Reform Critics Band In Russian Parliament To Counter Yeltsin
Opposition leaders call it a `movement of reconciliation'; critics see a pretext for uniting nationalists, communists
MOSCOW — EARLIER this month, Valery Zorkin, the former head of Russia's suspended Constitutional Court, found a new hobby.
A soft-spoken man inclined toward outbursts of indignation, Mr. Zorkin has not been too busy since the court was suspended in October following the bloody uprising against President Boris Yeltsin. So he was delighted to be included among a band of Mr. Yeltsin's enemies who initiated the ``Accord for Russia'' movement, a retaliation against the domestic peace pact envisioned by the president to reconcile the forces splitting the country.
The movement, conceived after Yeltsin left Moscow for a two-week vacation in the Black Sea resort of Sochi confident that he was leaving behind a ``calm'' atmosphere, represents what its members call the ``patriotic opposition.'' They advocate preserving the industrial-military complex, restoring the power of the state, putting an end to crime and corruption, and turning back Yeltsin's market reforms.
It calls itself a movement of reconciliation. But its critics see it as a pretext for uniting prominent nationalists with communists, and some members admit that its conception is simply a step toward all-out war against a politically weakened Yeltsin.
``When someone says that our association unites the Communists with the Nazis, it's a crude falsification,'' says Zorkin, who retained a seat on the 13-member court after he was fired as chairman and still keeps an office in the imposing courthouse in central Moscow. ``We are uniting a broad spectrum of people. We call ourselves left-centrists.''
In a letter circulated March 16 in the State Duma, or lower house of parliament, the 19 original initiators of the Accord exhorted ``all patriotic forces and movements, ideologies and beliefs that reject violence, racism, and nationalism'' to join together and ``prevent the final collapse of historic Russia.''
The diverse supporters include individuals who until recently would not have joined forces, such as former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, and Sergei Glazyev, Yeltsin's trade minister until last year. Mr. Rutskoi was recently released from prison where he was sent for inciting riots during the October uprising in which 147 people were killed.
Others include Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov; radical nationalist Sergei Baburin; and Sergei Prokhanov, the editor of Zaftra, an anti-Semitic weekly.
No reformist groups represented in the State Duma have joined the Accord, and the only major opposition leader who refused to sign up was Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party head.
``We did not invite Zhirinovsky, nor did we personally discuss our movement with him, but it is open to everyone,'' says Mr. Zyuganov, who says 150 members of the 444-seat Duma support the Accord and at least half eventually will join. ``The salvation of the country lies in the single union of the popular national patriotic forces.''
``I always said that the Communists are much more dangerous than Zhirinovsky,'' says former Finance Minister Boris Fyodorov, who resigned from the Russian government in January along with other key reformers such as Yegor Gaidar. ``It's obvious that these guys are getting organized, they're very serious, and they're not hysterical. That's the biggest danger.''
Zyuganov and other members of the Accord hold Yeltsin personally responsible for what the Communist leader calls the ``deep crisis'' in the country, beginning with the destruction of the Soviet Union, followed by a widening gap between rich and poor combined with ``kow-towing'' to the West in return for aid, and climaxed by the October events.
``The techniques being used against the country are not of a military nature,'' says Zyuganov, who was not a member of the former parliament and stayed away from the October controversy. ``But they are more destructive than the techniques used during World War II.''
Members of the Accord are gearing up for for presidential elections scheduled for 1996. Some indicate they will propose a single candidate, but several members have already hinted that they want the post, including Rutskoi, whom Yeltsin has repeatedly warned to keep a low profile, and Zyuganov, who says he may push for early elections.
``Who the candidate will be is for my party or the movement to decide, but no politician should exclude that possibility,'' Zyuganov says. ``Otherwise, there is no point for him to be involved in politics.''
Yeltsin, who has been rumored to have deteriorating health, has said he will not seek reelection when his term expires in 1996. But it appears he may seek to reverse his decision.
But he has more pressing problems. He returned from vacation earlier this week determined to put through his own peace pact, the ``Agreement for Civil Peace and Accord in Russia'' designed to achieve balance between him and his fractious legislature and help avoid a repetition of October.
``We must not stir up passions any longer,'' Yeltsin said in the daily Izvestia on March 26, adding that compromising with the opposition but preserving reforms was a major theme behind his unprecedented State of the Nation address last month.
His comments were followed by a rare public statement by his wife, Naina. ``Why are they suddenly making a fuss about this?'' she told Komsomolskaya Pravda, a daily newspaper. ``It's because 1996 is getting close and they have at any cost to show that Boris Nikolayevich is ill.''
Yeltsin's supporters in the Duma are debating among themselves how to counterbalance the Accord.
``We consider the creation of the new bloc to be an attempt at unifying all the forces who still don't understand what is going on in Russia, and who are trying to revive ideas that have suppressed Russia for decades,'' says Gennady Burbulis, of the pro-Yeltsin Russia's Choice movement.
``It's a dangerous situation. It's necessary to consolidate the democrats as soon as possible,'' warns reformist deputy Irina Khakamada. ``The democrats are losing their inititative by the second. It's high time for them to form their own democratic blocs.''
Zorkin, who was temporarily suspended from the court in December for breaching impartiality when he criticized Yeltsin's draft constitution, argues that it is better for the more extreme members of the Accord to join it than be left out in the cold.
``It's better for people who wield great influence over society, such as Rutskoi and Prokhanov, to sign our text and show by their actions that they abide by it, rather than land up in the hands of extremists,'' he says, referring to Zhirinovsky.