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Context of 'December 19, 1999: Pro-Kremlin Parties Win Parliamentary Elections'

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Yeltsin and PutinYeltsin and Putin [Source: BBC]Russian President Boris Yeltsin dismisses his prime minister, Sergei Stepashin, and the entire Russian government, naming Vladimir Putin as acting prime minister. Putin is the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), which is the new name of the KGB. (BBC 8/9/1999) For many observers, Stepashin was dismissed because he had been unable to become a politically viable heir to Yeltsin, who must step down in 2001. Putin, who is unknown to the public, seems to have been hand-picked mainly for his loyalty. (Bohlen 8/10/1999) The Russian news service Park.ru offers this fairly representative analysis: “Only a trusted person from one of the ‘power ministries’ can ensure the safety of Yeltsin’s entourage after his term in office, and the former FSB boss can prove indispensable.” (BBC 8/9/1999)

Yevgeny Primakov.Yevgeny Primakov. [Source: BBC (2000)]Yevgeny Primakov, who was Russian prime minister until he was summarily dismissed by President Boris Yeltsin in May 1999, announces that he will lead Yuri Luzhkov’s Fatherland-All Russia party for the upcoming Duma elections in December. Polls indicate Primakov is the country’s most trusted politician. He has demonstrated his willingness to investigate corruption. The Primakov-Luzhkov alliance threatens the Kremlin’s plans for a political succession that would protect Yeltsin’s entourage after the next presidential elections, scheduled for June 2000. But in an attempt to re-assure the Kremlin, Primakov proposes a new law guaranteeing “full security and a worthy life” to presidents after they leave office. Reports the New York Times: “That last proposal was an obvious olive branch to Mr. Yeltsin and his presidential administration, whose increasingly desperate battle to influence the choice of a presidential successor is widely thought to be driven by concern for their own future.” (Bohlen 8/18/1999)

A coalition of pro-government parties unexpectedly wins elections to the Duma, the Russian parliament. The Chechnya War, according to all observers, was the main factor in turning the electorate in the Kremlin’s favor. “The Chechen war—loudly criticized in the West for its brutal bombardments of civilians—has galvanized Russian public opinion and, according to most political experts, turned the national debate away from a search for social stability toward an endorsement for a strong state, headed by a strong leader. That shift in the national mood has been answered by [Russian Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin”, says the New York Times. (Bohlen 12/20/1999) In addition, during the campaign, the opposition led by Yuri Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow, and Yevgeny Primakov, a former prime minister removed from office by President Yeltsin in early 1999, was pummeled by hostile media reports from pro-Kremlin news organizations, in particular Boris Berezovsky’s ORT television network. (Bohlen 12/15/1999)


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