HOW THE UPCOMING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS ARE INTERPRETED BY THE CENTRAL MEDIA

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HOW THE UPCOMING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS ARE INTERPRETED BY THE CENTRAL MEDIA

Yevgeny Primakov remains in the spotlight of political analyses and election forecasts in the media. However, the general mood of publications concerning him is gradually changing. More and more attention is now being paid to the complicated relationship between the Premier, the President, and the presidential administration. Hence, at this juncture journalists are appraising Primakov’s chances of becoming the next president. For instance, Izvestia, stressing that the Kremlin is dissatisfied with Primakov’s so-called “St. Petersburg” initiatives, considers these initiatives to be “a call to actually liquidate the federal basis of the state and restore the now-forgotten vertical structure of executive commissions in this country.” The newspaper emphasizes the fact that, as in the case with the “non-aggression pact” (the agreement on political accord between the branches of government until the presidential election in 2000 which were proposed by Primakov of his own accord not long ago – translator’s note), it is absolutely clear that Primakov “not only does not coordinate his political moves with the President beforehand, but even acts contrary to the President’s position.” On the other hand, Izvestia remarks that if, in spite of all of Primakov’s announcements, he still decides to run for president, his current behavior is well justified: in this case “he simply must acquire the image of a public politician, one who acts without concern for the Kremlin.”

Moskovsky Komsomolets, in its attempts to comprehend the logic of Primakov’s behavior (namely that of his continuing denials of the possibility that he will participate in the presidential election), notes, “In theory, President Primakov would be the best-case scenario for Yeltsin’s circle. If Primakov really became president, Boris Yeltsin and his confidants would find themselves surrounded with comfort and respect. However, the unpredictability and sometimes even irrationality of Yeltsin’s behavior are widely known. Thus, nobody in the White House will take the risk of asserting that one fine day Yeltsin will not suddenly decide to fire his Premier. Perhaps that is the reason why Primakov is minding his speech and actions so carefully, lest any of what he does or says should insult the President in any way.”

Obschaya Gazeta also grazes in the pasture of Primakov’s possible dismissal. In the opinion of its journalists, nobody except the Duma opposition would actually have anything against Primakov being sacked. The paper’s sources maintain that the would-be dismissal, if it happens at all, will most probably take place in the fall of 1999, and that Primakov himself would be the first one to have an interest in such a development – by the fall, Primakov “will not have had the chance to bore the President all that much and burden himself with the responsibility for the inevitable economic falls.” On the other hand, there is one person who is hoping for the immediate dismissal of Primakov. This person is Boris Berezovsky, whose relationship with the Premier has acquired the form of a “struggle to exterminate”. Nevertheless, Obschaya Gazeta believes that this war will not bring victory to either side: “Berezovsky will not manage to overthrow the government, and Primakov will not manage to send Berezovsky to jail.” Still, the masters of the struggle have found a worthy opponent in the person of Primakov. “It is still a good question who will defeat whom,” summarizes the paper.

Delovoi Vtornik, the weekly supplement to Trud, writes about the hidden objective of Berezovsky’s power and his influence on the President’s milieu. According to it, members of the CPRF, referring to the results of the work of the impeachment commission, are hoping to use the results it has obtained to institute legal proceedings against Yeltsin after his term in office is over. The would-be trial is planned to be held according to the South Korean model, which means that all “illegitimate earnings” of the President would be returned to the state. It is understandable that such plans do not in the least contribute to the general peace of mind of the President’s family. No reliable information about the size of their personal resources is available, but Delovoi Vtornik maintains, referring to sources among confidants of Berezovsky, that the latter manages an aggregate capital of $13 billion, of which $3 billion belong to him and the rest is entrusted to him by Yeltsin’s family. While stressing again that these figures are very approximate, the paper nevertheless describes the perturbation among the President’s closest circle as follows, “Members of the president’s family are desperately trying to choose a protector for the future who will provide for the inviolability and safety of their capital.” The family’s hopes are divided between Primakov (supported by Yeltsin’s daughter Elena and her husband Valery Okulov) and Berezovsky (the constant advisor to Tatiana Dyatchenklo). At the same time, Yeltsin’s spouse, “whose nervous system is exhausted by her husband’s continuing ailments, has become absolutely confused about what is going on and addresses her requests to Primakov and Berezovsky in turn.” The latter, according to the paper, is trying to avail himself of this situation in order to gain advantages in the struggle against his rival.

Boris Yeltsin’s statement that Primakov will retain his post until 2000 was met with boisterous comments by practically all central newspapers. Kommersant-daily notes that, judging from precedents, the average period separating such statements by Yeltsin and ensuing dismissals of his compatriots is a month and a half. On the other hand, according to the paper, Primakov’s situation differs radically from those of the previous premiers: “The former ones were supported exclusively by the President, who was their omnipotent master. Primakov’s cabinet is supported already not so much by the President as it is by the Federal Assembly.” Thus, the paper asserts, it is simply impossible to dismiss Primakov and avoid a political upheaval in Russia. Thus, Kommersant-daily sticks to the opinion that the sense of Yeltsin’s statement lies in his desire to cultivate the loyalty of the Premier in hopes that Primakov will use his authority in the parliament “so that the impeaching process in Russia ends as ingloriously as it did in the US.”

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the constant opponent of the government, produced its own commentary on the President’s announcement. It poses this question: what would the President gain if he actually dismissed Primakov? Would he acquire instead another acting premier who would not be confirmed by the Duma? Or another rebellion by the left opposition plus Yury Luzhkov in the role of a critic of the President’s power? In the paper’s opinion, without Primakov Yeltsin is sure to “wind up between the political hammer of Luzhkov and anvil of Zyuganov.” In other words, Primakov is being allowed to keep his post merely out of circumstantial considerations. And in order to preserve his favorite system of checks and balances, Yeltsin “will not destroy the other political grouping, conventionally referred to as ‘Berezovsky-Dyatchenko-Borduzha,’ which is the antagonist of Primakov.” We should remark that this is the first time that the name of Nikolai Borduzha, the secretary of the Security Council, has been mentioned as part of “Berezovsky’s grouping”.

In an article about the foundation of the State Oil Company (SOC), Vremya MN offers interesting information concerning the possible sources of financing for Primakov’s would-be presidential campaign (and none of the Moscow analysts doubt that this campaign will happen). The paper holds that the delay in appointing the company’s president can be explained by the government’s well-considered tactics. It is expected that the situation with the appointment will be clarified only closer to winter of 1999, when “everybody’s attention will be focused on the parliamentary election.” The paper expresses certainty that there will be plenty of people willing to become head of the SOC. “However, observers assume that an oil industry professional who is not involved in politics or connected with the oligarchs has the best chances of becoming president of this company. On one condition, though – that he agree to Primakov’s suggestion that the company finance the presidential campaign of himself or the person he chooses with oil resources.”

One of the major topics in the central media is the question of which party will play the role of the “party of power” in the upcoming parliamentary election. Explaining the central press’ interest in this theme, Vek weekly writes, “Evidently, the one representative of the establishment whose party or movement overcomes the parliamentary barrier in the most successful manner will have the chance to play the role of the main and, perhaps, the only candidate in the presidential election.” In fact, the parliamentary election is considered to be a preliminary stage of the upcoming presidential race. However, so far there is no certainty: it turns out that the Otechestvo movement, which at first enjoyed great interest among the political elite, has not secured unanimous support by a long shot, especially in the regions. The regional association Voice of Russia does not yet have a political leader, which is weakening its position despite all the efforts of its founders. Influential regional politicians such as Dmitry Ayatskov and Anatoly Lisitsyn are not in a hurry to drop out of “Our Home is Russia” (NDR), which, according to Vek, was “written off too hastily” by many. This, in the paper’s opinion, is evidence of the movement’s potential. In spite of its permanent image as an opposition party, the CPRF would also not mind becoming the “party of power”. Gennady Zyuganov has even talked casually about the necessity of creating a union of Slavic states on the post-Soviet territory. However, the paper notes that this union, if founded, would open the road to the presidency to Alexander Lukashenko, which, in turn, would weaken the chances of all Russian politicians, and first of all Zyuganov himself. Vek believes that today “the Russian electoral palette” is a mixture of various ideas, projects, and suggestions. “We are only left to make guesses as to what will come out of all of this in the end and what its fate will be,” concludes the paper.

Moscow News weekly, in turn, is of the opinion that the Kremlin has already determined its sympathies as regards the upcoming parliamentary election. In an article titled “The party of power is double-headed again,” the weekly reminds its readers that in 1995 Chernomyrdin’s NDR and the left-centrist bloc of Ivan Rybkin played the role of the two pillars of power. Now these roles will be offered to Sergei Kirienko’s New Force and Konstantin Titov’s Voice of Russia. Officials of the presidential administration expect that democrats and liberals will vote for Kirienko, whereas regional elites, local industrialists, and financiers will give throw in their lots with Titov’s bloc. Thus, almost the entire electorate of sound mind will me covered by these two parties. However, the paper notes that, unlike Kirienko’s party, which gratefully accepted the presidential administration’s offer of help (and is willingly following the image-making instructions it received), the regional readers are taking their time so far. “Their slowness is understandable,” the paper writes. “During the upcoming election, the support of local executive authorities promises to be in high demand. Perhaps they will still find a more profitable and rich client than the acting President.”

When speaking about his attitude towards Primakov’s bloc in an interview to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, the founder of Voice of Russia, was rather outspoken: “I think that the Premier is waiting to see what comes out of our association. When he makes sure that we are doing well he will probably express his opinions on the topic, but so far he is watching the situation. And he is absolutely right in doing so.” As for Luzhkov’s Otechestvo, Titov said that as long ago as 1998 he and the Moscow Mayor concluded a “non-aggression pact”. “We agreed that neither of us would attack the other and that we would not be rude to each other. I realize that we have one common idea – the renaissance of Russia. I see the way to achieve this goal as federalism, whereas Yury Luzhkov has other ideas. We are not enemies, but rather serious competitors.” It is of interest that, in response to the paper’s question about party development, “Is it true that, no matter what party is being organized in Russia, it is still a variant of the CPSU in the end, for instance, Luzhkov’s party?”, Titov said this: “Perhaps it will be difficult to avoid this tendency as far as the organizational aspect is concerned, because in any case no party can do without party structures, without local organizations. But as for the ideological part, we are already past that possibility.”

Luzhkov himself, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, considered it necessary to respond to the rebukes of using “old personnel” in his party structure at a meeting of the central board of his movement. In his words, “After the disintegration of the political system back in the 1980’s, many managing officials capable of solving serious tasks of state management found themselves ousted from state administration and political life in general.” But today, when the country is on the brink of catastrophe, their capabilities should be used to get Russia out of its deadlock. The paper also reports that, in accordance with a decision made by Otechestvo’s central board, the movement’s second congress will take place in one a regional center, most probably Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, or Nizhny Novgorod. The aim of this decision is to “stress the ‘non-Moscow’ focus of the political movement and the fact that it enjoys support not just in Moscow.”

Kommersant-daily reports that Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of the Yabloko movement, is ready to cooperate with Otechestvo as far as “single-mandate constituencies and the tactics and strategy of conducting the electoral campaign” are concerned. Yavlinsky believes that Yabloko and Otechestvo “have complementary electorates which are neither communistic nor nationalistic and which support the ideas of democracy, freedom, and private property.” The paper is rather cautious in appraising Yavlinsky’s plans. In its opinion, “The ‘complementary’ electorate still differs greatly, and forming a uniform party list would seriously lessen the representation of both Yabloko and Otechestvo in the next Duma. At the same time, if the alliance is properly organized it may benefit both sides – Otechestvo may undertake the struggle against Communists in the ‘red’ regions, whereas Yabloko has the best electoral chances in large cities, where Luzhkov’s social-democratic rhetoric is not so effective.”

Practically all publications in the central press dedicated to the upcoming parliamentary election focus on the regional issue. For instance, Segodnya paper writes, “Only recently, there was not a single party which provided the maximum possible coverage of regional interests. Now it seems that at least two parties are ready to claim this role – the already founded association Titov’s ‘Voice of Russia’ may be joined by ‘Shaimiev’s party’.” On the other hand, Titov is certain that he will form an alliance with Shaimiev “at a certain stage.” Which would be only very wise, taking into account that the same electorate, apart from Titov and Shaimiev, is being claimed by not only Luzhkov’s Otechestvo but also Oleg Morozov’s Russian Regions. Thus, the paper remarks, there may be too many players on one and field in the end.

Novye Izvestia reports on the foundation of yet another political movement – Novaya Sila New Force – in Nizhny Novgorod, the hometown of former Premier Sergei Kirienko. By creating this movement, Kirienko has showed himself to be a politician of the conservative trend who is focused on preserving the eternal values: private initiative, private property, the freedom of the individual, and the freedom of speech and the press. Novaya Sila is ready to cooperate with all political associations whose views do not contradict its own. Among possible partners Kirienko names first of all Otechestvo and Yabloko. Kirienko hopes that his movement will enjoy support among representatives of the so-called “New Independent Class”, which consists of not necessarily rich but enterprising and motivated people.

Vek weekly dedicated a long article to the young sector of the electorate, which is remembered on the eve of every election without fail by political parties and movements and is inevitably forgotten by them immediately after the event. Vek lists four categories of youth organizations in Russia: those founded on the directions of the powers that be which are used by young careerists as jumping-off places for their political careers; fake organizations whose aim is to milk various funds for as much money as they can; independent associations which are known for their refractoriness, like Igor Malarov’s RKSM or the notorious Gamayun union; and finally organizations which do not advertise themselves as youth formations and which are mainly of the radical and extremist trends. Despite this variety of youth associations, the paper maintains that Russian youth is “apolitical without exception and politically illiterate.” On average, 2% of young people vote in elections, which is why propaganda actions of the “Choose or lose!” type have no sense: “The majority of participants in the ‘Choose or lose!’ action in 1996 – translator’s note were teenagers of 14 to 16 years of age, who, as is known, have no right to vote.” The paper also writes that, as polls have shown, young people who finally did turn out for the election gave their votes mainly to Lebed, Zhirinovsky, Zyuganov, or against all. “They made their choice – and still lost,” the paper says.

COMMENTS ABOUT THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS IN THE CENTRAL MEDIA

One of the major topics in the central media is the question of which party will play the role of the “party of power” in the upcoming parliamentary election. Explaining the central press’ interest in this theme, Vek weekly writes, “Evidently, the one representative of the establishment whose party or movement overcomes the parliamentary barrier in the most successful manner will have the chance to play the role of the main and, perhaps, the only candidate in the presidential election.” In fact, the parliamentary election is considered to be a preliminary stage of the upcoming presidential race. However, so far there is no certainty: it turns out that the Otechestvo movement, which at first enjoyed great interest among the political elite, has not secured unanimous support by a long shot, especially in the regions. The regional association Voice of Russia does not yet have a political leader, which is weakening its position despite all the efforts of its founders. Influential regional politicians such as Dmitry Ayatskov and Anatoly Lisitsyn are not in a hurry to drop out of “Our Home is Russia” (NDR), which, according to Vek, was “written off too hastily” by many. This, in the paper’s opinion, is evidence of the movement’s potential. In spite of its permanent image as an opposition party, the CPRF would also not mind becoming the “party of power”. Gennady Zyuganov has even talked casually about the necessity of creating a union of Slavic states on the post-Soviet territory. However, the paper notes that this union, if founded, would open the road to the presidency to Alexander Lukashenko, which, in turn, would weaken the chances of all Russian politicians, and first of all Zyuganov himself. Vek believes that today “the Russian electoral palette” is a mixture of various ideas, projects, and suggestions. “We are only left to make guesses as to what will come out of all of this in the end and what its fate will be,” concludes the paper.

Moscow News weekly, in turn, is of the opinion that the Kremlin has already determined its sympathies as regards the upcoming parliamentary election. In an article titled “The party of power is double-headed again,” the weekly reminds its readers that in 1995 Chernomyrdin’s NDR and the left-centrist bloc of Ivan Rybkin played the role of the two pillars of power. Now these roles will be offered to Sergei Kirienko’s New Force and Konstantin Titov’s Voice of Russia. Officials of the presidential administration expect that democrats and liberals will vote for Kirienko, whereas regional elites, local industrialists, and financiers will give throw in their lots with Titov’s bloc. Thus, almost the entire electorate of sound mind will me covered by these two parties. However, the paper notes that, unlike Kirienko’s party, which gratefully accepted the presidential administration’s offer of help (and is willingly following the image-making instructions it received), the regional readers are taking their time so far. “Their slowness is understandable,” the paper writes. “During the upcoming election, the support of local executive authorities promises to be in high demand. Perhaps they will still find a more profitable and rich client than the acting President.”

When speaking about his attitude towards Primakov’s bloc in an interview to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, the founder of Voice of Russia, was rather outspoken: “I think that the Premier is waiting to see what comes out of our association. When he makes sure that we are doing well he will probably express his opinions on the topic, but so far he is watching the situation. And he is absolutely right in doing so.” As for Luzhkov’s Otechestvo, Titov said that as long ago as 1998 he and the Moscow Mayor concluded a “non-aggression pact”. “We agreed that neither of us would attack the other and that we would not be rude to each other. I realize that we have one common idea – the renaissance of Russia. I see the way to achieve this goal as federalism, whereas Yury Luzhkov has other ideas. We are not enemies, but rather serious competitors.” It is of interest that, in response to the paper’s question about party development, “Is it true that, no matter what party is being organized in Russia, it is still a variant of the CPSU in the end, for instance, Luzhkov’s party?”, Titov said this: “Perhaps it will be difficult to avoid this tendency as far as the organizational aspect is concerned, because in any case no party can do without party structures, without local organizations. But as for the ideological part, we are already past that possibility.”

Luzhkov himself, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, considered it necessary to respond to the rebukes of using “old personnel” in his party structure at a meeting of the central board of his movement. In his words, “After the disintegration of the political system back in the 1980’s, many managing officials capable of solving serious tasks of state management found themselves ousted from state administration and political life in general.” But today, when the country is on the brink of catastrophe, their capabilities should be used to get Russia out of its deadlock. The paper also reports that, in accordance with a decision made by Otechestvo’s central board, the movement’s second congress will take place in one a regional center, most probably Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, or Nizhny Novgorod. The aim of this decision is to “stress the ‘non-Moscow’ focus of the political movement and the fact that it enjoys support not just in Moscow.”

Kommersant-daily reports that Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of the Yabloko movement, is ready to cooperate with Otechestvo as far as “single-mandate constituencies and the tactics and strategy of conducting the electoral campaign” are concerned. Yavlinsky believes that Yabloko and Otechestvo “have complementary electorates which are neither communistic nor nationalistic and which support the ideas of democracy, freedom, and private property.” The paper is rather cautious in appraising Yavlinsky’s plans. In its opinion, “The ‘complementary’ electorate still differs greatly, and forming a uniform party list would seriously lessen the representation of both Yabloko and Otechestvo in the next Duma. At the same time, if the alliance is properly organized it may benefit both sides – Otechestvo may undertake the struggle against Communists in the ‘red’ regions, whereas Yabloko has the best electoral chances in large cities, where Luzhkov’s social-democratic rhetoric is not so effective.”

Practically all publications in the central press dedicated to the upcoming parliamentary election focus on the regional issue. For instance, Segodnya paper writes, “Only recently, there was not a single party which provided the maximum possible coverage of regional interests. Now it seems that at least two parties are ready to claim this role – the already founded association Titov’s ‘Voice of Russia’ may be joined by ‘Shaimiev’s party’.” On the other hand, Titov is certain that he will form an alliance with Shaimiev “at a certain stage.” Which would be only very wise, taking into account that the same electorate, apart from Titov and Shaimiev, is being claimed by not only Luzhkov’s Otechestvo but also Oleg Morozov’s Russian Regions. Thus, the paper remarks, there may be too many players on one and field in the end.

Novye Izvestia reports on the foundation of yet another political movement – Novaya Sila New Force – in Nizhny Novgorod, the hometown of former Premier Sergei Kirienko. By creating this movement, Kirienko has showed himself to be a politician of the conservative trend who is focused on preserving the eternal values: private initiative, private property, the freedom of the individual, and the freedom of speech and the press. Novaya Sila is ready to cooperate with all political associations whose views do not contradict its own. Among possible partners Kirienko names first of all Otechestvo and Yabloko. Kirienko hopes that his movement will enjoy support among representatives of the so-called “New Independent Class”, which consists of not necessarily rich but enterprising and motivated people.

Vek weekly dedicated a long article to the young sector of the electorate, which is remembered on the eve of every election without fail by political parties and movements and is inevitably forgotten by them immediately after the event. Vek lists four categories of youth organizations in Russia: those founded on the directions of the powers that be which are used by young careerists as jumping-off places for their political careers; fake organizations whose aim is to milk various funds for as much money as they can; independent associations which are known for their refractoriness, like Igor Malarov’s RKSM or the notorious Gamayun union; and finally organizations which do not advertise themselves as youth formations and which are mainly of the radical and extremist trends. Despite this variety of youth associations, the paper maintains that Russian youth is “apolitical without exception and politically illiterate.” On average, 2% of young people vote in elections, which is why propaganda actions of the “Choose or lose!” type have no sense: “The majority of participants in the ‘Choose or lose!’ action in 1996 – translator’s note were teenagers of 14 to 16 years of age, who, as is known, have no right to vote.” The paper also writes that, as polls have shown, young people who finally did turn out for the election gave their votes mainly to Lebed, Zhirinovsky, Zyuganov, or against all. “They made their choice – and still lost,” the paper says.

 

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