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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Time to Pick Premier True To Reforms




President Boris Yeltsin explained his decision to dismiss Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, his loyal deputy of five years, by saying he wanted to bring in a new team that could push ahead with reforms.


Chernomyrdin's ultimate fate remains unclear. He may yet use his new-found independence to launch his run for president in the year 2000, or, perhaps more likely, he will just gradually slip out of the limelight.


But the departure of the stolid and inarticulate Chernomyrdin, and also of the compromised First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, does open up the chance for Yeltsin to appoint a real dynamic reformer to the crucial post of prime minister. It is a watershed that could determine the outcome of the race in 2000.


Russia is now stable and at peace. Its finances are sound and its economy is growing. It no longer needs a stolid, compromise figure like Chernomyrdin whose main virtue was that he was all things to all people. Instead, Russia needs a leader who is not stuck in the suffocating embrace of one or other of the Moscow oligarchies and who, unlike the mumbling apparatchik Chernomyrdin, can express his ideas.


Unfortunately, the list of plausible candidates to fit the job description is rather short.


There are a plethora of regional governors lining up for the job but they have little to recommend them. Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov is a long-term Yeltsin ally whose name is no doubt under consideration. But his nationalistic foreign policy, his indifference to basic free-market tenets and his involvement with Moscow's dirty political machine rule against him.


Yeltsin may choose to turn to Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the Yabloko faction in the Duma, a consistent and principled opponent of Chernomyrdin's government.


Yavlinsky does have the support of a solid Duma faction who could provide key specialists for his government. But he would have to show he is ready for Kremlin intrigue and compromise. And he would need to rebuild his credentials as a responsible economist, which have been damaged by some erratic policy pronouncements.


Yeltsin may be thinking of the other "young reformer," First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov. Yeltsin has made no secret that Nemtsov is the apple of his eye. The appointment of Nemtsov's protege, Sergei Kiriyenko, as acting prime minister shows Nemtsov is still close to this heart.


A year in Moscow has exposed some failings as an organizer and a tendency to talk more than do. But Nemtsov is still the most articulate spokesman for reforms in the government and his views on economics and democracy establish him as a genuine democrat and reformer. Yeltsin could do worse.