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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A President Toughens His Stand

In his speech to the nation Thursday evening. President Boris Yeltsin made one thing perfectly clear: To his mind, the time for compromise is over. Strengthened by the results of the April referendum, the president spoke more firmly than he has in the past. His new attitude may intensify the confrontation in Russia's political spheres, but in the long run it holds the most promise as this society reshapes itself after the Communist era.


The sharpening of Yeltsin's stand was clearest in the political domain. After a year of compromise with the Congress of People's Deputies, of striking deals and softening his positions on market reform, Yeltsin effectively told the deputies: Shape up or ship out. He was emboldened to do this by final referendum results showing that 67. 1 percent of the voters who cast ballots on April 25 -- or more than two-thirds of the turnout -- want early parliamentary elections, and that more than half of the voters support his reforms. "It is time for deputies to clearly define their attitudes", Yeltsin said, calling on them to "accept the choice made by the people.


The same held true, he said, for officials in executive positions across the Russian Federation. "'People who do not share our policy must simply step aside so as not to interfere with our work", Yeltsin declared. He singled out one top executive, Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, for a stinging disavowal. In contrast to previous more muted statements, Yeltsin asserted Thursday that he had lost all confidence in his number two and summoned him to resign.


Yeltsin was equally firm on the economy. Although he did not name. Viktor Gerashchenko, he virtually declared war on the Central Bank chief, saying that the bank's inflationary policies had to stop. "We are not so rich that we can afford to squander money", Yeltsin said, denouncing the bank's credit-issuing and subsidy policies. This implies that the belt-tightening needed to speed reforms is on the way.


Finally, Yeltsin said he intended to push ahead with his constitutional draft and called for parliamentary elections by the autumn. While he does not have the legal authority to force these issues if they meet with parliamentary opposition, Yeltsin implied that the referendum gave him the moral authority to do so.


Some legislators, Nikolai Travkin first among them, have apparently reached conclusions similar to Yeltsin's and decided to step aside. Others, beginning with Ruslan Khasbulatov, clearly plan to dig in their heels. This is their prerogative, under present legislation, but it is Yeltsin's prerogative to stop compromising with opponents of reform. His decision to stand firm is a good one.