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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

For Yeltsin, Victory Will Not End Power Struggle

If Boris Yeltsin wins Sunday's vote of confidence in his presidency it would not end the power struggle that has hampered Russia's post-communist development. Victory would merely strengthen his hand for the fight.


Sunday's referendum has had major biffing as a means to end once and for all the stalemate between President Yeltsin and the legislature and to allow Russians to choose a path to the free market or back toward central planning.


But for all Yeltsin's threats to "neutralize" the legislature if he wins -


giving him a free hand to execute his policies - the vote is unlikely to give him that power.


The main focus of the campaign has been on question number one, "Do you have confidence in the president of the Russian Federation, B. N. Yeltsin? "


This was chosen by Yeltsin as a means to renew his mandate from the Russian people to pursue radical economic reform. He can win the vote with a simple majority- provided that 50 percent of the electorate go to the polls.


Yeltsin has said that if he does win he plans to implement tough measures - including a new constitution that would wipe out the Congress of People's Deputies altogether - to reassert his control over the country.


Yet Boris Yebzeyev, one of 13 judges on the Constitutional Court which has tried to mediate the power struggle, said that even if the president were to get "99. 9 percent, the vote will have no legal consequences, only moral consequences".


These "moral consequences" are unlikely to be enough to force the legislature to lie down and accept defeat.


"When the president says he will take strict actions based on the results of this referendum, this is lawlessness", said Ivan Rybkin, a leader of the communist faction in parliament.


Vladimir Isakov, leader of the hard-line Russian Unity faction in the legislature, went further at a press conference Thursday. "If open violence is used against the Constitution", he said, "we will have to protect it by force as well as constitutional bodies".


The political landscape will be further complicated by question number two, "Do you approve the socio-economic policies carried out by the president of the Russian Federation and the government of the Russian Federation since 1992? "


The Congress introduced this question to dilute the effects of a Yeltsin victory on the confidence issue. With salaries, industrial production and employment plummeting since January 1991, the deputies felt sure of getting a "nyet" vote on the economy.


If Yeltsin claims the moral right to take action based on question one, the Congress - which is tentatively set to meet May 4-5 - will claim the same right based on question two, demanding that Yeltsin reverse his radical reform policies.


That makes a resurgence of the power struggle and continued stalemate the most likely outcome from the vote. Certainly, the president's most powerful opponents believe so.


"If Yeltsin is supported by a relative majority, it will be an impasse", parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov said Friday. He added that if Yeltsin lost the vote, he "will have to resign".


If renewed impasse is the likely outcome of the first two ballot questions, Yeltsin's political adviser, Sergei Stankevicn, suggested that the referendum could yet have dramatic effects through questions three and four. "The referendum results will open the road to political reform, but the main result would be early elections", Stankevich said.


Questions three and four read, "Do you consider it necessary to hold early elections for the president of the Russian Federation? " and "Do you consider it necessary to hold early elections for the people's deputies of the Russian Federation? " respectively.


The last question may get the clearest "Da" vote and is, potentially, legally binding. But the election votes are also held to a tougher standard, requiring approval from an absolute majority of 50 percent of the total electorate - or 53 million votes.


The high turnout that would be required for either of these measures to pass is not expected.