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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Law Would Take Power From Yeltsin

The Russian Supreme Soviet on Wednesday passed crucial amendments to the law on the government which would shift control of key ministries out of the hands of President Boris Yeltsin and into those of the legislators.


The decision brought to a head a long-standing power dispute between the president and lawmakers over whether Russia will ultimately be a parliamentary or presidential republic.


The law on government, if it were implemented in its current form, would drastically weaken, Yeltsin's ability to affect the way reforms were carried out.


Yeltsin's side was quick to respond: First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shumeiko, representing the president in parliament, said that he would advise Yeltsin to "ignore" the new legislation.


Shumeiko told the deputies their law violated the separation of powers, was unconstitutional and would make it impossible for the government to work.


The conflict is important because in Russia's first year of post-Communist statehood, parliament has had mainly a braking effect on the pace of reforms, while most of the initiatives have come from the government of acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar.


The Gaidar government was appointed by Yeltsin under temporary powers granted him by parliament. Wednesday's vote indicated that those powers, which expire on Dec. 1, are not likely to be renewed by legislators.


With the vote, parliament also demonstrated its desire to break up the "Gaidar team" of radical reformers.


Parliament passed an amendment subordinating the cabinet to the legislature instead of the president. It also crossed out an article that gives Yeltsin the power to name his own ministers, and voted to take from the president the responsibility for naming and firing eight key ministers.


These include the ministers of finance, economics, internal affairs, foreign affairs, privatization, social policy, mass media and press, and security.


Many of these positions are now held by key Gaidar allies.


"This is enough to bury the idea of the cabinet-team", commented the liberal daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta on Wednesday.


Gleb Yakunin, a leader of the Democratic Russia faction of parliament was more blunt. He said the decision would "force Yeltsin to impose presidential rule".


"This law is preposterous", he said.


"Our former pseudo-democrats have joined the reactionary conservatives to do away with our system of executive power and are trying to turn the president into a marionette, like the English king".


First Deputy Prime Minister Shumeiko, who helped write the president's initial version of the draft law, vowed to fight the new amendments.


"The amendments that have been made by the parliament will not allow the executive branch to function normally", Interfax quoted him as saying on Wednesday.