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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Calm as List for 2000 Candidates Grows

As another prominent politician hinted Thursday that he might run for president, embattled President Boris Yeltsin shrugged off calls for his early retirement and said he plans to serve until the end of his term in 2000.

Gennady Seleznyov, a moderate Communist who is the State Duma speaker, said Thursday he might join the presidential race. He had not previously been considered a likely candidate.

Yeltsin "reacted calmly" to Seleznyov's announcement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin said.

"I think in general that the more participants that announce they will run for president in 2000, the better," said Yakushkin. "It shows that the process of democratization in our society has gained strength and is proceeding normally."

Seleznyov said he was prepared to head a "left-center" coalition. The idea of such a coalition has been floated recently, but Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov says he's the one to head it.

Seleznyov warned Luzhkov, however, that there was "no self-nomination" to such a role. "I was asked and I replied. I replied that if left-wing movements, centrist movements, a broad spectrum of movements were to ask me to head the left-center bloc, I would be ready for that."

"As to the statement made by Yury Mikhailovich Luzhkov that he is ready to head a left-center bloc, it surprised me," Seleznyov said at a news conference. "If it were a right-center bloc, I would understand that. But Yury Mikhailovich is as distant from the left-center as I am from the post of the pope in Rome."

Until the Aug.17 ruble devaluation, Luzhkov had presided over an unruly capitalist boom in Moscow, while insisting on heavy government involvement in the economy and scorning cuts in housing subsidies and social benefits.

Seleznyov also proposed a referendum on whether Yeltsin should resign. Several legislators and other observers pointed out, however, that this is specifically barred by the law on referendums. The law,passed in October 1995, bars referendums on extending or curtailing the terms of office of the parliament and the president.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, the party's 1996 presidential candidate and a possible nominee in 2000, was noncommittal in his response to Seleznyov's presidential intentions, saying that "any politician of the first rank should consider himself a potential president candidate."

Political analyst Yury Korgunyuk of the INDEM research institute said the speaker of parliament's lower house "lacked the political weight" to win a presidential campaign.

"I think he has clearly overestimated his own personality and its significance," Korgunyuk said, adding that it was unclear why Seleznyov decided to put his name forward at this time and what his goal was.

If all Seleznyov wanted to do was discourage Luzhkov from counting on Communist support, he could have said that plainly, Korgunyuk said.

Yeltsin, whose health is suspect and whose political standing has fallen sharply in the wake of the Aug. 17 ruble devaluation, has said he does not intend to run again. Several hundred thousand people, disgusted with unpaid wages and high prices, rallied across the country Wednesday calling for his early resignation.

Yeltsin answered them Thursday by saying he was staying put. Yakushkin, the Kremlin spokesman, said Yeltsin addressed newly promoted generals at a Kremlin ceremony and told them "that he would remain in his post until 2000, and then we'll see."

Other likely candidates in the next presidential race are former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, liberal Yabloko faction leader Grigory Yavlinsky and Krasnoyarsk region Governor Alexander Lebed.