Chernomyrdin plans run for president Fired Russian premier faces uphill battle in 2000

March 29, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

MOSCOW -- Russia's recently dismissed prime minister announced yesterday that he would run for president in 2000, adding a new twist to a week of political back-stabbing and back-room maneuvering.

Former Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin was ousted Monday when President Boris N. Yeltsin dismissed his Cabinet. But Chernomyrdin fought back yesterday, portraying himself as a presidential candidate.

"I have decided to put forward my candidacy for the post of president," he said in an interview on the state-run ORT television.

By all accounts, his candidacy will be an uphill battle. Not only may he have to contend with Yeltsin, who has not ruled out running for a third term, though that would require a change in the Constitution. He will also have to jostle with other formidable politicians, such as Mayor Yuri Luzhkov of Moscow and a retired general, Alexander I. Lebed, who have been trying to position themselves as Yeltsin's successor.

An opinion poll conducted by Izvestia reported recently that only 5.4 percent of those surveyed supported Chernomyrdin for president.

But members of Chernomyrdin's political party, Our Home is Russia, described him as a centrist figure who could unite Russia. The leader of a small Russian Regions faction also praised him.

Though Chernomyrdin remains a long shot, his move intensified the maneuvering over the presidential race.

Yeltsin has not fully explained why he dismissed the prime minister. The president has said the move was made to energize the government. But the common assumption is that Chernomyrdin was guilty of real or perceived encroachments on Yeltsin's authority.

Pub Date: 3/29/98

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