Install

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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Speaker Caus For Impeachment

Parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov on Tuesday called for the impeachment of his arch-rival Boris Yeltsin, after Russia's highest legal body ruled that the president had violated the Constitution.


Khasbulatov said that the Congress of People's Deputies, Russia's highest legislature, should be called at the earliest moment in order to impeach Yeltsin.


But when parliament convened to set a date for the Congress just two hours later, the mercurial speaker promptly dismissed the legislators until Wednesday, saying that it would be improper to continue "considering the tragic situation in the president's family". Yeltsin was attending the funeral for his mother, Klavdiya, who died on Sunday at age 84.


The Constitutional Court voted 9-3 after an all-night session to adopt a decision calling Yeltsin's imposition of "special rule" unconstitutional, but the ruling left unclear whether this was sufficient grounds for the Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings.


Khasbulatov had called for Yeltsin's impeachment at a 2 P. M. press conference shortly after the Constitutional Court issued its ruling.


"Everyone sees that there is every ground for initiating impeachment proceedings", said Khasbulatov, who looked relaxed and occasionally joked with reporters. "The Congress has to be called on the basis of the ruling of the Consitutional Court. What we have is an attempt at a coup d'etat".


When the Supreme Soviet, Russia's standing parliament, convened at 4 P. M. , legislators were given a draft resolution calling for the 1, 033-member Congress to convene on Friday to discuss "immediate measures for retaining the constitutional system of Russia". But the speaker dismissed the session after only 17 minutes, and before any decision had been made. Some deputies thought there were reasons for Khasbulatov's apparent change of heart other than the death of the president's mother.


Yeltsin's staunchest opponents expressed the suspicion that the president's advisers were negotiating a peaceful settlement of the power struggle with moderates in the legislature.


"Obviously, there are deals being made", said Mikhail Astatyev of the hardline National Salvation Front. "Who will get how many ministers, who will get what posts".


"It bothers me most of all that the deputies do not want to fight against violations of the law", he said. "These are bad deputies. It is time for new elections".


Others did not see in the Constitutional Court decision sufficient grounds to begin impeachment.


"I am not sure that on the basis of this decision we can confidently initiate the procedure for impeaching the president", said Mikhail Mityukov, the chairman of the parliamentary legislative committee.


The court declined to rule on whether Yeltsin's breach of the Constitution amounted to grounds for impeachment. The president's supporters say that without a direct recommendation from the court, the Congress cannot initiate impeachment proceedings.


"Formally, legally, it is impossible", said Vladimir Varov, a liberal legislator and former deputy justice minister. "But you have seen the nature of our Congress and Supreme Soviet. They are not bothered by formal and legal things".


But Constitutional Court judge Ernest Ametistov, one of the three who voted for Yeltsin, said the ruling was sufficient for the Congress to impeach the president.


The ruling approved of Yeltsin's proposal to hold a nationwide vote of confidence in himself and Vice President Alexander Rutskoi on April 25.


Yeltsin proposed the vote, along with a vote on a new constitution, after the Congress reneged on a deal to hold a referendum to solve Russia's power struggle. He said that if he won the vote, the Congress should be dissolved.


"But the vote of confidence should not mean the dissolution of other state bodies, and therefore we cannot allow the vote to decide who will rule the country, the president or the Congress", the court's ruling said.


The court also said that the president's proposal to hold a vote on a new constitution was invalid.


Yeltsin also said in his address that he would ignore any decisions made by the legislature that contradict his decrees until the April 25 vote.


"This is a violation of the principle of separation of powers", the ruling said. "The president in his speech spoke about his duty to provide for the observation of the Constitution, but the means he has chosen to do this contradict this goal".


Russia's 1978 Constitution, which has been edited 320 times in the past two years, states that the Congress decides to begin impeachment proceedings "on the basis of the conclusions of the Constitutional Court". But it does not specify what these conclusions have to contain.