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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Elections Means No Popular Trust

It has been common talk for some time in the corridors of the Kremlin and of parliament's several homes that the next round of elections planned for the end of 1995 and 1996 should be put off. Nobody wanted to be the first to say it, but on Tuesday Vladimir Shumeiko did the dirty deed. Shumeiko heads the Federation Council, which is the one body that would not be up for re-election, making it easier for him to act as point man on this particularly sticky issue. The council, after being elected for its first term, is in future to be appointed but of course there are no guarantees that the present elected membership would be chosen to stay on. The State Duma, parliament's lower house, is due for election in December 1995 and Ivan Rybkin, the Duma's speaker, promptly agreed after Shumeiko's speech that it would be a good idea to extend the Duma's term by another two years. That leaves President Boris Yeltsin, whose aides have been whispering that it would be a good idea to delay elections to the post by two years from their scheduled date in June 1996. Shumeiko stopped short of saying what Yeltsin thinks on the subject, but he did say that he believed the president should stay on in the job longer. One need not be a cynic to see this as a suspiciously convenient scenario all round. The president and two chambers of parliament would all get to keep their positions for a further two years, which in the context of Russian politics could mean a lifetime. Only those with unusual faith in the electoral system or immediate presidential ambitions -- for example Vladimir Zhirinovsky -- are likely to object. With some effort one can see merit in Shumeiko's argument that the parliament is unnaturally young; it would have been in power a mere two years when elections are due in 1995. He also said the country is in too unstable a condition to undergo another election campaign so soon after the last. Yet there will be a heavy price to pay for arbitrarily prolonging the term of Russia's current authorities. The nation's leaders will be seen as blatantly flouting the constitution for their own interests, undermining any progress that might be underway in developing respect for the rule of law in Russia. Postponing elections would also confirm the already deep suspicion in the minds of most Russians that the current leaders are apparatchiks, no different from their Communist predecessors, who are concerned above all with feathering their nests. In Russia, it is especially important that the government should be seen to respect the law. Until they have reason to believe otherwise citizens will remain deeply cynical about their leaders and all too susceptible to the lure of populists such as Zhirinovsky.