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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Congress Moves to Cut Powers Of Yeltsin

An emergency session of Russia's highest legislature adjourned on Thursday with hope fading for a truce in its power struggle with Boris Yeltsin, after members gave preliminary approval to a resolution that would severely limit the president's powers.


The draft resolution, which on paper would expose the president to impeachment, was drawn up after a speech in which President Yeltsin appealed to legislators to step back from the brink of confrontation.


Yeltsin took part in the drafting process for the bill, which passed by a vote of 672 to 116, but several clauses damaging to his authority were included over his objections. The Congress of People's Deputies is scheduled to vote on the resolution Friday. Yeltsin is also due to address the Congress again, according to his spokesman Vyacheslav Kostikov.


If adopted and accepted by both camps, the agreement would cancel a referendum to resolve the division of powers issue once and for all. It would also give Yeltsin's government more control over the Central Bank and the economy.


But while the proposed resolution appears to solve the conflict between Yeltsin's government and the Congress over control of economic strategy, it would do so at the expense of the president's own authority.


"I believe this is the beginning of the end for Yeltsin", said liberal legislator Leonid Gurevich, who supports the president.


The broad-ranging measure required Yeltsin to give up a number of powers while gaining little.


o The resolution would annul Yeltsin's earlier attempts to work out a bilateral agreement on power with the legislature.


o It would also scrap a deal adopted by the Congress in December in which the two sides agreed to hold a referendum on a new constitution.


o With the cancelation of that deal, amendments to the Constitution that were frozen at the last Congress in December would come into effect, seriously restricting Yeltsin's powers.


One amendment annuls any presidential decrees deemed unlawful by the Constitutional Court. Another would automatically strip the president of his powers if one of his decrees were found to be in violation of the Constitution. Yeltsin's opponents in the legislature have already presented Russia's Constitutional Court with over 100 such alleged violations.


o The chairman of the Central Bank and other federal property and pension agencies would become members of the government, but remain subordinate to parliament as well.


o Parliament would be required to "take into account" the government's position on matters of budgetary and financial policy.


Yeltsin had opened the day with a blunt but relatively conciliatory speech in which he prodded the deputies to avoid confrontation.


"At this point I am asking myself: Do the deputies realize what they are doing? " Yeltsin told the Congress. "Do they realize what kind of responsibility they are assuming? "


The president again warned that he was ready to go to the people and call a referendum to end the power struggle if the Congress refused to compromise. But he also said that the current schedule for the vote, set for April 11, would have to be postponed.


Yeltsin was followed by a speech from Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, whom the Congress chose to replace Yegor Gaidar, a radical free market reformer, during the December Congress. The former Soviet energy minister urged the deputies to give his government greater control over the economy, and in particular the Central Bank, during a 50-minute-long address. That request would be partially fulfilled in the deputie's proposed resolution.


Yeltsin's chief rival in the power struggle, parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov, replied with an emotional outburst in which he threatened to stop payment of salaries to the government.


"We work hard, but unfortunately members of the president's team strut before microphones accusing us. When will this stop? " he asked, to thunderous applause.


Khasbulatov also demanded the resignation of Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, who is in charge of the privatization program.


Even if accepted on Friday, the deputie's resolution would not bring the power struggle to a conclusive end.


"What are you so impatient for", said Vladimir Lukin, Russia's ambassador to Washington. "It took the United States 200 years to solve its constitutional problems. Why expect us to do it in two-and-a-half hours? "