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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Congress Plan Prepared by Yeltsin

Arming himself for what promises to be a bruising confrontation with a special session of the Congress of People's Deputies, President Boris Yeltsin has detailed a three-level strategy to deal with Russia's highest legislature on Wednesday.


Yeltsin outlined all three "variants" in a long interview - the first granted inside the president's Kremlin office - with the popular news program "Itogi" on Sunday evening. The style of the interview resembled a Western party political broadcast on the eve of elections.


Each of Yeltsin's three proposals was designed to end the constitutional crisis that has paralyzed Russia's government for at least six months, using different degrees of confrontation with the legislature.


Which one he resorts to is likely to be determined by the Congress, which has put on its agenda the question of "respect for the constitution by the top organs of state power and state leaders". That debate could be used to call for Yeltsin's impeachment.


The first and softest level of the president's proposals consists of a new power-sharing deal to replace one that has already been rejected, with parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov dismissing it as "an ultimatum".


The precise contents of the two-page deal were not made public. But Yeltsin acknowledged that the chances for his proposal's acceptance at Wednesday's emergency Congress were not too high.


Yeltsin's second option, should the compromise package again be rejected, is to carry through with plans for a referendum. For the first time Yeltsin specified during the interview exactly what he wants included on the ballot, and at least one clause - the first - is far more provocative than was believed.


The four-part proposal would ask:


o "Do you agree that the Russian Federation should be a presidential republic? " Although vague, a yes vote on this question would give Yeltsin the moral authority to decide in his favor the current power struggle between himself and the legislature.


o "Do you agree that the highest legislative body in the Russian Federation should be a bicameral parliament? " That would dissolve the unwieldy 1, 040 member Congress by omission. In an implied criticism of the Congress, Yeltsin said that "we need a parliament that says little but does a lot".


o "Do you agree that the new constitution of the Russian Federation should be adopted by a constitutional assembly, representing the multinational peoples of the Russian Federation? " This again would undercut the conservative Congress, removing it from the process of forming a new and permanent division of powers.


o "Do you agree that every citizen of the Russian Federation should have the right to own, use and dispose of land as a proprietor? " The mainly conservative legislature has already proved itself hostile to this, fundamentally capitalist, provision.


The Congress, however, would also have to approve Yeltsin's wording for the referendum and it is unlikely - as Yeltsin again acknowledged - that the deputies will accept these four questions as they stand. That would leave variant three in the president's strategy, a tough but unspecified threat to invoke a "final option" against the parliament, widely interpreted as the imposition of presidential rule. Any move to impeach Yeltsin would risk invoking this third strategy.


The deputies showed at their last regular session in December that they are a powerful forum for opposition to the president and that they have the constitutional power to thwart him simply by passing amendments to the current, 1978 vintage constitution, implemented at the peak of Communist power.


But even habitual friends of the parliament, such as Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, appear to believe that a resolution to the standoff between parliament and president is now essential. Rutskoi said during a visit to Singapore on Monday that a new constitution and clear division of powers were now vital, according to Reuters.


"Russia inherited a rather peculiar heritage from the former Soviet Union and a parliament system which was politically, economically and culturally insufficient", he said. "Naturally we shall change the entire constitution".


Yeltsin explained in his Itogi interview that he no longer felt bound by the constitution because the legislature had amended it 320 times in little more than a year, making it no longer the document to which he swore allegiance.


At the root of the problem, he said, lies the slogan "All power to the Soviets". Although the 1978 constitution was written with that slogan as its foundation, at the time it meant nothing because the Soviets were entirely subservient to the Communist Party.


Since then, the Soviets have gained real power while new branches of government, such as the presidency, have emerged. "How do you reconcile 'All power to the Soviet's with separate powers? " Yeltsin asked rhetorically. "You can't".