Lone Cabinet Communist Tuleyev Looks Good to All Sides

The appointment of communist ex-presidential candidate and Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev as minister of commonwealth affairs will further divide the communist opposition, but is not likely to herald a policy shift, analysts said Friday.

His appointment Thursday makes Tuleyev, a strident oppositionist who twice ran for president under the rallying cry of "anybody but [President Boris] Yeltsin," the cabinet's lone communist.

"He's completely independent of Zyuganov, and coming into the government he truly brings some of the Zyuganov electorate with him for [Prime Minister Viktor] Chernomyrdin," said Vladimir Pribylovsky, director of the Panorama Informational Research Center. "This will be important if the presidential elections are held earlier."

His appointment is the only concrete result of rumors that Yeltsin and Communist opponent Gennady Zyuganov had struck a deal for a powerful cabinet position.

In this year's presidential race, Tuleyev withdrew and announced his support for Zyuganov before the first round.

The nomination of such a fervent oppositionist may seem like a confusing or contradictory move for the government to make, but both sides indicate they view the appointment as useful.

Rossiiskiye Vesti, the official government newspaper, appeared to agree that the main benefit of the Tuleyev appointment will be his support in upcoming political campaigns. In an editorial published Friday, it wrote that despite "contradictory emotions," the government was pleased to have Tuleyev on its side.

"On the one hand, Tuleyev will be openly disloyal to the president," the editorial read. "But one thing is for sure: This is a powerful enough figure that both the party of power and the opposition are anxious to have him on their sides. So there you go -- it's 1-0 in favor of the former."

Though Zyuganov had earlier opposed the nomination of Tuleyev to a government post, the Communist Party was, at the very least, not displeased with the appointment Friday.

"He will be good for the job," said Nikolai Bindyukov, a Communist deputy in the State Duma who has served on its CIS committee. "He favors integration and will command the respect of politicians in CIS countries."

Tuleyev himself saw advantages and opportunities in the new post.

"I don't feel any inconvenience in taking the new post, because my program, and that of the opposition, coincides with that of the president and the government in CIS matters," he told Interfax on Friday.

During the presidential campaign, Tuleyev had advocated the restoration of the Soviet Union, but now calls that goal "unrealistic."

"Today one should assess events with a sober mind," he told Interfax. "But in general, I want to pursue greater economic and financial integration by taking into consideration common interests."

Tuleyev, an ethnic Turkmen and practicing Moslem who has made a pilgrimage to Mecca, is a logical choice to head the CIS ministry, Pribylovsky said.

"It's a good post for him, because that office truly requires a non-Russian person who can't be accused of being a nationalist or an imperialist," he said. "That Tuleyev speaks better Russian than Yeltsin or Chernomyrdin or Zyuganov is a certainty, but it's written on his face that he's not Russian."