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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fyodorov Seeks Role As Opposition Chief

Former Finance Minister Boris Fyodorov laid claim Monday to the leadership of a united democratic opposition to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's government, saying he would like to become prime minister after next year's parliamentary election.

Fyodorov underscored his rift with the most influential pro-reform leader Yegor Gaidar, sharply criticizing his support of the government and calling for reformists to unite as an opposition force, a call likely to be ignored by many democrats.

Gaidar on Monday reiterated his support for the Chernomyrdin government as a coalition cabinet that reflects today's political reality.

"Most democrats have a hard time realizing that they do not hold power," Fyodorov said Monday. "We cannot let the communists and nationalists monopolize the term 'opposition.'

"Can you imagine Gus Hall and Angela Davis as the only opposition force in the United States?"

Fyodorov, who was himself elected to the Duma on the Russia's Choice ticket, early this year joined a splinter group of 26 deputies who did not see Gaidar as radical enough. Fyodorov has ever since pushed for a more active political strategy for the democrats, who he says have become "defeatist" and "bent on compromises."

"It would have been stupid if I had left the government in order to support it," Fyodorov, who resigned as finance minister in January, told a press conference Monday. "Why did Gaidar leave the government, too, if he supports it?"

Fyodorov said that his immediate goal was to win the parliamentary election scheduled for 1995, saying a victory would entitle him to the rank of prime minister. He said the 1996 presidential election was too far off to say whether he would run for top office.Fyodorov vehemently attacked Chernomyrdin's government, making good on a recent promise to learn populist rhetoric from Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who Fyodorov claims usurped the title "Liberal-Democratic" for his ultranationalist party.

The ex-minister said he could not support a government of bland bureaucrats who failed to address the nation's burning problems such as poverty and the housing shortage.

"The number of bureaucrats in Moscow, however, keeps growing," Fyodorov. "There are more of them now than there were in Soviet times."

"I will shake Gaidar's hand when he opens his eyes to what is actually happening in this country," Fyodorov added.

But he said he would abstain when the Duma inevitably puts the question of confidence in the government to the vote during its fall session.

"You vote against the government when you see a chance that the next one will be better," Fyodorov said.

Gaidar, responding to his former ally's statements, said Fyodorov's group was so small it could afford to vote any way it wants on the government without doing any damage.

"The faction is so small it can afford to take some flashy, irresponsible steps," Gaidar said, adding that if Russia's Choice voted no confidence in the government, that would bring it down and create the possibility of anti-reform forces coming to power.