Russian Prime Minister Rules Out More Economic Shock Therapy With AM-Yearning for Empire, Bjt
Dec. 19, 1993
MOSCOW (AP) _ Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has ruled out further economic ''shock therapy'' for Russia following the major setback dealt reformers in parliamentary elections, a newspaper reported Saturday.
Chernomyrdin, in an interview with the newspaper Trud, said the reformers' poor showing last Sunday was due in part to the harsh impact of reforms on millions of Russians.
Top reformers, meanwhile, met Saturday to discuss forming an ''anti- fascist'' coalition. Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party, the biggest vote getter in Russia's Dec. 12 parliamentary elections, has been called a fascist by top Russian officials, but denies it.
Chernomyrdin said the government had to take a new look at the economic situation before it decided what corrections to make.
''Of course,'' he said, ''any kind of 'shock' methods in the future should be completely ruled out.''
''Shock therapy'' refers to a sudden change, as was made in Poland, from a state-directed economy to one that is market-driven. Agressive attempts to move toward private enterprise have created such problems as high unemployment and price increases to levels many people cannot afford.
Russians have suffered economic hardships even though Russia's changes have been more gradual than Poland's. What's more, President Boris Yeltsin and some of his top aides favor speeding up the process.
Although Yeltsin has gained substantial powers through the new constitution that was approved in last Sunday's balloting, Chernomyrdin remains powerful and his reservations about swift reform are certain to be influential.
Chernomyrdin also told Trud that the reformers' weak showing in the election was the fault of government ministers who formed rival parties rather than unite behind Yeltsin.
''Every one of them stood as an individual (or) joined various political blocs,'' he said. ''They confused the people, misled them, and that certainly had an effect on the results,'' he said.
Vote counting in the Dec. 12 election continued slowly. Results released Friday showed Zhirinovsky's party ahead with 23.5 percent of the vote, followed by the main pro-Yeltsin bloc, Russia's Choice, with 14.8 percent. The communists followed with 13.3 percent.
Leaders of Russia's Choice and other reform parties met Saturday to organize a national anti-fascist movement, the Interfax news agency said.
Following the election victory of Zhirinovsky, ''fascism has become a political reality,'' they said.
They urged Yeltsin to isolate Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party from the political mainstream and not make any attempt to form a consensus with them.
Chernomyrdin told Trud that many Russians who voted for Zhirinovsky and the communists were fed up with hardships resulting from Yeltsin's economic reform program.
Chernomyrdin defended the reforms, but said they had ignored suffering of Russians and had not cushioned people from the devastating effects of high inflation.
''As many as 35 million Russians live below the poverty line,'' he said, a situation that translated into a potential 30 percent of the electorate being against reform.
One of the main changes was the freeing in January 1992 of many prices, which resulted in better stocked stores but goods sold at prices that many Russians, especially the elderly, could not afford.
He said top reformers such as Economics Minister Yegor Gaidar, privatization chief Anatoly Chubais and Finance Minister Boris Fyodorov, the founders of the pro-Yeltsin Russia's Choice bloc who are strong advocates of shock therapy, had a lot to think about.
So far, there has been no indication that any of the key ministers whose parties fared badly in the elections would lose their jobs.
But a shake-up in Yeltsin's administration has begun, and Chernomyrdin said changes in the Cabinet could be expected although he denied they would be linked to the election results.