Yeltsin denies he wants a third term in Kremlin

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The Independent Online
A week after spiriting up a storm of speculation by being coy, Boris Yeltsin yesterday went into sharp reverse, denying that he had any intention of seeking a third term in the Kremlin.

The President said that he would not put himself forward as a candidate for the presidential elections in 2000, adding that he hopes the job will go to a "young and energetic, battling democrat".

His remarks appear to be an effort to end the persistent will-he-won't- he debate that has already begun in Moscow, nearly three years before the nation is due to go to the polls.

In Strasbourg for a Council of Europe summit, Mr Yeltsin, 66, said he was guarantor of the Russian constitution, which was passed after a controversial 1993. This limits a president to two terms.

Whether Mr Yeltsin's words will be believed by many Russians seems doubtful. There is a general tendency to distrust all politicians, and particularly those who appear to them to protest too much. Any limits imposed by the constitution are seen as irrelevant as it is still widely ignored and violated. Mr Yeltsin is also famously given to abrupt changes of tack.

The president's remarks may cheer his opponents in the parliament who are threatening to hold a vote of no-confidence in the administration as a protest against its 1998 budget. However, the issue is not the constant wrangling between President and parliament, but the struggle that will ensue among the ruling elite to find a replacement who will protect their huge assets and interests.

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