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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President, Parliament Propose Poll Delay

President Boris Yeltsin and the two speakers of both houses of parliament have "in principle" agreed to postpone parliamentary elections till 1997, Vladimir Shumeiko, the chairman of the upper house said Tuesday. "We should prolong our work for another two years," Shumeiko told a session of the Federation Council. "New elections will only shake up the state." "As far as I understood the president agrees and Ivan Rybkin is also in agreement in principle," he told reporters later, when asked if he had discussed the idea with Yeltsin and the speaker of the State Duma. Rybkin later confirmed that he, too, favored postponing elections to the Duma. "I would be glad if this happened, since people are suffering from electoral exhaustion. People are fed up and it costs money," he said. The two speakers' comments about a move that would fly in the face of the new Russian Constitution come after unconfirmed rumors that Yeltsin was seeking to prolong his presidential term for a further two years till 1998. Shumeiko, Rybkin and Yeltsin have formed a good working relationship in the last six months. They meet regularly and appear capable of reaching a consensus, something that was all but impossible in the days of the old Supreme Soviet. Shumeiko said Tuesday that the new parliament was a young one that had only just started work and that it would destabilize the country to dissolve it after only two years. Rybkin said the decision on whether to postpone elections should depend on the economic situation in Russia. "It can happen if an element of stability appears in the economy in the next two or three months, if we manage to create a legislative structure in the country and if we form an organ capable of productive work in the Duma and the Federation Council," he said. Under the new constitution the parliament serves a four-year term, but according to the "transitional positions" appendix the first term lasts only two years, setting new elections for December 1995. The Federation Council, which was elected last December, is due to be appointed next Shumeiko said that it might take a new referendum to change the constitution but this would be "several times cheaper" than holding new elections in 1995. Presidential elections are currently due in June 1996, leaving Yeltsin the opportunity to review the results of the parliamentary polls before he or his chosen heir do battle. Shumeiko, a close Yeltsin ally, did not mention postponing presidential elections directly, saying only that he fully backed his mentor. "I've expressed my opinion more than once that it would be a blessing for Russia if the president, if Boris Nikolayevich stayed for another term because -- understand me correctly -- Russia has never had a presidential republic before," Shumeiko said. He said that in Russia "the presidential post is one of the youngest institutions, just like the institution of the two-chamber parliament," suggesting that both needed more time to develop. Alexander Orfyonov of Yeltsin's press service said he did not know of any agreement between the president and parliament, but had no reason to doubt Shumeiko's words. He said that any agreement to postpone elections would have to be worked out carefully and done "legitimately." In September Yeltsin called early presidential elections for June 12 this year, but the appendix to the constitution stipulated that Yeltsin should serve out the five-year term he was elected for until 1996. Any change to the constitution needs the support of two-thirds of the State Duma and three quarters of the Federation Council. Several deputies in the Duma reacted sharply to Shumeiko's statement Tuesday and said changes to the constitution would not get through the chamber. "It is an absolutely impermissible decision from a moral point of view," said Viktor Sheinis of the liberal Yabloko group. "I am confident that even deputies who want to prolong their powers won't decide to blacken their names." Alexander Osovtsov of the reformist Russia's Choice faction said he was "categorically against" the idea of postponing the elections and called it "unsporting and ungentlemanly." He said he wanted to see new parliamentary polls as soon as possible to change the look of the opposition-dominated parliament. Russia's Choice has already clashed once with Yeltsin's administration in the last week after the faction condemned his controversial decree on crime as a manifesto to abuse human rights. The Duma is expected to debate a motion condemning the decree Wednesday. Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky said it was "possible" to postpone elections but then added that his Liberal Democratic Party should be allowed to form a government. Zhirinovsky's lieutenant, Alexander Vengerovsky, was more welcoming to the idea and said that it might be a route to achieve consensus. Communist deputy Viktor Zorkaltsev also called the idea "unethical" and said the parliament should only see out its two-year term, according to the constitution. Shumeiko also suggested another change to the constitution Tuesday, saying the Federation Council should have the power, alongside the Duma, to initiate legislation directly. Only the Duma currently has that right. Shumeiko said the Federation Council was a central plank in the country's political structure and needed enhanced powers. Svetlana Kolosova contributed to this article