Yeltsin's prime minister choice lobbies for confirmation
May 17, 1999
MOSCOW (CNN) -- Sergei Stepashin -- the man Russian President Boris Yeltsin wants confirmed as prime minister -- went hunting for support Monday ahead of a Wednesday vote on his nomination.
In a speech to Russia's upper house of Parliament, Stepashin pledged to expose "criminals" threatening Russia's economy.
"We must step up our fight against crime in Russian business affairs, both in the state and private sectors," he said. "The biggest brake on our development is theft."
"Crime and corruption reduce to nothing our most noble aspirations," he said. Failure to pay taxes "is not only a criminal offense but a crime against the country," he said.
Stepashin also promised his government would honor all the commitments made by the previous government to the International Monetary Fund. Those promises secured a $4.5 billion credit to Russia over 18 months.
The Federation Council has no say in Stepashin's nomination, but it does have considerable political influence. The Duma must approve or disapprove of Yeltsin's choice.
Stepashin's tough talk appeared to be winning some support in the lower house, where members are still reeling over the lost battle to impeach the president two days ago and the firing of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov.
Now, even some members of the leftist opposition are leaning toward approval of Stepashin.
"This isn't about horse trading," said Parliament member Nikolai Haritonov. "It's more aboveboard than that ... But he's got a chance."
If the Duma rejects Stepashin three times, the president must dissolve the Duma and call for new elections.
Tuesday, Stepashin will be lobbying everyone from communists to so-called liberal reformers. Russian political observers say he could be approved on the first vote.
But for all of his pledges to root out crime and push ahead on economic reform, Stepashin could still be on shaky ground -- all of Yeltsin's previous prime ministers have promised the same thing, and been fired for not delivering.
Russia, Yeltsin await impeachment vote results
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