Boris Yeltsin conferred with top aides at his country residence Tuesday, discussing whether to stick with his first choice for prime minister or offer a compromise candidate to the hostile Russian parliament.
The president has said Viktor Chernomyrdin is his only choice to lead a new government that must deal with the country's worst economic crisis since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.Parliament's lower house, the Duma, overwhelmingly rejected Chernomyrdin on Monday for a second time. Yeltsin was considering whether to name him again for the third and final round of voting.
After meetings with senior aides at his country home outside Moscow, Yeltsin had not named anyone by afternoon and was unlikely to do so before Wednesday, spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky said.
The delay suggested that Yeltsin was mulling over the possibility of a compromise candidate. Yeltsin has compromised in the past when government policies have run into major political opposition.
"Today the countdown has begun for the position of compromise . . . with another candidate," Konstantin Titov, a member of parliament's upper house, told the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Chernomyrdin, who was prime minister for five years before the president fired him in March, was among those who met with Yeltsin on Monday. No details of their talks were announced.
Yeltsin's office has not named any other potential candidates for the prime minister's job. But the two alternatives presented by lawmakers that generated the most speculation were Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov.
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said his party, the largest in the Duma, would never accept Chernomyrdin and said renominating him would lead to the "complete paralysis of the entire political process."
"The whole nation today is in opposition to Mr. Yeltsin," Zyuganov added.
If the Duma rejects Yeltsin's candidate again, the constitution calls on him to dismiss parliament and call new elections within three months. Yeltsin would rule by decree, along with an interim government, until the new legislature is seated.
The first two votes in parliament demonstrated lawmakers' opposition to Yeltsin and delayed the formation of a new government during a time of financial turmoil.
"The economic crisis is gaining momentum with catastrophic speed," Chernomyrdin warned the Duma before it torpedoed his nomination. "We are all standing on the edge and no time is left for settling scores."
Chernomyrdin's efforts to win confirmation by parliament have left him little time to devote to the financial crisis.
During the political chaos, Russia's economy has continued a downward spiral.
The government will hold talks Thursday on an emergency federal budget for the remainder of the year, and plans for the 1999 budget will have to be revised, government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov said.
Moscow's interbank currency exchange failed to provide a formal ruble rate against the dollar for the second straight day Tuesday, leaving the market without an agreed-upon level for the Russian currency.
The ruble, which was trading at about six to the dollar last month, was about 20 to the dollar in street trading.
Prices have been increasing daily and shoppers are clearing out store shelves in anticipation of even higher inflation. Long lines at gas stations began forming Monday as motorists filled up before prices rise.
Norway has drawn up plans to cope with a flood of up to 50,000 Russian refugees in case the crisis spurs mass migration, officials said Tuesday.
The newly updated plan involves everyone from doctors to police helping provide shelter, food and medical care for refugees in Norway, the only NATO nation to share a border with Russia.
"This standby plan is designed to cope with 50,000 people," said Erling Kielland, head of department at the Directorate of Immigration. "It is not specifically for Russia although it does have a special focus on the northern areas."
Norway last had a big influx of refugees in 1993, when 13,000 people fled the Bosnian war.