zyuganov, who had posed a close political challenge to Yeltsin in the 1996 Presidential elections. The Duma voting on Kiriyenko is seen as likely to adversely affect Zyuganov's chances in the next Presidential elections also.14

Strong Executive with a Weak Legislature

The events of March-April once again clearly demonstrated that the Russian political system is characterised by a very strong executive branch headed by the President and a rather weak Parliament. In fact, Vladimir Ryzhkov, the First Deputy Speaker of the State Duma, remarked that in Russia the executive branch wields 85-90 percent of the power, while the legislative and judicial branches have just 10-15 percent of the power. And it is the bureaucracy that really rules the country. According to him, the Russian system seems to be evolving along the South Korean model where a few big corporations, such as Daewoo, LG and Samsung, control 90 percent of the country's economy. Politically South Korea is controlled by the bureaucracy and has a rubberstamp Parliament. However, Russia's case is somewhat different from South Korea as, according to Ryzhkov, although the "oligarchy" is powerful and influential in Russia, the real leviathan is still the executive branch of power. It could choke any oligarch by cutting off budget funds and could create "seven" new oligarchs tomorrow if it liked.15

By dismissing Chernomyrdin and appointing in his place an apolitical technocrat, President Yeltsin has sought to strip the Cabinet of its status as a centre of political power. With the young Prime Minister beholden to him for everything, the President occupies the centre-stage. It has been clearly demonstrated that the political power vests in the President. The Cabinet is there to execute the tasks assigned to it. President Yeltsin does not want a Cabinet with strong political players in it but one largely comprising managers and executives. However, after having assserted his authority and power, and having ensured that he has a completely loyal and friendly team, President Yeltsin is prepared to give greater functional autonomy to the new Prime Minister, which was denied to his predecessor. Thus, on May 4, the President signed a decree "On Relations and the Procedure for the Interaction Between the Presidential Administration and the Government," whereby the government resolutions would be signed by the Prime Minister and that would suffice. They would not have to be counter-signed by the Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration and the head of the Legal Department of the Administration. The government would be responsible for its actions to the President and the country. The main task before the new Ministry is to tackle a very difficult economic situation. Kiriyenko's government is confronted with the need to take tough economic measures to bring a modicum of normalcy and realism in the country's budgetary processes, tax and revenue systems and and greatly slash government expenditure.

From his unique position of undisputed power the President can seek to balance different interests and forces in the political arena—and personalities reflecting them—against one another. The diverse political interests in the country may broadly be described as Russia's newly-emerged big business or the oligarchs, regional interests represented in the Federation Council, the interests of Russia's professional and service classes and the interests of the parties and groupings that come under the broad category of the left—the Communists and other fellow travellers—that continue to be strong in the country, with a mass base and appeal. It was widely speculated that as a concession to the left-wingers in the Duma for supporting his nominee for Prime Ministership President Yeltsin would not appoint Anatoly Chubais as the Chairman of Russia's large monopoly, the Unified Energy System (UES). Chubais had played a very significant role in Yeltsin's 1996 election campaign. It seems that Yeltsin has not succumbed to the detractors of Chubais and has gone ahead in appointing him the head of the Unified Energy System and ensured that the latter remains a part of the Presidential team. On the other hand, as has been mentioned earlier, Boris Berezovsky —whose antipathy to Chubais is known—is also retained within the system as the Executive Secretary of the CIS. Another young reformer, the First Deputy Premier Boris Nemtsov—the former chief of Kiriyenko in the Ministry of Fuel and Energy—has been retained in the new Ministry despite strong opposition by the Duma. President Yeltsin and the young Prime Minister are reported to have agreed to respect the widespread sentiment in the Duma against further hasty privatisation of state monopoly concerns. But the presence of young reformers in charge of economic Ministries along with the young technocrat Prime Minister are aimed at continuing the market-oriented reforms with speed and a clear sense of direction.16

President Yeltsin's Gains

President Yeltsin has repeatedly said that he would not contest the next Presidential elections. The Russian Constitution also limits a President to two terms in office. But his contesting again is not entirely ruled out. The issue is before the Constitutional Court currently, as to whether his first term as the President should be counted or not as he was elected for the first time under the Soviet system, a different country which is now no more. Yeltsin's renewed emphasis on the social issues, the urgency to pay pension and wage arrears and improve the lot of the average Russian are clearly aimed at enhancing his popular appeal. The entire blame for failing at the social front is put on the outgoing Ministry. President Yeltsin—like the old Tsar or the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union—can do no wrong.

It appears that in one master stroke President Yeltsin has succeeded in dividing and confusing his biggest opponents, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, and marginalising his prospective rivals like the former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Having been frustrated by the Duma's final approval of the Presidential nominee, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Russia, Gennady Zyuganov, has declared his new strategy to shift work to labour collectives, streets, squares, coal fields, ports, and student lecture rooms in order to mobilise the masses behind the Party, voice their concerns and organise protest actions in favour of their demands.17 The success or otherwise of the Communists would depend on how the economic situation shapes up in the coming two years. Russia's Communists seem to be divided at the moment between the hardliners and an emerging "social democratic wing" of the party with the latter adopting a softer approach towards the government. Significantly, unlike the situation on the eve of the 1996 Presidential election, the "anti-Communist" and "democratic" forces seem to be equally divided and working at cross purposes. Thus, it is reported that some of the business tycoons are supporting Chernomyrdin, for example, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky, Boris Berezovsky, etc., while others like Potanin, Vinogradov, Alekperov, etc. have rallied behind the popular Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov.18

General Lebed, who for a short period in 1996 was made the powerful Secretary of the Russian Security Council and declared "heir-apparent" of Yeltsin so that his 15 percent votebank could be available to Yeltsin to ensure the latter's victory in the run-off elections in July 1996 over his Communist rival Gennady Zyuganov, has had the bitter experience of being removed from office after the purpose was served. Lebed is trying to make a political comeback by trying to win the Governorship of the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk. Lebed is a law and order man and his major appeal is to the bruised nationalist sentiment of the Russians. It is reported that Berezovsky, who is otherwise regarded to be a supporter of Chernomyrdin, is also supporting Lebed in the latter's campaign for the Governorship of Krasnoyarsk. According to Berezovsky himself his support for Lebed emanates from a desire to neutralise the popular and dynamic mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, who is also believed to be a Presidential hopeful for the 2000 elections and whose main appeal is also to Russian nationalism. Luzhkov, of late, has advocated the cause of the Russian-speaking people in Latvia.

The present Russian Constitution stipulates that in order to get elected a Presidential candidate must have more than 50 per cent of the votes cast i.e. the absolute majority. In case no single candidate gets the requisite majority in the first round, then a second run-off election takes place between the first two candidates and whosoever gets more than 50 per cent votes cast is declared elected. It is thereby ensured that one of the most powerful Presidents in the world has the backing of the majority of the electorate. This would inevitably necessitate a coalescing of major political parties, groupings and forces in the country. In 1996, Russia's nouveau-riche big business houses and bankers stood solidly behind Yeltsin in a bid to ensure that the Communists did not come to power again. The Western countries and the international financial institutions controlled by them made it clear that aid to Russia would be denied if the Communists returned to power. Moreover, many people in the increasingly stratified Russian society voted for Yeltsin as they probably gained from the systemic transformation and did not want a return to the totalitarian past. It is generally believed that Russia's Communists and fellow sympathisers have influence over around 30 percent of the population impoverished by post-Soviet economic transformation and decline. In the wake of recent developments, it appears that the Russian Communists may not be able to mount the same united challenge in the year 2000 Presidential elections as they did in the 1996 elections. The so-called democratic forces are also not united behind one single candidate. It is likely that these forces would join hands again during the crucial run-off elections in order to ensure that the political power and the riches amassed by them remain in their hands.

Perhaps President Yeltsin—the master manoeuvrer that he is—was trying to test the political waters before the year 2000 elections by embarking on the gamble of dismissing the Chernomyrdin government. The two have, no doubt, parted company for the present. The former Prime Minister has declared that he would contest the year 2000 Presidential elections and would no longer remain in the President's shadow. But knowing full well the electoral arithmetic, neither Yeltsin nor Chernomyrdin have burnt bridges with each other. The recent developments have proved that President Yeltsin remains the most powerful political personality in the country and is likely to play a major role in the next Presidential elections whether he himself contests the elections—his health permitting, of course—or backs a successor whom he trusts. Like an accomplished magician, President Yeltsin may be having several surprises up his sleeve—perhaps other Presidential hopefuls who would balance and cut into each other's votes. The crucial issue is that socio-economic and political issues in Russia are decided through the ballot rather than through the bullet and other coercive methods as was the case in the past.

 

Notes

1. Detailed and comprehensive Russia-U.S. talks have been taking place for quite some time within the framework of the Chernomyrdin-Gore Commission.

2. Text of President Yeltsin's address to the nation announcing the dismissal of the Chernomyrdin government in Rossiskaya Gazeta, March 24, 1998.

3. Vyachslav Nikolayev, "Tretyya liberalnaya revolyutsia," Izvestia, March 31, 1998.

4. Rossiskaya Gazeta, February 26, 1998.

5. n. 2.

6. Nikolayev, n. 3.

7. President Yeltsin's March 23, address, n. 2.

8. For an account of the crucial role played by foreign policy in Russia, see Jyotsna Bakshi," Russia: Foreign Policy Comes to the Aid of Domestic Policy," Strategic Analysis, May 1998, pp. 307-313.

9. International Herald Tribune, April 25, 26, 1998.

10. Financial Times, March 25, 1998.

11. Commersant Daily, April 15, 1998.

12. Commersant Daily, April 30, 1998.

13. Interfax Argumenty i FAkty, No. 16, April 1998. During his meeting with Seleznev, President Yeltsin was reported to have said that pension-age politicians should not rule Russia. It may be remembered that Chernomyrdin is already 60, Moscow's influential Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov is over 60 and the Speaker of the Federation Council, Yegor Stroyev is 61, while Seleznev is just 50.

14. Segodnya, April 25, 1998.

15. Argumenty i FAkty, n. 18, May 1998. According to Ryzhkov the "Asian model" built on the "collusion of a handful of tycoons" has systemic flaws, which may cause it to collapse as was the case with Indonesia.

16. The U.S. establishment is reported to have welcomed Sergei Kiriyenko's appointment as the Prime Minister, calling him "the most reformist in the seven years of Russian democracy." See The Hindu, May 13, 1998.

17. Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 7, 1998.

18. Commersant Daily, April 21, 1998, Komsomolskaya Pravda, May 7, 1998.