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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Presents New Draft Constitution

President Boris Yeltsin on Thursday presented a new draft constitution to Russia's regional leaders, saying that his victory in this week's referendum gave him the right to bypass his opponents in the legislature if they tried to block the new charter.


Making his first public statement since Sunday's referendum, Yeltsin called the poll results a total defeat for his political enemies.


"The most important result is that the people have backed the policy of deep reforms", Yeltsin said. "This was the referendum's sensation, a great surprise sprung by the Russian people on the opponents of the reforms".


"Now it is our task to justify their confidence in us", said Yeltsin, who won 58 percent approval for his presidency in the vote and 52 percent support for market reforms.


At a meeting of top cabinet ministers and the leaders of Russia's 88 regions and republic, Yeltsin presented a 52-page draft constitution that would abolish his main rival for power, the conservative-dominated Congress of People's Deputies.


"The Congress and Supreme Soviet should make up their minds to submit to the people's will or to confront the people directly", Yeltsin said, referring to the legislature's reluctance to accept his draft.


The Supreme Soviet, the smaller working parliament that is drawn from the Congress, responded quickly Thursday evening by passing a motion that asserts their right to oversee constitutional reform.


Yeltsin's top legal adviser. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, said the referendum amounted to a mandate for the president to push ahead with a new constitution and meant that the Congress and Supreme Soviet have lost their right to control the process.


Shakhrai, speaking to reporters before parliament adopted its resolution, said Yeltsin had three options to get his charter adopted.


He said the president could hold a referendum on the basic principles after they have been approved by the regional leaders. Alternatively, Yeltsin could establish a constitutional assembly that would include the regional leaders in order to adopt the document.


As a third option, Shakhrai did not rule out that the current legislature might approve Yeltsin's draft. But described that scenario as extremely unlikely.


Some Yeltsin opponents did appear to agree that they should change their ways after the president's win.


"We cannot help but admit that the people supported the president and his reforms in the referendum", said Andrei Golovin, a leader of the Change-New Policy faction of parliament that has consistently opposed Yeltsin in the past.


"Maybe parliament should not interfere in the executive branch's attempt to carry out economic reform", he said.


Yeltsin's text would establish a system of checks and balances and a separation of powers that is woefully lacking Russia's current much amended law, drafted in 1978.


Yeltsin's draft would establish a powerful, directly elected president who would be head of state but not the head of the executive branch. That function would go to the prime minister, who would report both to the president and to a new bicameral parliament.


The two-chamber parliament, renamed the Federal Assembly, would have one chamber, the Council of the Federation, that would represent Russia's 88 republics and regions. This body would approve key appointments and have the biggest say on constitutional matters. The other chamber, or State Duma, would concentrate on legislation.


Parliament's resolution, which was proposed by the Rossiya faction of hardline Yeltsin opponents and rammed through in the space of a few minutes, aimed to recapture the initiative in defining Russia's balance of powers.


The decision set a schedule giving parliament the final say shaping the new charter, ignoring Yeltsin's draft and his proposed plan for its adoption. Parliament's constitution would be adopted by a Nov. 17 session of the Congress.


Presidential spokesmen were unavailable for comment late Thursday. None of the president's legal advisers were present in parliament when the motion passed, indicating that the move had been carried out without Yeltsin's approval.