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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shumeiko Fails to Win Speaker Vote Outright

The new Federation Council proved split down the middle between strong advocates of regional power and supporters of President Boris Yeltsin on Wednesday, when it narrowly failed to elect his trusted ally, Vladimir Shumeiko, as speaker.

The failure of Shumeiko in two successive votes aimed at choosing a speaker exposed the fault-lines running across the new chamber of Russia's regional elite.

Shumeiko, currently one of Yeltsin's three first deputy prime ministers, missed election by just one vote in a first ballot.

An attempt to vote by telegram by the president of North Ossetia, Akhsarbek Galazov, which would have seen Shumeiko safely elected was ruled out of order.

In a dramatic turnaround Shumeiko then lost support in a second round of voting, gathering 81 votes, while his main contender, Pyotr Romanov, a factory director from the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk who belongs to the conservative Russian National Assembly, collected 79.

No candidate was chosen and the deputies will reconvene Thursday morning to begin the whole process again.

It was obvious that many of the president's allies in the chamber, including some of the 43 Moscow-appointed heads of local administrations, also felt lukewarm about voting for Shumeiko, who is a Kremlin insider.

The liberal governor of Nizhny Novgorod, Boris Nemtsov, who supported Shumeiko's candidature, commented before the vote that the minister was "absolutely a Moscow man," who had cause to be "deeply grateful" to the president.

"What worries me is how he will behave when powers are being distributed between the members of the federation, the government and the president," Nemtsov said.

Despite the vote against Yeltsin, the upper house, which is already informally being called the "Senate" in imitation of the American chamber, kept up its gentlemanly tone Wednesday in stark contrast to the unruly State Duma.

"Practically all the representatives of the Federation Council are from the ranks of the new nomenklatura. They know the rules of the game and can behave themselves," Nemtsov commented of his colleagues.

Even Vasily Starodubtsev, one of the accused in the 1991 coup trial and a deputy from the Tula region, was relatively mild in his speech from the tribune saying that "in a normal state of affairs we could vote for Vladimir Shumeiko."

The military court trying the coup plotters ruled on Wednesday that Starodubtsev and Anatoly Lukyanov, who was elected to the Duma, would not enjoy parliamentary immunity from prosecution, Interfax reported.

With the early signs pointing to a Duma that will aggressively oppose him, Yeltsin will inevitably be forced to rely more on the Federation Council, which makes key government appointments and reviews laws approved by the lower house.

"Through the Federation Council, using its possibilities, he can regulate his work with the State Duma," Ramazan Abdulatipov, the former Supreme Soviet's top official dealing with the regions, said of Yeltsin.

But Abdulatipov hinted that the price for cooperation with the president might well be a change in Moscow's regional policy, which has been strongly centralist.

Yeltsin tried several times to use the support of regional leaders to outflank the former Supreme Soviet last year, but without success as they used the opportunity to play the two branches of power against each other to secure concessions for themselves.

Among the 171 deputies elected to the council from all but three of Russia's 89 regions there is a strong contingent of communists as well as regional critics of Moscow, creating a substantial anti-Yeltsin bloc.