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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Constitution Vote Set for Dec. 12

President Boris Yeltsin on Friday ordered a referendum on a new constitution to coincide with Dec. 12 elections to both houses of the new parliament.

Yeltsin directed that the referendum on a new charter be held as the election campaign for December's polls kicked into gear and the leaders of Russia's Constitutional Assembly reconvened to finalize its draft for a new basic law.

The president's move was a clear sign of his determination to keep up the momentum of his political victory over the former parliament which resisted adopting the draft charter approved by the Constitutional Assembly in July.

If voters approve a new constitution at the December referendum it will take the adoption of a new charter out of the hands of the new parliament.

Yeltsin's decree came despite opposition from legal aides, including Sergei Alexeyev, one of the authors of the Constitutional Assembly's draft charter. Alexeyev favored drawing up only a "mini constitution" this autumn and leaving the drafting of the full document to the new parliament, Itar-Tass reported.

Yeltsin is expected to give the keynote address when Russia's Choice, an alliance of political parties supporting him, holds its founding congress Saturday.

Led by First Deputy Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar and other cabinet members, Russia's Choice is viewed as the favorite to win the most votes in the Dec. 12 poll.

Yeltsin has closed down 10 opposition parties for their support of the Oct. 3-4 revolt.

The one remaining opposition party with a significant membership, the centrist Democratic Party of Russia, led by former legislator Nikolai Travkin, kicked off its campaign in Moscow on Friday.

With a platform calling for changes to the country's "alien reform plan" and "sensible state financial support" for agriculture, Travkin's party hopes to garner votes which would have gone to banned hardline opposition parties.

The Party of Russian Union and Accord, led by Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, is scheduled to meet in Nizhny Novgorod this weekend for its inaugural congress.

All the parties have just three weeks to gather 100, 000 signatures in support of their lists to be allowed to take part in the poll. With many parties only existing in embryonic form the next few weeks are likely to be a scramble for signatures and alliances.

Shakhrai suggested Thursday that the "democratic" parties which support Yeltsin should strike deals to field only one candidate in the 225 single-member constituencies.

In another move that is likely to strengthen Yeltsin's influence in the upcoming parliamentary polls, the president changed the rules for elections to allow members of his government to stand.

Quoting a presidential decree, the news agency said that ministers would be allowed to contest seats for the lower chamber, the State Duma, altering existing election rules.

Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev, backed the idea Friday and said he would consider running for the State Duma on a Russia's Choice ticket. On Thursday, Shakhrai also announced his candidacy to the State Duma.