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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Assembly Closes Without Charter

The Constitutional Assembly adjourned on Wednesday after a 12-day session without approving the new charter which President Boris Yeltsin had sought, adopting instead a face-saving declaration on the principles a new basic law should include.

Yeltsin had set Wednesday as a deadline for the 700-member assembly to produce a final text for the constitution which he hopes to use to assert his primacy over the conservative dominated Soviet-era parliament.

But in a televised address at Wednesday's session, which lasted only 20 minutes, Yeltsin said he believed smaller working groups could reach agreement during a 10-day recess.

"On the whole, the representatives of the federal power structures at the Constitutional Assembly have avoided confrontation which they have grown so accustomed to during the past six months", Yeltsin said.

Yeltsin had called the assembly in an effort to break his paralyzing stalemate with Russia's legislature, hoping to use the support of regional leaders to drive through a charter with strong presidential powers.

The assembly started dramatically June 5 when parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov stormed out of the hall after being prevented from speaking. The author of a neo-communist draft charter was also carried out of the meeting by police.

But since then the assembly has become bogged down in disputes over detail that have proved more damaging to Yeltsin's strategy.

The regional heads have not fallen in line as hoped and Yeltsin told reporters before Wednesday's full session in the Kremlin's Marble Hall that the assembly would take a recess until June 26 to allow smaller groups to work out final details.

The president said that the assembly had been able to combine the best points of a draft presented by his aides and a draft backed by parliament. Yeltsin did not mention that he had gone into the assembly hoping to have it work only on his draft.

"Today, there is reason to say that a single coordinated draft constitution is emerging", a beaming Yeltsin told the assembly. It is considerably better and richer than the original versions".

Some delegates, citing the difficulty of making progress on power sharing between the regions and Moscow, were less optimistic.

When Yeltsin read out the declaration of the basic principles, he left out a paragraph describing Russia's 20 ethnically defined republics as "sovereign states" but called its 68 territorial regions "formations within the state". Some leaders of the 68 regions have demanded the same economic and political rights as the republics.

Yeltsin also left out a paragraph saying the upper chamber of a new, two--tier parliament should be made up of leaders of the 88 regions and republics. Republican leaders, sensing that this would allow the regions greater representation than the ethnic republics, have opposed the proposal.

Mentimir Shaimiyev, head of the oil-rich Tatarstan republic, told reporters he had abstained from the vote. Reuters reported that representatives of the republics of Yakutia and Dagestan had voted against the declaration.

Wednesday's joint statement, avoiding the stickiest points of the regional issue for the moment, was adopted by 467 of the 594 delegates present.

Prospects for quickly finalizing a draft have faded, due to the hesitations of regional leaders. But Yeltsin still hopes to use the assembly, when it reconvenes on June 26, to limit the role that the conservative-dominated congress can play in the reform process.