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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Court to Query Yeltsin's Decrees

Russia's parliament on Thursday asked the Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of three of Boris Yeltsin's decrees, while the president's spokesman warned that legislators would once again try to impeach Yeltsin.


Parliament's move came as both sides in Russia's power struggle manuevered for position in the run-up to an April 25 referendum on confidence in Yeltsin and his policies.


The Supreme Soviet, Russia's 248-member standing parliament, asked the court to review the document in which Yeltsin declared he would bypass the legislature and impose executive rule.


The court 10 days ago ruled a televised address to the nation in which Yeltsin announced "special rule" to be in breach of the Constitution, leading to an attempt to impeach him. It has not, however, ruled on the actual decree Yeltsin signed.


Legally, the Congress of People's Deputies could make further impeachment attempts using new decisions of the court declaring Yeltsin in breach of the constitution.


Legislators also asked the court to rule on a Yeltsin decree promising state support for the formation of armed settlements by Russia's Cossacks, and on another decree subordinating the cabinet and regional officials directly to the president until the referendum.


Yeltsin's spokesman Vyacheslav Kostikov said in a newspaper interview published Thursday that hardline opponents to the president would try again to muster enough votes for impeachment before the referendum.


Yeltsin survived an impeachment attempt Sunday when his opponents fell 72 votes short of the necessary two-thirds of votes in Russia's highest legislature, the 1, 033-member Congress.


The Congress had convened after the Constitutional Court ruling that his March 20 address to the nation violated the Constitution. The actual decree, which Yeltsin released after the Court issued its ruling, is phrased in softer language than the president's ringing address. Mainly, it omitted the words "special rule".


But lawmakers say the decree violates at least 10 articles in the Constitution, including one that says that the president may not contradict the decisions of the legislature.


The Constitutional Court is fast becoming a focal point of Russia's power struggle.


Yeltsin has also informed the Constitutional Court that he will challenge the legality of the rules Congress set for his referendum.


These rules require the president to win the support of half of Russia's 106 million registered voters, regardless of how many voters turn out, to win his vote of confidence.


According to the law on referendums, only a question on making changes to the Constitution requires the approval 50 percent of the electorate to pass.


All other referendum questions require a simply majority of the turnout, as long as 50 percent of the electorate participate in the election.


Deputy speaker Nikolai Ryabov on Thursday proposed that parliament amend the law on referendums to make it fit the conditions set by the Congress. But parliament failed to pass the amendments on a day when only 141 deputies took part in the vote. They can vote again.


The dispute over referendum rules had led to speculation that Yeltsin would go ahead with his own poll on confidence in his presidency and on a new constitution that would limit the legislature's powers.


Yeltsin's top legal adviser. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, said this week that the president has no choice but hold a separate vote.


However, Mikhail Poltoranin, A close aide to Yeltsin who heads the Federal Information Center, said on Thursday that the president had decided not to hold his own plebiscite and ignore the referendum called by the Congress.


"The president is not going to come out with a separate vote and he will take part in the referendum whatever its rules are", he said.


Yeltsin's press office refused to confirm or deny Poltoranin's statements, noting that the former information minister has several times made statements about Yeltsin's plans which proved incorrect.


Yeltsin's arch-rival, parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov, went on television on Wednesday night to warn Yeltsin against violating Russia's much-amended, 1978-era constitution.


"The president is not a monarch. Nor is he a general secretary", Khasbulatov said. "He is merely a constitutional president and should act according to the Constitution".