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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Denied, Congress to Convene Dec. 1

Parliament on Wednesday rejected President Boris Yeltsin's appeal to postpone the convening of the Congress of People's Deputies, Russia's highest legislature.

Legislators voted 114-59 to reject Yeltsin's request to delay the session of Congress until March. The vote was a clear expression of legislator's distaste for a draft constitution that would write in stone Yeltsin's executive powers. It was also the latest signal that their patience has run out with the Yeltsin-Gaidar leadership.

"We need to find a way out of the economic crisis now, and we need to discuss that at the session", Sergei Baburin, leader of the hard-line Unity faction, told reporters after the vote.

Baburin leads a powerful group of opponents to Yeltsin's market reforms. This group is expected to call for the resignation of the government of acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, and possibly the president himself, when the Congress convenes on Dec. 1.

Yeltsin had been trying to postpone the Congress until the spring, when it would focus its work on Russia's draft constitution. If adopted, the charter would write in stone the powers of the office of the presidency.

The current constitution, adopted under Leonid Brezhnev in 1978, has no provisions for a strong president.

The 1, 042-member Congress is the only body with the power to extend or revoke Yeltsin's power to rule by decree, which the president and the Gaidar government have used to carry out economic reforms, often over legislator's objections.

At Wednesday's session, parliamentarians again raised the question of taking back control over the activities of the executive branch.

"I don't trust the president or his team", said a legislator from the Urals, Altai Pichee Ool. "We don't need their programs".

Two of Yeltsin's closest aides, Gennady Burbulis and Mikhail Poltoranin, said last week that hard-liners would try to use the Congress to overthrow the Yeltsin government and set up a rightist dictatorship.

Addressing parliament after the vote on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev warned of "the threat to reforms" posed by "revanchist forces" in the parliament.

Parliament Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov countered at a press conference on Wednesday that legislators, not Yeltsin's entourage, were the ones supporting democracy.

"Dictatorship always comes from the executive branch", he declared. "Right now we only have a half-democracy".

Nearly a third of the parliamentarians support using the Congress to overthrow Yeltsin and his government and to install a National Salvation Front. Although that is unlikely to happen, centrist legislators who still support Yeltsin's presidency are calling for the replacement of some members of the Gaidar government. The centrists would like them to be replaced by members of the Civic Union bloc, which supports a gradual approach to reforms.