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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Can Win Allies in A Coalition

Despite Boris Yeltsin's convincing election win, the calls for a coalition government that were leitmotifs of the campaign are still being sounded both in Yeltsin's camp and by the opposition.


It is hard to understand why Yeltsin would even consider a coalition government after his clear victory, but part of the answer lies in the autocratic nature of the Russian Constitution.


Because it places so much power in the hands of the president, the constitution allows almost no role in the political process for anybody else.


Yeltsin realizes this situation is fraught with danger because it could push a disenfranchised opposition to radical non-constitutional extremes. Indeed, with Yeltsin clearly in fragile health, his aides must realize that a bitter, disloyal opposition would complicate the succession process.


Engaging the opposition constructively in the government would avoid these scenarios and also win Yeltsin allies in the State Duma, which will have to approve any new legislation Yeltsin is planning for his second term.


But in reality, there is not that much Yeltsin can do to bring the opposition into his government. He was elected to carry out his particular version of reform, and the opposition is adamantly against it.


Yeltsin has already made one major concession by offering Alexander Lebed a role in Russia's security system. It is unlikely that he would offer any of the now vacant "power ministries" to communists, because he cannot count on their loyalty.


The same is true for the economic ministries, which are the other key arm of government. Here, too, it is hard to imagine a communist economics or finance minister, because they have made it plain they do not share Yeltsin's basic belief in a free market.


Yeltsin will likely offer the opposition some secondary portfolios, albeit beefed up with impressive sounding titles like deputy prime minister. This would be good policy and hopefully not too damaging to reform.


The president should focus on those areas where his platform and the communists' converge. For instance, Gennady Zyuganov's ally Aman Tuleyev mentioned he might like some senior job looking after improving ties with the countries of the former Soviet Union. Many have floated the idea that communists be given a portfolio in charge of social ministries like health or labor.


Of course, the opposition may not be willing to accept such slim pickings. But Yeltsin has in the past had success in co-opting his opponents into the government and reshaping them into his people. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was foisted on Yeltsin by the old Supreme Soviet. By now he is viewed as the last great defender of reform.