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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deputies, Let Yeltsin Be Yeltsin

Will Yeltsin prevail? Will he manage to outmaneuver the opposition and keep his political and economic reforms on track? Indications from first two days of this stormy Congress are that he will, although possibly at the cost of sacrificing his doughty prime minister, Yegor Gaidar.


This sacrifice would certainly be a blow to the reform process. Gaidar has demonstrated firmly over the past year that he has the courage to pursue a politically unpopular strategy in order to help the Russian economy recover from the damage wrought by 70 years of communism.


He may now have to pay the price. He was repeatedly jeered by the deputies Wednesday, and it is far from certain that he can muster the necessary 50 percent approval when a resolution on the progress of economic reform is put to the vote.


An aggravating factor is the attitude of Ruslan Khasbulatov who, despite his comment that Russia's competing political structures are "doomed to compromise", fiercely attacked the government's performance in his speech on Tuesday.


Khasbulatov himself has a lot at stake at the present session. Yeltsin's proposed five-point stabilization plan would restrict the role of the Congress and bar the smaller working parliament from acquiring a number of additional powers sought by its speaker. It would obviate the need for Yeltsin to apply to the Congress for an extension of his expired special powers by strongly reinforcing his executive authority.


What could possibly convince Khasbulatov and his allies at the Congress to support such a plan? Yeltsin must certainly have realized that the deputies would not buy his proposals outright. At the same time, his pre-Congress deal-making with Civic Union paved the way for reaching a truce this week, and his address Tuesday was strongly conciliatory in tone. The president must have further concessions in mind.


One possible strategy would be a deal in which Yeltsin would drop Gaidar and propose a prime ministerial candidate more acceptable to the centrist opposition in exchange for acceptance of his stabilization plan. The loss of Gaidar would be compensated for by the reinforcement of Yeltsin's executive powers and the postponement of debate oil a new law on government until Russia has a constitution adapted to present realities.


Whatever its drawbacks, this or another similar compromise would permit the president to continue to set the general policy line of Russia's transition. All proponents of democracy must hope that the deputies will have the wisdom to allow Yeltsin to pursue the task he was elected to perform.