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Russia: Duma Likely To Vote Down Chernomyrdin Today

Moscow, 31 August 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The State Duma, lower house of Russian parliament, is to vote today whether to approve Viktor Chernomyrdin as a new prime minister. Most politicians say the vote is likely to be negative. Some predict that the failure to form a government soon may lead to public protests.

Yeltsin's parliamentary representative Aleksandr Kotenkov said that "it is most likely that deputies will reject Chernomyrdin today."

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said his faction --the largest in the Duma-- would vote against Chernomyrdin's appointment. Similar statements were made by Nikolai Ryzhkov, leader of People's Power, and Nikolai Kharitonov, head of the Agrarian faction.

Pro-reform leader of Yabloko group, Grigory Yavlinsky, was ready to cast a negative vote as was the leader of the nationalist Liberal and Democratic group, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who said that "no more than 100-120 deputies" would vote for Chernomyrdin today .

Zyuganov, talking to journalists in the Duma this morning, hinted that he was ready for more negotiations. But he also said that the leftist coalition may propose its own candidate for prime minister. The names of Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, a former communist, acting industry minister Yuri Maslyukov, also a communist, and of Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, are said to have been among those considered.

Another communist politician, security committee chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, said that the Duma would approve Chernomyrdin only if Yeltsin gave "full guarantees" that he was ready to step down. Ilyukhin added that the communists insisted on several important portfolios as well.

President Boris Yeltsin met Chernomyrdin and communist Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev this morning, possibly in a last attempt to come to an agreement.

Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky said following the meeting that Yeltsin expressed concern at the Duma's refusal to come to an agreement after the Kremlin had expressed its readiness to come to what he called an "unprecedented compromise" with its left opposition.

Numerous deputies have been critical of a yesterday's statement by Yeltsin that he would set up a commission to study possible constitutional amendments, presumably limiting presidential powers. Speaking in the Duma today, deputies said the proposal amounted to no more than an attempt to influence the vote on Chernomyrdin.

Aleksandr Shokhin, parliamentary leader of the Our Home is Russia group, said that the Duma would likely act in the say manner as it had done in approving Sergei Kiriyenko in April. "Chernomyrdin will not be approved today," he said ,"but within two weeks we'll have a prime minister."

Oleg Morozov, leader of the centrist Russian regions group, was more blunt. He predicted that, if the position of all those opposed to Chernomyrdin does not change, "the president will have no other option than to dissolve the Duma ." Morozov said the communist's position could be explained in two ways: "either it is a position of principle, in which case we are in a situation of acute political confrontation, or the communists want more consultation and bargain on ministerial portfolios, and this is a sign of madness."

According to the Constitution, if the Duma rejects the president's candidate three times the president must dissolve the parliament and call early elections. This is unlikely in the current situation, however, with the president politically weakened by the crisis.

In the past, both the Duma and the Kremlin avoided confrontation, and analysts explained that early elections could have had disastrous consequences for both sides, bringing ultra-nationalists to parliament and wiping moderate communist and centrist forces away from the political scene.

Morozov and Yeltsin's parliamentary representative Aleksandr Kotenkov, said that in the absence of any agreement between various parties, "we are likely to see dangerous popular discontent in the near future."