Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Matter The Result, Tug-of-War To Go On

Whether or not the Congress of People's Deputies approves the latest proposal for a power-sharing deal with President Boris Yeltsin on Friday, the long tug-of-war over who should rule Russia is far from over.


The deal, drafted behind dosed doors on Thursday, represents more of a cease-fire between the warring legislative and executive branches than a final resolution to the constitutional crisis over Russia's post-Communist balance of powers.


Rather than map out a new division of powers - the ultimate goal in a power struggle that has dragged out for over a year - this deal is instead an attempt at a compromise that would cool the fires until a new constitution defines the prerogatives that the president and parliament are to have. It would replace an earlier attempt at such a deal, struck between Yeltsin and the Congress in December, and now annulled by this agreement.


It would also put off a decision on the balance of powers by canceling a constitutional referendum that was scheduled for April 11, and would have asked the Russian people to decide who they wanted to role Russia -the president or the parliament.


If approved, the interim agreement would give Yeltsin's government greater control over the Central Bank and financial and credit policy, crucial for furthering reform. But it would also require the president to cede significant powers, including the right to rule by decree.


"It's a face-saving measure", said Andranik Migranyan, a political analyst who also serves on a presidential council of consultants. With the majority of the Congress hostile to Yeltsin, he said, the president "couldn't have gotten any more, but he could have lost a lot more".


In his drawn-out battle against the conservative Congress, Yeltsin has gradually sacrificed some of his key powers in his pursuit of a new constitution - the likely outcome of which would be to dissolve the Congress and enhance presidential powers.


While walking away with a compromise in December, Yeltsin gave up his choice for prime minister, Yegor Gaidar, as well as control over appointing his defense, foreign, interior, and security ministers.


With the new proposed deal, he would now lose his so-called special powers to rule by decree, which were technically voted away in December but retained as part of the compromise which ended that session of Congress.


Any decree considered to contradict the country's Brezhnev-era constitution could then be overturned by the deputies, severely limiting the president's ability to maneuver.


Hardline deputies have already successfully challenged many such decrees - including a controversial ban of the Communist Party - in the Constitutional Court.


"He will not be president tomorrow", said Oleg Rumyantsev, who pronounced the compromise a defeat for Yeltsin. "The president will be head of state only".


Yeltsin would win some control over the Central Bank, Pension Fund, State Property Fund, and other federal financial organizations, allowing his government potentially to do away with credit emissions and other inflationary measures that have stifled reform.


But it is not clear how much control he and the government actually would have. While the heads of these organizations would be admitted into the government, the organizations themselves would remain under parliamentary supervision - a term loosely denned in the agreement.


In addition, the pact calls for the government and parliament jointly to develop Central Bank and credit policy.


The agreement gives both Yeltsin and parliament a fresh chance to negotiate a new constitution. But it does nothing to clear up a contradiction inherent in the current constitution, which sets a balance between the legislative and executive branches, while at the same time declaring that the Congress is the highest organ of state power.


Instead, this compromise calls for the two sides to work together, an optimistic phrase for camps all too used to


warring with one another. Even as they discussed this compromise on Thursday, both put it in terms of who had won and who had lost - not a good sign for future cooperation.