Yeltsin may aim for third term as President

Will Boris Yeltsin stand again for election as Russia's President? He hinted yesterday that his mind is not quite made up. Phil Reeves sifts through the evidence.

Kremlin watchers have never needed more than a slither of a rumour on which to base their predictions. So they were delighted yesterday when Boris Yeltsin served up a considerably tastier morsel - a hint, a palpable hint, that he has not ruled out running for a third term.

As ever, it was not so much what was said, as what wasn't. A month ago the 66-year-old president categorically stated would not seek another stint in office, preferring to stand aside for younger candidates. But yesterday ambiguity set in, fuelled by the evidence that he now seems to be positively relishing his job as the head of a chaotic, crime-drenched, country. He was joking when he recently described himself as Tsar Boris the First. But, for many, it had a plausible ring.

Questioned about a third term by reporters during a trip to Nizhny Novgorod, he laughed, but issued no clear denial. "Friends and colleagues have forbidden me from talking about this," he said.

However faint, the possibility that he might seek to hold onto power is a reflection of the president's extraordinary reversal of fortune in the last ten months. Can this be the man who was so sick with heart trouble only a year ago that he became a near hermit?

This week his former chief of staff, Sergei Filatov, told The Independent that Mr Yeltsin had twice told him that he was thinking of not running in last year's poll, when he won re-election. Those discussions were in the summer of 1995, when he was sick, unpopular, drinking, and sending thousands of his countrymen to their death in Chechnya. In the end, he was persuaded by his supporters - a tiny elite enriched by reforms, who feared a Communist victory - to stay on. Elements of the same group, now divided, seem to be at work again.

A third bid for office would lead to a debate over the Russian constitution which restricts presidents to two terms. However, Mr Yeltsin has some room for manouevre: he was first elected as president of the Russian republic in 1991, when it remained part of the Soviet Union. The Russian constitution, however, was not passed until 1993.

Yesterday's squall of speculation will not bring much joy to the millions of Russian empoverished by the transition from Communism, especially those who remember the stagnant last years of Leonid Brezhnev. Mr Yeltsin has already survived seven years longer than the average Russian male; by the end of a third term, he would be 73 - a mere two years younger than Mr Brezhnev when he died.

It is also a measure of the perverse nature of Moscow politics. The vast power of the president severely limits the role of the opposition between elections, condemning them to a life of dreaming wistfully about their next trip to the ballot box.

With three years left to the next election, two of his opponents - ex- general Alexander Lebed, and the liberal Grigory Yavlinksy - have already declared their candidacy. Several others, notably the autocratic mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, are blatantly campaigning. Election politics are on a permanent loop in Russia, and Mr Yeltsin's behaviour yesterday ensured that it keeps spinning merrily.

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
news
Life & Style
tech
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his goal
sport
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
healthTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
News
news
Arts & Entertainment
film
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Arts & Entertainment
Homer meets Lego Marge in the 25th anniversary episode of The Simpsons, set to air on 4 May
tv
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal