After winning a tough confirmation fight, Russia's new prime minister must now assemble a team of reformers to solve the economic woes that stymied the last crew to tackle the job.
Only a year ago, President Boris Yeltsin brought in a group of young reformers to clean up Russia's economic mess. Then he dismissed the entire Cabinet last month, claiming they had failed to produce tangible results.Sergei Kiriyenko seemed ready Saturday to take his own crack at it: "We need concrete actions to move toward a stable economy," the new prime minister said in a television interview.
Kiriyenko's appointment was approved by parliament Friday, and Yeltsin has told the 35-year-old premier to put together his list of Cabinet ministers by Tuesday.
"Your objective is to bring about economic growth," Yeltsin told Kiriyenko. "It was precisely such an understanding the previous government lacked."
Kiriyenko's predecessor, longtime Yeltsin ally Viktor Chernomyrdin, pledged Saturday to back the new government.
"We will support everything reasonable coming from the authorities," Chernomyrdin told the national conference of his political movement, Our Home Is Russia. The party is the third largest in parliament.
Chernomyrdin also asked the party to support him in his bid to replace Yeltsin in the next presidential election, scheduled for 2000. Yeltsin has indicated he does not plan to run again when his second term ends, and the race to succeed him is already under way.
As Kiriyenko contemplates the composition of his new government, some key figures from the old Cabinet are expected to remain in place, and much of the attention will be focused on the economic portfolios.
The new prime minister has not yet detailed his economic plan, but he's a proponent of free-market policies and served as a private banker and an oil company executive before joining the government last May.
He will be facing a hostile parliament, controlled by the Communist Party and other opposition groups, as he tries to win approval for several key economic programs that have long stalled.
Yeltsin wants a new tax code to streamline Russia's complicated and punitive tax system. He also wants land reform that will make it easier to buy and sell property. And the government wants to privatize several large state-run industries.
But the Communists have largely resisted these policies for years, and Kiriyenko can expect the same opposition Chernomyrdin faced.
In addition, government revenues will be lower than expected this year because of sagging world oil prices. The government gets about a quarter of its income from the oil industry, and Kiriyenko has already announced plans to cut spending.
That has irritated the Communists, who want increased government spending to help hard-pressed citizens and struggling state industries.
Kiriyenko's team will need to produce results quickly, many analysts believe.
"Yeltsin will stick with them for a while, but when a policy runs into trouble, he is happy to sacrifice his ministers and blame everything on them," the Moscow Times, an English-language daily, said in an editorial Saturday.
"Perhaps worst of all, Yeltsin often simply loses interest in the details of reforms that his ministers have initiated," it added.
Kiriyenko was confirmed as prime minister after a monthlong contest of wills between parliament and the president.
Lawmakers had rejected Kiriyenko twice before, saying he was too untested to be second-in-command of the country. But many members of the State Duma changed their vote on Friday, because a third "no" vote would have led to the dissolution of parliament.