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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Assembly Adjourns, But Still No Charter

President Boris Yeltsin has for a second time suspended the Constitutional Assembly, after a compromise proposal for a new draft charter for Russia received only qualified support.


However, Yeltsin, who wants to solve his power struggle with parliament through a new charter that would expand his powers at the expense of the legislature's, did get a vote of confidence of sorts from Saturday's session.


Over 600 delegates ignored calls for boycotts by Yeltsin's rivals in parliament and threats of withdrawal by Russia's reticent regional leaders to attend Saturday's three-hour full session of the Assembly, its first since going into recess June 16.


But while most speakers voiced general support for the draft stitched together by a special committee during the recess from the proposals of the Assembly's five working groups, the Assembly adjourned without approving the draft.


Yeltsin spokesman Vyacheslav Kostikov said that the break might last a week, and that the next session would be the last.


"As a result of intensive work, we have a single version of the constitution", the president told the Assembly during his 10-minute address. "We now have a subject for discussion".


"The draft has synthesized all the best elements contained in the two drafts", Yeltsin said, referring to a version proposed by his aides and a rival draft backed by parliament's Constitutional Commission.


Yeltsin, who had originally set June 16 as the deadline for finalizing a draft, was upbeat despite the delay, perhaps drawing encouragement from the fact that delegates from the breakaway republic of Tatarstan did not leave the session as they had threatened, and that some legislators ignored a decision by parliament to boycott the assembly.


But the main road blocks to final approval of any new constitution by the assembly - differences among delegates over the distribution of power between the president and parliament, relations between the regions and Moscow, and how to get the charter adopted - remained.


Finding answers to these questions will now fall on the 43-member working commission, hand-picked by Yeltsin himself, that cobbled together the draft proposal presented Saturday.


On the top of their agenda is the task of finding a formula that will suit Russia's 68 territorial regions and 20 ethnically defined republics, whose leaders are divided over how much autonomy the regions should have.


Republican leaders insist on a formulation that would give them the status of sovereign states within the Russian Federation, complete with the right to have bilateral treaties with Moscow.


The current compromise draft grants the republics this right - a condition insisted on by Tatarstan, according to Vasily Likhachev, the republic's vice president who attended Saturday's session.


Leaders of some of the more powerful regions, which are promised economic rights equal to those of the republics but are termed mere "state territorial regions", object to the special status given the republics, saying that it could lead to the breakup of the Russian Federation.


Little of this controversy was evident on Saturday, although Viktor Stepanov, the chairman of the parliament of the republic of Karelia on the Finnish border, likened this lull to the "calm before the storm".


The Assembly's working group that comprises regional and republican leaders is expected to meet Tuesday.


Another recurring point of contention remains the division of powers between Russia's president and parliament - the very struggle the constitution is supposed to solve. Maria Salye, a liberal legislator from St. Petersburg, objected that in the new draft, parliament, not the president, has the final say in approving a new prime minister.


Russia's current constitutional crisis was touched off in December last year when the Congress of People's Deputies, Russia's highest legislature, refused Yeltsin's candidate for prime minister, free-market reformist Yegor Gaidar.