In a defiant challenge at communism's most revered site, Lenin's tomb, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov declared Wednesday he was ready to risk the dissolution of Russia's parliament in his test of wills with President Boris Yeltsin.
Zyuganov leads the largest faction in parliament, which will hold a third and final vote Friday on Yeltsin's nominee for prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko. With the Communists leading the way, parliament has rejected Kiriyenko twice in the past two weeks, calling him too young and inexperienced.If they vote down Kiriyenko again Friday, Yeltsin is empowered to dismiss the lower house, or State Duma, and call elections.
"I will persuade the Communists to vote against Sergei Kiriyenko," Zyganov said in Red Square after laying a wreath at Lenin's Tomb to mark the 128th anniversary of the birth of the founder of the Soviet Union.
Yeltsin has rejected calls for a coalition government or other compromises that could end a month-old political standoff. He plans to meet with the speakers of both parliament houses on Thursday, the day before the final vote. But Yeltsin's press service said his stance remains unchanged.
If Kiriyenko is rejected, Yeltsin is expected to exercise his constitutional powers by dissolving the Duma, calling early elections and appointing Kiriyenko premier.
The biggest risk for Yeltsin is that the Communists and other opposition factions would gain more seats in a new election, which would be held this summer. Many Russians are frustrated with all political parties, and it's not clear which factions would come out on top.
Zyuganov said the elections would expand the Communists' presence in the new Duma. "We have good prospects," he said Wednesday.
However, a growing number of Duma members say they do not want to risk the breakup of parliament, and have indicated they may vote for Kiriyenko on Friday.
To win confirmation, the 35-year-old Kiriyenko needs a simple majority, or 226 votes in the 450-seat Duma.
Yegor Stroyev, chairman of the upper house, the Federation Council, expressed confidence that Thursday's meeting with Yeltsin will lead to a compromise.
"You'll see that the Duma will not be dissolved," he told the upper house Wednesday, the Interfax news agency reported.
The Communists, who control about a third of the seats in the Duma, will meet Thursday to formalize their decision. Also opposing Kiriyenko is the liberal Yabloko faction.
Two hard-line opposition groups, Popular Power and the Agrarians, have indicated they will likely support Kiriyenko after opposing him previously. Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky also said after meeting Kiriyenko Wednesday that he would urge his faction to do the same.
Kiriyenko, who has been lobbying parliament to build support, also has faced opposition from at least one of the country's top business tycoons, Boris Berezovsky.
Berezovsky and other moguls have built enormous fortunes with the help of their Kremlin contacts. But Kiriyenko has indicated he will not give special treatment to prominent business leaders seeking control of large state-run firms that are being privatized.