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Western Press Review: Yeltsin's Problems With Duma Heighten Uncertainty

Prague, 23 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Western press comments today focus on Russian President Boris Yeltsin's problems with the State Duma. The lower house of Russia's legislative assembly yesterday failed to unseat him. But another vote is possible.

WASHINGTON POST: A storm is gathering offstage in Moscow

Jim Hoagland writes today that "the longer Mr. Yeltsin holds on, infirm but still in office, the better it is for Mr. (Aleksandr) Lebed's rivals and for those like Mr. (Aleksandr) Rutskoi who have just arrived at the political trough and are still organizing their power and rewards." He says that "an intense, real power struggle is already being waged in the shadows in Moscow....a storm is gathering offstage in Moscow -- outsiders are not likely to be able to ignore it much longer."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Russia's parliament paraded its political irrelevance

Carol Williams writing from Moscow says "parading its political irrelevance as proudly as the emperor who wore no clothes, Russia's lower house of parliament launched an impeachment motion against President Boris Yeltsin yesterday only to watch it fizzle amid the deputies' legendary discord." She continues: "the theatrics, replete with ultranationalist insults and temper tantrums, skirted the larger and more relevant issue of how much power should be vested in a single public office for which there is no viable mechanism for impeachment."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: How long can Yeltsin continue taking health risks?

An unsigned editorial says Yeltsin "should ask himself how long he should continue taking such risks" as returning to work at the Kremlin before having recovered from pneumonia. "How long he can expect his countrymen to continue in uncertainty over his ability to rule?" the German daily asks, warning that Yeltsin's threat to take countermeasures if the State Duma persists in its attempts to unseat him recalls his forcible dissolution of the Supreme Soviet in October 1993. The editorial concludes that this threat, "will only further poison the political climate."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Yeltsin is barely able to rule and is being propped up

An editorial in the Munich paper says "there is hardly any doubt left that Boris Yeltsin really is barely able to rule.... The Tsar is as good as dead, but as long as he is propped up from behind... everything will remain the same. Greetings from Chernenko."

LE FIGARO: Adversity and danger have been Yeltsin's best cures

In a similar vein, Irina de Chikoff writing from Moscow comments "the Russian head of state's having the blues are legendary and take on Shakespearean dimensions. Adversity, danger, and a radical opposition have always been the best cure for Yeltsin's recurrently ailing spleen."

TIMES OF LONDON: Yeltsin's brief return to the Kremlin didn't do much

The paper's Richard Beeston writing from Moscow remarks "the public debate about the Russian leader's state of health, after an absence of nearly seven months, first with a heart condition and now with pneumonia, dealt a humiliating blow to President Yeltsin's battered prestige." The Times says "it is not clear that his brief return to the Kremlin did much to reassure the public, particularly since it was not filmed for television, suggesting that he must look and sound very weak."


Yesterday's state of the nation address by ailing Croatian President Franjo Tudjman also attracted the attention of Western press commentators.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Tudjman is not expected to live many more months

The paper's Tom Hundley in Zagreb, says "Tudjman is not expected to live many more months... (in his) final act on this planet, he would like to physically remove Croatia from the rough-and-tumble Balkans and transplant it to some quiet patch of Western Europe." Hundley continues that "unable, of course, to perform such terrestrial magic, Tudjman has opted simply to ignore geographical reality and pretend his nation is, politically at least, no longer a neighbor or blood relative of war-ravaged former Yugoslavia."

Hundley says that Tudjman, "had nothing to say in his state of the nation address yesterday about Croatia after his passing, so these questions remain: Will the passing of the 74-year-old nationalist mean the end of one-party rule in Croatia and a move to toward genuine democracy? Or will hard-line HDZ nationalists, not known for their commitment to democracy, make a strong bid to extend the party's dominance of Croatia's political life?"

DAILY TELEGRAPH: Tudjman left the country dangling

The paper's Robert Fox writing from Belgrade comments that Tudjman's speech "bore the stamp of a crisis postponed." He says "many Croatians may feel that yesterday Tudjman left them and their country dangling in the breeze."

DIE WELT: Does the West want to sacrifice the most promising for the benefit of the lesser developed?

But Carl Gustav Stroehm in an editorial today rejects this view. He defends Tudjman and says that "putting the Croats in the same bag with Bulgarians, Albanians and the Serbs to boot, as in Tito's day sacrificing the developed and economically most promising for the benefit of the lesser developed -- can this be the intention of European and Western politicians?"