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Wednesday, 18 August, 1999, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Analysis: The problems facing Primakov
Yevgeny Primakov with some of his new allies
Man of the moment, but tough times lie ahead for Primakov
By BBC regional analyst Tom De Waal

The creation of a new alliance to fight Russia's parliamentary elections in December should signal the arrival of a major new force in the political life of the country.

The coalition which brings together the former prime minister Yevgeny Primakov and Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov - two of Russia's most powerful politicians - promises to become a 'party of power'.

More than three months after being sacked as prime minister, Primakov has broken his silence
Sacked by Yeltsin, but Primakov remains ambitious
More than three months after he was sacked as prime minister, Mr Primakov broke his silence to confirm that he will be heading the electoral coalition known as Fatherland-All Russia, or Otechestvo-Vsya Rossiya, in the elections.

It means he will head the alliance's electoral list in December's elections to the lower house of parliament, the State Duma.

Fatherland was founded by Mr Luzhkov, while All Russia is a grouping of influential regional leaders which includes the president of the Muslim republic of Tatarstan, Mintimer Shaimiyev, and the mayor of St Petersburg, Vladimir Yakovlev.

The left-wing Agrarian Party, formerly allied to the Communists, has also joined the alliance.

Mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov is part of the alliance
Luzhkov is a powerful ally...for now
In announcing his participation in this new political force, Mr Primakov, in typically cautious mood, said the final decision on his role within the coalition would be made by the unification congress of the parties.

He also stressed that his decision to head the list of the alliance did not mean he would be joining one of the parties involved.

Primakov calls the shots

He said: ''On the one hand, that would play a negative role in the process of uniting these parties in one electoral column. On the other hand, it is unacceptable for me personally to join any movement or party.''

Mr Primakov's statement shows that by refusing to associate himself too closely with any of its individual parties, he has entered the new alliance very much on his own terms.

Primakov could become speaker of the Duma, and then stand for president
Former prime minister has sights set on Duma
Ever since he became prime minister last September, his enormous popularity has been based on his ability to stand apart from mainstream Russian politics, being friendly with almost everyone, but independent from all.

Image under threat

He has the image of being a patriot, but not an aggressive nationalist, a Soviet-era veteran who is not a Communist, a reluctant politician who does not desire power.

The qualities he emanates - caution, modesty, toughness, experience - seem to trigger nostalgic associations in Russian minds with the stable years of Leonid Brezhnev.

By entering electoral politics, Mr Primakov will inevitably suffer damage to that image.

Where formerly he kept silent, he will now be forced to make a stand on issues and be associated with the actions of his coalition partners.

Primakov's qualities are those associated with stable years of Brezhnev era
Primakov reminds many Russians of Brezhnev
But he has probably calculated that this is the most powerful electoral organisation in Russia and that, on balance, it is his best spring-board to power.

Political observers are already confidently predicting that Mr Primakov will be the next speaker of the Duma and then stand for president next year.

Like all Russian political coalitions, however, the new alliance will be vulnerable to splits and the personal ambitions of its leaders.

Ally could become a rival

Most observers agree that Mr Luzhkov wants to be president and that he would be reluctant to cede the chance of taking the job to Mr Primakov.

The two men are actually very different politicians and have very different visions of Russian foreign policy, relations with Ukraine and economic management.

Nor is Mr Primakov on the best terms with many regional leaders after he suggested that they should be appointed rather than elected.

Finally there is his age and health. He is older than Boris Yeltsin - he will be 70 in October - and his poor health may not be up to a difficult electoral campaign.

The hardest part for this new political coalition has only just begun.

See also:

10 Sep 98 | Europe
13 May 99 | Europe
13 May 99 | Monitoring
17 Aug 99 | Europe
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