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

The majority of media outlets are of the opinion that the boisterous events of the past week are directly connected with the left opposition’s attempts to use the social situation, which is favorable to the Communists, to the maximum effect. Kommersant-daily published an article entitled “The Left Conspiracy” about Yevgeny Primakov’s negotiations with the leaders of the leftist parties. The paper says, “Letting General Prosecutor Yury Skuratov retain his post is the first step toward realizing the plan to ensure a pre-term (and victorious for the Communists, at that) election no later than July 1999.” In the paper’s opinion, the scandal surrounding Skuratov was used as a way to provoke at least the partial resignation of the acting cabinet, which would inevitably be followed by the Duma’s dissolution and the long-desired election. According to the article, “Skuratov went to take his test in the Federation Council after having been ‘drilled’ by the well-known teacher Viktor Ilyukhin until 5 a.m. on March 17.”

However, as it turns out, the Communists are ready for even more radical actions. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, when interviewed by Interfax on March 19, Gennady Zyuganov promised to “call an extraordinary meeting of the Federation Council and Duma within 24 hours in order to take control of the situation” if any considerable personnel reshuffles took place or the acting government resigned or was dismissed. The paper stresses that the CPRF leader does see such a revolutionary move as illegitimate. Further on, the paper states that, at the same meeting, Zyuganov gave his appraisal of the current changes in society’s moods. In Zyuganov’s opinion, Russia “has taken a sharp turn to the left” and currently already 98% of Russians do not trust President Yeltsin’s policy. Therefore, the left opposition will not sign any political agreement with the president. The main condition on which the left will join the public concord pact is the president’s dismissal. However, as Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev told Selskaya Zhizn’ weekly, despite the fact that “nobody in the Duma is afraid of a pre-term election,” the opposition is still aware of the fact that such a development would mean “more political chaos, another stoppage of the economy, and still more delayed promises to do something to overcome the crisis.” In addition, Seleznev remarked that society should take into consideration the “terrible threats” from “certain people who have provided for their well-being in a fairly comfortable way already,” such as Berezovsky. “These people openly assert that their chief task is to rescue the wealth they have accumulated in illegitimate ways. They are fully aware of the fact that the Duma of the next convocation will be more leftist in its views than the acting one, which means that the moral and legal atmosphere in society will also change, and the General Prosecutor’s Office will investigate all the crimes of this century and bring these cases to their logical conclusions,” says Seleznev. Therefore, he continues, “these people” (to whom he also ascribes the leaders of the rightist movement – Gaidar, Chubais, Nemtsov, Boris Fyodorov, etc.) may “go to all lengths, up to creating artificial situations in which it is possible to introduce presidential governing, dissolving the parliament, and not setting a date for the next presidential election.” In Seleznev’s opinion, one reason for the acting president to declare a state of emergency which would restrict citizens’ civil rights and freedoms might be, for instance, another aggravation of the Chechen conflict. If, on the other hand, things do not go as far as the declaration of a state of emergency, the left opposition takes their victory in the election to be absolutely inevitable. In particular, Alexei Podberezkin, the leader of the Spiritual Heritage movement and one of the relatively liberal members of the opposition, noted in his interview to Komsomolskaya Pravda: “Currently it is in fact not a question whether the left-patriotic opposition will win or not. It will win in one form or another. The question is who will form the majority in this victorious group – relatively speaking, whether there will be more adherents of Zyuganov or Anpilov.” From Podberezkin’s point of view, the greatest drawback to the radical elements who may come to power if there is an aggravation of the situation is that they will be unable to solve any of the existing problems. “Do you know what the problem with radicals is? They use slogans as weapons, while to administer a state you need complicated work, professionalism, and the ability to listen to people and actually hear them and seek compromise with those with whom it is possible at all to do so.” Podberezkin believes that a change of the generation in power is what is needed in this country: “People of a new generation should come to power. In fact, Primakov is the best representative of the former generation, which is now in power. If this generation holds on for a certain time and stabilizes the situation, it will then be replaced by a new wave of people of 40 years of age, already clear-minded and free, and the country will go on developing quietly and without any upheavals.” Podberezkin offers the name of Vladimir Potanin as an example of an administrator of the new wave. “He has very sensible, pragmatic ideas – it is just that few people know about them.”

In an attempt to analyze the reasons for the left opposition’s certainty of its victory, Vek weekly explains the Communists’ position in its own way: “The CPRF has gotten rid of one of its long-standing fears. The shock of October 1993 was irrevocably forgotten in September 1998. The left-traditional opposition has arrived at the conclusion that Yeltsin does not have any tanks at his disposal, and they are not afraid of any other means of convincing.” Upon deciding to avail themselves of the situation at hand, the Communists staked their hopes on “the aggravation of discords within the empire – in 1998 they did nothing, only observed the bickering among the oligarchs and various groupings within the government, and they decided that the regime had already half-buried itself.” Nevertheless, the paper asserts that the Communists’ calculations may fail to justify themselves. They will have a 100% guarantee of obtaining over one-half of the seats in parliament only if electoral attendance is exceptionally low. “If only those voters who are firmly intent on making their choice – about 50 million people – go to the polls, then the CPRF and its allies will receive half of the votes. It will always get its guaranteed 25 million votes.”

Inostranets (Foreigner) weekly writes about the methods being used in the electoral campaign to make people who have not yet made their choice and those who are traditionally indifferent to politics get out and vote. Specialists in public relations are of the opinion that contemporary elections are nothing more than a competition of images. Therefore, it is important to realize exactly what will impress the electorate in the greatest way. Unfortunately, the conditions of Russian voters’ lives are such that only those who are able to point out a concrete person who is guilty for their misfortunes can win over the most marginalized part of the electorate to their side. Therefore, Inostranets states: “One of the major topics of the next election, to all appearances, will be xenophobia.” In the journal’s opinion, the matter lies not so much with brawlers and animalistic anti-Semites like General Makashov as it does with the fact that “brawlers know that they are listened to and heard. Xenophobia has been being insistently incorporated into the people’s consciousness for a long time now. It is being propagated from the highest pulpits by both the powers that be and the press – the latter, unfortunately, being in far from all cases exclusively nationalistic.” As social problems grow, inter-ethnic tension in society is rising, along with xenophobia. “It looks like the ‘Russian time’ has come for xenophobia,” Inostranets writes. The more so as the election – “a time when politicians are ready to perform many vile acts, including playing on the meanest human instincts” – is coming. Meanwhile, the Duma deputies’ absolute concentration on their own political prospects and their superfluous politicization has already frustrated Russian governors, Izvestia writes. Thirty governors and representatives of political parties who are members of the interregional electoral bloc have founded its organizational committee and approved a draft political platform. The senators hope that the new coalition will allow them to promote “the 50% of the deputies who were elected in single-mandate constituencies – 255 people who will be able to bring concrete good to the regions” in the Duma. Apart from that, Konstantin Titov, the leader of the interregional bloc who has more than once attempted to convince Viktor Chernomyrdin that Our Home is Russia (NDR) would find itself in a deadlock “without the regions, without a powerful regional policy, without clear-cut accentuation of the policy of federalism,” has now suddenly suggested that the two movements unite their campaign efforts. Izvestia notes that, apart from the immediate goal of merging, such an alliance might help the senators get out of their current confrontation with the president with the fewest possible losses, taking into consideration Chernomyrdin’s influence in the higher echelons of power, which is obviously increasing now. On the other hand, Segodnya is of the opinion that changing the leadership of Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia) to integrate with NDR may be connected with the movement’s economic program, “a draft of which is being finished up within NDR under the guidance of Vladimir Ryzhkov, the leader of the parliamentary faction.” According to Izvestia, Titov, who obtained the draft in his capacity as chairman of the Federation Council’s budget committee, “has already expressed his envy at the quality of the work of the specialists who compiled the document.” Segodnya also published an interview with Alexander Lebedev, Director of the Russian National Reserve Bank and one of the people who is currently creating NDR’s economic platform. Lebedev expressed the opinion that its lack of an economic program was NDR’s main drawback in the times of Alexander Shokhin: “I get very upset when at meetings of NDR’s political council I hear two-hour-long reports bearing a striking resemblance to the materials of a congress of the CPSS. I would like us to start demonstrating new approaches by our April congress.” As for the purely economic views of Chernomyrdin’s would-be deputy in NDR’s political council, in Lebedev’s opinion, “Our economic policy should be based on reducing the state’s participation in distributing budget money.” Lebedev also said that he thinks that “using Argentina’s experience, which used to be applied in Russia by Boris Fyodorov” is sensible.

The chances of Yevgeny Primakov as a possible participant in the upcoming presidential election continue to be discussed by the central media, despite the fact that the premier once again categorically denied this possibility in his interview to Newsweek, which was reprinted in Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Izvestia, in turn, dedicated a long article to Primakov, in which, in particular, Primakov’s announcement about the necessity of restoring the vertical structure of executive power was analyzed, as well as his statement that “sooner or later governors will be nominated by the president and elected by legislative assemblies.” In Izvestia’s opinion, this suggestion is no less than “a return to the well-tested Soviet plan, according to which the first secretary of a regional Communist Party committee was nominated by the higher organs and nominally ‘elected’ by members of that committee.” The paper states, “The current wave of criticism of the government can be explained not only by the machinations of intriguers (the premier has proved that he knows how to fight them) and not even by economic falls (they are not evident so far), but by the vague anxiety of the electorate, which has suddenly realized for itself that the leader it invited to console and reconcile is, in fact, thinking about rather sharp changes.” Literaturnaya Gazeta has a similar viewpoint – it has published its comments on the thesis of the president’s address to the Federal Assembly. The paper maintains that the address accentuates that the president’s is “categorically against the restoration of Soviet power in any form. He likewise detests any ideas of abolishing parliamentary elections. To all appearances, Yeltsin negatively reacts to the idea of total state regulation, despite the fact that Primakov, whom he nominated for premier, more and more often supports such pretensions.” It is absolutely obvious that the president and premier have different opinions on a number of the most important problems. For instance, the president, just like the premier, is in favor of strengthening the executive vertical structure. “However, judging from the address, he will never abolish free elections.” Therefore, the paper stresses, President Yeltsin remains the guarantor of democratic reforms in this country.

The newspaper Rossia, which belongs to a group of media outlets supervised by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, has an altogether different opinion of the premier’s activities. In the paper’s opinion, Primakov’s merits as an analyst are doubtless and have been proved more than once. However, politics do not comprise analysis alone, and therefore “Primakov’s presidential prospects are vague.”

The president’s meeting with Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of the Yabloko movement, caused vivid arguments in the press. Nezavisimaya Gazeta expressed the opinion that it is unlikely that Yavlinsky will be appointed premier, since his candidacy will not be confirmed by the Duma. “Any attempt to impose this candidacy on the deputies would immediately lead to a protest merging of all the other factions, first of all the Communists and the LDPR. This is hardly profitable as far as the presidential administration’s plans are concerned.” It is likewise unlikely that Yavlinsky will be appointed supervisor of the economic bloc of the government. “It is known that Yabloko professes the command principle of participation in government, insisting on the control of twelve key ministries and departments.” Besides the usual discussions of the chances of all would-be candidates in the presidential race and the fluctuations of their chances under the influence of the rapidly changing political situation, the media are also publishing articles having to do with the structure of Russian power. Moscow News published an article by Sergei Alexeev, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The article analyzes the demands that amendments be introduced into the acting Constitution. Alexeev writes that the Russian Constitution complies with modern democratic standards and was from the very beginning equipped to solve many of the existing problems. In particular, Alexeev thinks it strange to demand that “the government’s administrative role” be increased and that “in this connection it be given its authority by the president.” According to Alexeev, “If we exactly follow the Constitution’s text, administrative functions are already within the scope of the government’s authority as it is.” As for the president’s status, “but for several specified exceptions, it does not include administrative authority at all. The president’s functions as the head of state are not those of ‘administrating’ but of being the guarantor of fundamental democratic values.” The situation is similar with the popular idea of forming governments “of parliamentary majority”. Alexeev notes that the head of the government is confirmed at a Duma meeting, and in this sense the premier is the protegee of the parliamentary majority. Speaking about the possibility of having governments formed by the party which has won the election, this, in the author’s opinion, would mean changing this country’s constitutional organization from a presidential republic to a parliamentary one.

COMMENTS ABOUT THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS IN THE CENTRAL MEDIA

The chances of Yevgeny Primakov as a possible participant in the upcoming presidential election continue to be discussed by the central media, despite the fact that the premier once again categorically denied this possibility in his interview to Newsweek, which was reprinted in Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Izvestia, in turn, dedicated a long article to Primakov, in which, in particular, Primakov’s announcement about the necessity of restoring the vertical structure of executive power was analyzed, as well as his statement that “sooner or later governors will be nominated by the president and elected by legislative assemblies.” In Izvestia’s opinion, this suggestion is no less than “a return to the well-tested Soviet plan, according to which the first secretary of a regional Communist Party committee was nominated by the higher organs and nominally ‘elected’ by members of that committee.” The paper states, “The current wave of criticism of the government can be explained not only by the machinations of intriguers (the premier has proved that he knows how to fight them) and not even by economic falls (they are not evident so far), but by the vague anxiety of the electorate, which has suddenly realized for itself that the leader it invited to console and reconcile is, in fact, thinking about rather sharp changes.” Literaturnaya Gazeta has a similar viewpoint – it has published its comments on the thesis of the president’s address to the Federal Assembly. The paper maintains that the address accentuates that the president’s is “categorically against the restoration of Soviet power in any form. He likewise detests any ideas of abolishing parliamentary elections. To all appearances, Yeltsin negatively reacts to the idea of total state regulation, despite the fact that Primakov, whom he nominated for premier, more and more often supports such pretensions.” It is absolutely obvious that the president and premier have different opinions on a number of the most important problems. For instance, the president, just like the premier, is in favor of strengthening the executive vertical structure. “However, judging from the address, he will never abolish free elections.” Therefore, the paper stresses, President Yeltsin remains the guarantor of democratic reforms in this country.

The newspaper Rossia, which belongs to a group of media outlets supervised by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, has an altogether different opinion of the premier’s activities. In the paper’s opinion, Primakov’s merits as an analyst are doubtless and have been proved more than once. However, politics do not comprise analysis alone, and therefore “Primakov’s presidential prospects are vague.”

The president’s meeting with Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of the Yabloko movement, caused vivid arguments in the press. Nezavisimaya Gazeta expressed the opinion that it is unlikely that Yavlinsky will be appointed premier, since his candidacy will not be confirmed by the Duma. “Any attempt to impose this candidacy on the deputies would immediately lead to a protest merging of all the other factions, first of all the Communists and the LDPR. This is hardly profitable as far as the presidential administration’s plans are concerned.” It is likewise unlikely that Yavlinsky will be appointed supervisor of the economic bloc of the government. “It is known that Yabloko professes the command principle of participation in government, insisting on the control of twelve key ministries and departments.” Besides the usual discussions of the chances of all would-be candidates in the presidential race and the fluctuations of their chances under the influence of the rapidly changing political situation, the media are also publishing articles having to do with the structure of Russian power. Moscow News published an article by Sergei Alexeev, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The article analyzes the demands that amendments be introduced into the acting Constitution. Alexeev writes that the Russian Constitution complies with modern democratic standards and was from the very beginning equipped to solve many of the existing problems. In particular, Alexeev thinks it strange to demand that “the government’s administrative role” be increased and that “in this connection it be given its authority by the president.” According to Alexeev, “If we exactly follow the Constitution’s text, administrative functions are already within the scope of the government’s authority as it is.” As for the president’s status, “but for several specified exceptions, it does not include administrative authority at all. The president’s functions as the head of state are not those of ‘administrating’ but of being the guarantor of fundamental democratic values.” The situation is similar with the popular idea of forming governments “of parliamentary majority”. Alexeev notes that the head of the government is confirmed at a Duma meeting, and in this sense the premier is the protegee of the parliamentary majority. Speaking about the possibility of having governments formed by the party which has won the election, this, in the author’s opinion, would mean changing this country’s constitutional organization from a presidential republic to a parliamentary one.

 

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