Threat to scrap Russian ballots

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The Independent Online
RUSSIA'S PRIME Minister, Yevgeny Primakov, wants to scrap an important component of the country's hesitant and half-baked democracy - elected governorships.

Elections for the leadership of Russia's 89 regions and republics became universal only two years ago but Mr Primakov is now suggesting that the constitution is changed - some time after this year - to introduce a system in which the President presents a shortlist of candidates to regional parliaments, who then select a governor from it. Mr Primakov's suggestion is viewed by his critics as an attempt to garner support from the powerful regional leadership for his probable presidential bid.

Although some popularist heavyweights - including Yuri Luzhkov in Moscow, and Alexander Lebed in Krasnoyarsk - may balk at the idea of answering to the Kremlin, other regional leaders favour the plan.

The latter believe they have more chance of clinging to power by submitting to Mos-cow's patronage than facing an electorate worn down by economic depression and fed up with corruption and cronyism.