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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Approves Yeltsin's Constitution

President Boris Yeltsin's Constitutional Assembly on Monday gave overwhelming approval to his draft for a new constitution that would redefine the power structure of post-Soviet Russia.


But Yeltsin made it clear that the charter's final adoption -- and his victory in a year-long power struggle with the Russian legislature -- depends on feuding provincial leaders, whose support for the president is questionable.


In a full session of Yeltsin's hand-picked Assembly held in the Kremlin's Palace of Congresses, delegates, as expected, approved the president's draft 433-62 with 63 abstentions, easily exceeding the absolute majority required. Another 27 delegates were present but did not take part in the vote.


Among those voting for the constitution was Valery Zorkin, chairman of the Constitutional Court, who has frequently opposed Yeltsin.


But in a sign of Yeltsin's expected difficulties in getting the constitution ratified, representatives of only 10 of Russia's 21 ethnically defined republics signed the draft.


Economically powerful Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and Sakha were among the republics that refused to sign. Reuters reported that about one-third of the country's 68 geographically defined regions also did not sign.


Yeltsin's draft will now be debated in the local legislatures of Russia's 89 regions and republics. The assembly is to reconvene in August to consider any amendments.


After the vote, a smiling Yeltsin thanked the assembly's delegates for their work and invited them to sign the draft. The assembly, which has met intermittently since June 5, made over 500 amendments to Yeltsin's draft.


The vote was a victory for Yeltsin since his draft eliminates the Congress of People's Deputies, Russia's top legislature and the president's main obstacle to implementing his market reforms.


Yeltsin, in his speech before the vote, said: "Without a radical resolution of the constitutional issue, further economic reforms are becoming impossible in principle".


"The new Russia needs a new constitution", he added.


But under the existing Soviet-era Constitution, the congress alone has control over adopting a new charter -- the reason why Yeltsin needs the support of the regions in either bypassing the conservative legislature or forcing it to approve the president's draft.


Yeltsin said in his speech that the assembly should also begin adopting procedures to ratify a new constitution -- a comment indicating the president's low expectation of approval by the congress.


Yeltsin appeared to acknowledge that his victory Monday would remain only a qualified one until his draft gets the approval of the 68 regions and 21 republics. A 22nd republic, Chechnya, has effectively seceded from Russia.


"The regions and republics must now express their own attitude toward" the draft constitution, Yeltsin said.


But the regions and republics, disgruntled over how power would be shared with Moscow under the new charter, were unenthusiastic about last-minute concessions in the draft.


The regions, many of which are larger and more economically powerful than the republics, had refused to sign the draft until their status was upgraded. Some regions, including Yetlsin's home of Sverdlovsk, declared themselves republics this month.


Under the new draft, the regions would be allowed to issue their own laws and have their own charters. They are also guaranteed equal economic rights with the republics.


The 21 ethnically based republics would be allowed to sign separate treaties with Moscow on bilateral relations -- a measure insisted on by powerful Tatarstan.


Unlike the regions, the republics would have their own constitutions, national symbols and languages, and citizenship, but they are forbidden from seceding from Russia.