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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Charter Too Biased, Critics Say

Critics of Russia's draft constitution on Thursday said the charter was not the basis for a state governed by rule of law, but a document aimed at consolidating President Boris Yeltsin's victory over his opponents last month.


Oleg Rumyantsev, the former secretary of the disbanded parliaments constitutional committee, said the new document was more a manifesto of Russia's leadership than a charter for the ages.


"The draft has two main objectives, to legalize the authoritarian regime that has come to power and to preserve the vision of the state and society held by the radical liberals", Rumyantsev told a press conference.


"Boris Yeltsin has lost his self-control, his personal ambition for power has been exposed", he added.


Yeltsin has presented the draft, which will be put to a referendum to coincide with a Dec. 12 parliamentary poll, as the document that will eliminate Russia's totalitarian legacy.


However, the president has been criticized by opponents and reformists alike for approving last-minute changes that they say tips the balance of power among branches of government too heavily in favor of the president.


"The Russian president has made the final choice between democracy and reforms in favor of the latter", the liberal daily newspaper Segodnya commented Thursday.


An aide to the president on Thursday defended the draft, saying that it contained the proper balance of power between the executive and legislative branches and that Yeltsin would have no more powers than France's President Francois Mitterand.


But Boris Zolotukhin, the coordinator of the Constitutional Assembly that prepared the document, acknowledged that the document reflected Yeltsin's desire to eliminate for good the possibility of a power struggle similar to the one that ended in the Oct. 3-4 violence.


Partly at issue is the way the constitution was adopted. During Yeltsin's effort to get a constitution approved by parliament this summer, his Constitutional Assembly had produced a compromise document.


Since dissolving and then storming parliament, however, Yeltsin's team has done much of the work on the constitution behind closed doors, picking many of the compromise clauses out.


"The constitution was an eclectic document. But by losing the compromises, it looks like it has lost the meaning of a complete document", said Rumyantsev.


The compromises included a provision placing the constitution above any individual branch of power, making it the final arbiter in disputes between them.


That clause is in the new draft too. However, other clauses give the president the power to resolve such disputes as he sees fit.


Parliament has no such control over the president, and a last-minute rule change on the makeup of the upper house reduces its ability to impeach the president.


Instead of being elected, the Federation Council will be appointed from among the heads of administration and legislatures of Russia's 89 regions. This means that half of its 178 members will be directly subordinate to the president, Rumyantsev said, making a two-thirds impeachment vote "unrealistic".


The former legislator, who is running for the new parliament as a member of the centrist bloc Civic Union, also attacked Yeltsin for canceling an earlier pledge to stand for early reelection in June 1994.


Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, one of the authors of the draft Yeltsin originally presented to the Constitutional Assembly in June, also said that the new parliament, not the president, should decide whether to hold early presidential elections.


Yeltsin has said that he will not run for the presidency in 1996, although a 65-year-old age limit that would have prevented him from doing so has been removed in the latest draft, giving him the option to change his mind.