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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Attends Funeral on Eve of Victory Day Legislators Maneuver On Charter

Russia's legislature moved to take over the mechanism for passing a new constitution on Friday, in a maneuver to help clinch their battle with Presi-dent Boris Yeltsin to determine the country's balance of powers.


Ignoring the president's objections, Yeltsin's chief rivals in parliament held a meeting of Russia's Constitutional Commission and denounced his pro-posal for a new constitution as an attempt to establish authoritarian rule.


Deputy parliament speaker Nikolai Ryabov told the commission that Yeltsin's draft proposal was the charter of a "constitutional monarchy".


"In the president's draft, there is no republic, but a monarchy", he said. "It is virtually impossible to impeach the president, but the president with one wave of his hand can appoint a new par-liament. The president acts as the sole guarantor of all freedoms and rights".


Constitutional Commission Secre-tary Oleg Rumyantsev, an erstwhile Yeltsin ally whose own draft constitu-tion the president once championed, also rejected Yeltsin's proposal as undemocratic.


"The president is placed above the three branches of power, which is typi-cal of the authoritarian rule and far from democracy", said Rumyantsev. "Even Latin America rejected such regimes 40 or 50 years ago".


Yeltsin, who is chairman of the Con-stitutional Commission, has objected to the meeting being called without his approval and did not attend. The ses-sion was chaired instead by parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov.


The president's top legal aide, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, would normally have argued Yeltsin's case but was also absent.


The commission adopted a resolu-tion saying that certain articles limit human rights and violate the principle of separation of powers. It also pro-posed that the president's team work together with Ryabov to develop a final version.


"If the president refuses, we will find other ways", Ryabov said.


Yeltsin's draft would replace the current federal legislature -- compris-ing the Congress of People's Deputies and its smaller working body, the Supreme Soviet -- with a permanent, bicameral parliament.


It would also give the president sweeping powers, including the right to dissolve parliament and set new elections, to name his entire cabinet and to impose a state of emergency.


Under Russia's current, Soviet-era Constitution, these and other key pow-ers are ultimately in the hands of the Congress, which is dominated by Yeltsin rivals.


Yeltsin, in his first nationwide address since winning 58 percent approval in an April 25 referendum on his rule, said Thursday night that the poll gave him a mandate for pushing ahead with his plans to adopt his draft constitution.


Valery Zorkin, chairman of Rus-sia's Constitutional Court, told reporters on Friday that the Court would examine the contents of Yeltsin's speech to see if the law had been violated, Russian Television reported.


Yeltsin has already sent the draft to the heads of Russia's regional govern-ments for consideration until May 20. With their approval, he hopes he can get the document adopted without the Congress.


"It is unthinkable to pass a new con-stitution by unconstitutional means", Khasbulatov countered.


The parliament speaker has attempted to outmaneuver the presi-dent, first by setting a timetable for the Congress to adopt its own draft consti-tution, and then by convening Friday's meeting to review -- and reject -- Yeltsin's draft.


Responding to Yeltsin's speech of Thursday night, Vice President Alexander Rutskoi on Friday announced that he had decided to run for president.


Meanwhile, speculation continued Friday over the fate of Yury Skokov, secretary of the powerful Security Council and another former Yeltsin ally who has turned against the president.


Commonwealth television reported Thursday that Yeltsin had signed a decree relieving Skokov of his post. A spokeswoman for Skokov declined to confirm or deny the report Friday, com-menting only that "officially from May 7, Yury Vladmirovich is on vacation".