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Vremya MN, April 29, 2003

The implications of Yabloko's call for a Cabinet dismissal

By Semyon Shatskoi

Last Saturday, the Yabloko federal council bureau passed a resolution calling for the Government's dismissal. The demand might have left some room for doubt the seriousness of the party's intentions were - but all doubts must have been dispelled by Grigory Yavlinsky's Easter interview. Yabloko escalated the situation just before the May holidays and the subsequent Presidential address to the Federal Assembly.

The Communist Party is said to have collected 80 signatures from Duma members for a motion calling on a vote of no confidence in the government (90 signatures are required). Now the initiative will have 17 Yabloko votes. However, in his interview, Yavlinsky went beyond the idea of replacing Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov with someone else. He essentially proposed an entirely new agenda - in an election year.

The April 26 resolution includes the standard list of complaints against the Government (standard for Yabloko, that is): the inability to provide security for the nation and its citizens, the failure of the social reforms, anti-social policies which promote the interests of major monopolies and oligarchs...

What is new is that Yabloko proclaims its undisputed readiness to "avert a crisis" and "play an active role in work on the programme of the new government and its practical implementation". This is the first time in its history that Yavlinsky's party has been prepared to officially send its members into the executive branch (barring some populist negotiations with Yeltsin in 1996). On the other hand, the Yabloko leader did not become prime minister four years ago, or eight years ago. Will he become prime minister nowunder Putin?

There are rumours that Yavlinsky may agree to take the second most important Cabinet post - but with the power to sign operational orders. Our sources unanimously say that neither the newspaper article Yavlinsky wrote last year (titled "Demodernisation", criticizing the government's agenda) nor the latest move for a vote of no confidence could have been possible without the president's direct or indirect approval. It is another matter entirely that Putin himself probably needs all this to ensure the prime minister's loyalty until after the parliamentary and presidential elections.

At the same time the Yabloko team or the Yabloko leader may well join a "government of the pro-Putin majority" as junior partner in the potential coalition. The post of deputy prime minister for economic reforms, wielding broad political powers, is a fitting price tag for the leader of a party loyal to the Kremlin.

Yavlinsky wouldn't even be an inconvenience for Alexei Kudrin, the potential candidate for prime minister from the St. Petersburg team. According to Vladimir Lukin of Yabloko, the Cabinet ought to be "a mini-parliament", if it is to be effective in dealing with the nation's problems.

A Cabinet including Grigory Yavlinsky (with or without other Yabloko members) would become less oligarchic and clannish. Yabloko itself would gain the status of "second ruling party", with all the administrative resources that implies. The Kremlin and its United Russia party would benefit from the replacement of the "pipeline Cabinet" at a time when oil prices are about to fall. This move would boost the ratings of both Yabloko and United Russia.

Will the scenario be implemented? It is hard to say at this point. Judging by their initial reaction, the Union of Right-Wing Forces and the People's Party are rather jealous of the initiative, and may refuse to back the Communists and Yabloko in the vote of no confidence motion. Fatherland - All Russia and Unity are clearly waiting for orders from the Kremlin... As always, it is up to Putin. The President has to decide what the nation should witness: maintenance of the status quo and a Communist victory over United Russia in December - or a replacement of the Cabinet on the eve of the elections.


Vremya MN, April 29, 2003

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