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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Calls For Emergency Congress

President Boris Yeltsin on Tuesday proposed an emergency session of the Congress of People's Deputies, to have the sole task of approving a still undrafted compromise agreement between the warring executive and legislative branches of Russia's government.


Yeltsin made his appeal during a 20-minute one-on-one meeting in the Kremlin with his chief political rival, parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov, where the two leaders discussed the proposed deal on a constitutional framework for Russia.


The meeting, which Yeltsin attended despite announcing on Monday that he was leaving Moscow on vacation, was closed to the press. The President's press service later announced his call for an emergency session of the Congress.


Yeltsin and Khasbulatov did not reach agreement on the proposed document, which would be designed to replace a potentially destabilizing referendum on the text of a new constitution.


They did, however, agree to exchange proposals for the compromise on Wednesday and to set up a working group to draft an agreed document within 10 days.


Both the proposal for a referendum and for the compromise agreement have been forced by a long and politically destabilizing power-struggle between the branches of government, spearheaded by Yeltsin and Khasbulatov, which has interfered with efforts at economic reform and discouraged foreign investment.


According to a presidential press release. First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shumeiko will head Yeltsin's delegation to the working group. Deputy Prime Minister Yury Yarov will head the legislature's team.


Yeltsin's plan would convene the 1, 042-member Congress as soon as the working group had produced a text, then have the delegates ratify it and go home.


A spokesman in Yeltsin's office said it was still unclear whether an emergency session of the Congress will in fact be convened. "That is up to the parliament and not the president", he said. Yeltsin, however, proposed that it should take place within the first 10 days of March.


Until a week ago Yeltsin had advocated a referendum to be held on April 11, at which the country would be asked to approve the basic principles for a new constitution. This would decide whether Russia should be a presidential or parliamentary republic.


The proposed referendum, however, raised fears that it could break up the Russian Federation if ethnic republics boycott the vote, holding out for greater autonomy than the draft constitution provided.


Last Thursday, the chairman of the Constitutional Court, Valery Zorkin, persuaded Yeltsin and Khasbulatov to look for a compromise instead of doing battle through a referendum.


Wednesday's 20-minute meeting inside the Kremlin appeared to keep the compromise solution alive, but according to the Yeltsin press release the referendum remains an option.


"So long as an agreement has not been secured", said the statement, "the executive branch will continue actively preparing questions for the referendum and in the coming days will publish a formula, proposed by the president, for the referendum bulletin".


Yeltsin's call for an emergency Congress, his latest gambit in the ongoing power struggle with Khasbulatov, came as a surprise because his harshest critics have been clamoring for just such an early session to further their own interests.


At its last meeting in December the Congress proved itself the most powerful forum for opposition to the president. The delegates delivered him a series of bruising defeats, forcing Yeltsin to sacrifice his reformist acting prime minister, Yegor Gaidar.


This time, if Yeltsin's proposal were both accepted and abided by, the Congress would be limited to debating the compromise constitutional agreement - but that is not guaranteed.


Shortly before the Kremlin meeting, Khasbulatov warned against the resurgence of a communist dictatorship, arguing that a strong legislature would be the only sure defense against this.


"Only strengthening the principles of parliamentarianism can help us", Khasbulatov said at a meeting with the former U. S. president, Richard Nixon, Itar-Tass reported.