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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chernomyrdin: Power Balance Needed

Trying to strike a conciliatory tone in a brewing feud over the presidential administration's role in politics at all levels, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin told a group of recently elected governors Tuesday that power should be "rationally" shared between the regions and the center.

"It must be that there is enough power both in Moscow and the regions," said Chernomyrdin, as reported by Itar-Tass. "We will not allow for the return to old economic models."

The Kremlin has had a tough go in this fall's regional elections, with just eight of the 15 candidates it supported getting the voters' approval.

President Boris Yeltsin, in one of his first acts since being taken off the respirator after last Tuesday's heart operation, issued a decree which put his administration in charge of making certain that all elected officials closely follow orders coming from the Kremlin.

The measure is widely regarded as an attempt to cap the activity of the increasingly sovereign-minded regions, especially when it comes to economic matters. The governors are beginning to see the pendulum of power sway back in their direction.

The State Duma, which stands in strong opposition to administration head Anatoly Chubais, has threatened to take the decree to the Constitutional Court. The administration responded Monday by saying the decree was only a concern of the executive branch, in which the Duma had no right to meddle.

Chernomyrdin, in a meeting attended by recently elected Kursk governor and former Russian vice president Alexander Rutskoi, told the governors the only proper economic policy was the one which guaranteed pensioners their monthly checks. "I would least of all like to see that the economic policies of the center and the regions contradicted each other," the prime minister said.

Some analysts said the governors feel more responsible toward their regional economies. In the Far East region of Primorsky Krai, for example, recently elected governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko has repeatedly refused to cooperate with Moscow on a number of issues, and demanded millions of dollars from the center to satisfy striking coal miners.

Meanwhile, Chubais has been working to consolidate the reins of economic power within the president's administration. In a revealing mid-September interview with Izvestia, he stressed that a centralized approach was needed to deal with the country's economic woes.

"It has to do, above all, with the personnel," Chubais said. "'Work with personnel,' to borrow a phrase from the Soviet times, is very poor. Much of what was achieved in the Soviet system, within the party system, needs to be restored, adjusted, of course, for the present-day conditions. And this is precisely the task of the administration."

Nikolai Petrov, an analyst for the Moscow Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Chubais wants to use this presidential decree, as well as the recently formed Emergency Committee on Collecting Taxes, to monitor how the regions comply with national economic policy.

"The president issues decrees to the regions, but at present the center has no power to see that they are implemented," Petrov said.

However, Petrov said the latest war between the center and regional leaders is likely to peter out soon, as Yeltsin might limit his chief of staff's range of activity when he returns to the Kremlin.

"It is difficult to give him a prognosis of success," Petrov said.