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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Seleznyov Weighing His Political Options

In an effort to retain his place in big-league politics, State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov is likely to give in to the demands of his fellow Communists and step down from his post, lawmakers and analysts said Tuesday.

Last week, after a coalition of centrist and liberal legislators ousted the Communists from eight of their 10 Duma committee chairs, party leader Gennady Zyuganov presented the more moderate Seleznyov with an ultimatum: abandon the speaker's post in protest or leave the party.

Seleznyov initially indicated that he planned to stay on as speaker and even announced that President Vladimir Putin did not object. Now, however, the pendulum has swung the other way, with experts saying Seleznyov has realized that his political career cannot be furthered without the support of his party.

Seleznyov declined to comment on his plans Tuesday, saying in televised remarks that he would announce his decision Wednesday after an emergency meeting of the party's central committee.

But a senior member of the Communist faction in the Duma, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Seleznyov has reluctantly agreed to step down after long consultations with Zyuganov and other top Communists, The Associated Press reported.

Still reeling from the reshuffle, the Communists spent a second day behind closed doors Tuesday haggling over Seleznyov's fate and debating such ideas as voluntarily splitting their party in two in order to maintain greater leverage in parliament.

Zyuganov's deputy, Valentin Kuptsov, said Wednesday's meeting of party leaders could have two possible outcomes. Either the Communists would withdraw their demand that Seleznyov give up the speaker's post or they would continue to insist on this, but could offer Seleznyov some enhanced leadership role, Interfax reported.

If Seleznyov agreed to step down, Kuptsov said, he could replace Zyuganov as head of the party's Duma faction, while Zyuganov would remain party leader, or Seleznyov could be invited to head up a new spinoff faction.

"We could send 30 to 35 faction members to form a group of deputies to be headed by Seleznyov," Kuptsov told Interfax.

Zyuganov fiercely opposed the idea of abdicating his role as faction leader, calling it a "coup within the party," ORT television reported.

Experts said this kind of "promotion" for Seleznyov was dubious because it violates the principles of party discipline.

"This option is unlikely because the Communists cannot show the world their internal rift, it is against party principles," Yury Korgunyuk, a political analyst with the Indem think tank, said by telephone. "A deliberate splitting of the faction between the two leaders looks like a better way out of the situation."

Although the Communist faction is clearly experiencing some tension between moderates and hard-liners, the differences are not great enough to rend the party, analysts said. And even an ostensible split such as the creation of a new parliamentary bloc would be used to boost -- not diminish -- the Communists' clout in the Duma.

"It is clear that this possible bloc of Seleznyov's would vote in unison with the Communists, and the leftists would also be entitled to an additional deputy speaker's seat for the [new] bloc's representative," Korgunyuk said. "It is like replacing one pig with two piglets."

Andrei Ryabov of the Moscow Carnegie Center said Seleznyov, who has lost the trust of many hard-line Communists, is in a difficult position, but is highly unlikely to quit the party since that would mean the end of his political career.

"Seleznyov realizes that only his party can guarantee his further career and if he resigns [as speaker] he will prove his loyalty to his fellow Communists," Ryabov said. On the other hand, Ryabov added, Seleznyov knows that the conservative wing of his party could oppose his nomination for the speaker's post after the next Duma elections in 2003.

After losing their committee chairmanships, the Communists no longer have a vested interest in seeing Seleznyov as speaker, Korgunyuk said.

"If Seleznyov keeps his post, it would mean the Communists have swallowed the insult, which is painful for them," he said. "They have little use for Seleznyov [as speaker] after losing the influential committees in the Duma."

Staff Writer Oksana Yablokova contributed to this report.