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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President's Foes Can Recall Congress

Opponents of Boris Yeltsin said Tuesday that they had collected enough signatures from legislators to force an emergency session of the Congress of People's Deputies, aiming to block the president's plans for a referendum on a new constitution for Russia.


At the same time, the president's alternative plan for a compromise constitutional agreement with the hostile parliament fell in doubt after one legislator on the parliament's team of negotiators called the proposed agreement "a hoax". He added that it was unlikely that a compromise could be reached.


A coalition composed of erstwhile allies and opponents of the president said at a press conference they had collected enough lawmaker's signatures to convene the Congress, Russia's highest legislature, which would cancel Yeltsin's plans for a referendum on April 11.


Many legislators fear that the vote, which is designed to gain popular approval for a new constitution, could lead to a breakup of Russia. The coalition was unanimous that the referendum should be cancelled.


"The referendum will be a historical tragedy for Russia", said Sergei Andropov of the conservative Worker's Union faction of parliament which usually opposes the president.


Gennady Gorelev of the Democratic Russia faction that organized Yeltsin's victory in the 1991 presidential elections added: "Any such political action in Russia right now is doomed to failure because people are only thinking about food and clothes".


Gorelev said the group had collected 222 signatures, or 14 more than the required 20 percent of the 1, 040-member Congress. He said the coalition would this week ask the presidium, parliament's leadership, to call an emergency Congress for early March.


The coalition planned that the Congress, after blocking the referendum, would discuss a compromise agreement between Yeltsin and parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov, which is still being negotiated. But talks have progressed slowly.


Yeltsin said last week in a nationwide television address that he planned to go ahead with preparations for the referendum in case his negotiations with Khasbulatov broke down.


That seemed increasingly likely Tuesday, after a member of Khasbulatov's team called them "a hoax".


The negotiator, who asked that his name not be used, told The Moscow Times that the president's offers for a compromise were "a Soviet-style hoax", aimed at eliminating the Congress and establishing the president as Russia's sole authority.