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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Rebuffed Over Prosecutor

Parliament's upper house handed President Boris Yeltsin two stinging defeats Monday night by rejecting for a second time his candidate for public prosecutor and approving only half his nominees for the Constitutional Court.


As the secret ballots were tallied, Alexei Ilyushenko's candidacy for the nation's highest legal position fell short by 13 votes. Ilyushenko has held the post since February on a temporary basis; his last attempt to win the job outright failed in April.


The Federation Council also hamstrung Yeltsin's attempts to fill the Constitutional Court. By failing to approve his entire slate of six nominees to make up its full complement of 19 justices, the deputies guaranteed that the lengthy process of nominating and ratifying would begin again.


That leaves in place a legal vacuum at the heart of the country's government that was created in the wake of the violence last October, when the previous court was suspended.


Before the ballot was taken, legislators had predicted that the court's revival was unlikely. Several of Yeltsin's candidates were members of political parties, said Sergei Levitan, a deputy from the city of Perm, adding that legislators would not look kindly on judicial candidates who harbored political agendas.


Legislators rejected Mikhail Mityukov, a Duma deputy from the Russia's Choice party, Yeltsin aide Mikhail Krasnov and Moscow judge Valery Savitsky. They approved Olga Khokhryakova, another Moscow judge; Vladimir Tumanov, a Duma deputy elected from the Party of Unity and Accord; and Vladimir Yaroslavtsev, a St. Petersburg judge.


Though he would not name names, Levitan said several of the candidates and their political inclinations were well known to council members from their days on the Supreme Soviet.


In statements drawing further ire from legislators, some candidates told the judicial committee that the constitution could be circumvented owing to "loopholes" and the country's still undeveloped political climate. Not exactly what you want to hear from a candidate for the highest court in the land, Levitan said.


What happens next is not entirely clear. But Gennady Talalayev, deputy head of the Federation Council's press center, said it stood to reason that if the court could not function with six seats vacant then it probably would not convene until all the additional seats were filled.


The Constitutional Court has been suspended since it refused to approve Yeltsin's disbanding of parliament more than a year ago, an act that culminated in the attack on the White House. Since then, the constitution has specified new rules for the court and expanded its ranks from 13 to 19. The six new judges will serve 12-year terms; the remainder are made up of judges from the court's previous incarnation. They serve life terms.


Russia's lack of a Constitutional Court has not only produced an enormous backlog of cases and allowed disputes between the branches of power to fester, but has also tarnished the country's image in the international community.


In a scathing report on Russia's legal system and human rights record issued earlier this month, the Council of Europe said Russia's anticipated admission into its ranks was unlikely, primarily due to failures in its judicial system.


The speaker of the State Duma, Ivan Rybkin, pledged on Monday to redress those legal shortcomings at a meeting in St. Petersburg. He said he hoped Russia would have met European legal standards by May 1995.


Ilyushenko received 76 out of the 90 votes needed to win him his job on a permanent basis. His defeat may prove an embarassment to Yeltsin, as he has now twice asked the Federation Council to approve Ilyushenko's appointment as public prosecutor and has twice been rebuffed.


Ilyushenko was nominated to fill the job of Alexei Kazannik, whom Yeltsin effectively fired. In 1993, Ilyushenko had helped to form a presidential commission on corruption that went after former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi by using documents that ultimately proved to be forged.


Monday's events did not appear to bode well for Yeltsin, who must shortly submit nominations for the finance minister and the head of the Central Bank to the State Duma, which is considerably more hostile than the Federation Council.