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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Council Sets Wrong Tone Of No-Deal

One of the most convincing reasons to back President Boris Yeltsin in the recent elections was that his opponent had made it quite clear he had no intention of keeping the electoral institutions Russia now has. Instead, Gennady Zyuganov said he planned to form a kind of coalition emergency council to run the country.

Yeltsin, of course, is no model democrat. But when it looked as though he might lose the election, Yeltsin did not accept the advice of his closest aides and form a junta in coalition with the Communist Party. Instead, he let the electoral process run its course. And he won.

So, it is a little disappointing to see the idea for a separate institution, designed somehow to correct the flaws of the electoral system, coming to fruition Thursday in the form of Yeltsin's new Political Consultative Council.

The likelihood is that the new council will be a toothless talking shop, more a way for Yeltsin to keep allies for whom there is no room in his administration, rather than let them become enemies because they have been left without a job.

But the logic behind the council is disturbingly similar to that which Zyuganov used in what he clearly believed to be a magnanimous campaign offer of a coalition government for Russia, regardless of who won the elections. Zyuganov's council proposal assumed the presidential electoral system needed correction.

Zyuganov believed the breakdown of forces inside the State Duma was a better reflection of who voters wanted in the Kremlin than a presidential poll, so he proposed a council broken down along similar lines to the Duma. Ivan Rybkin, who now heads Yeltsin's consultative council, believes in turn that it is the Duma that is unrepresentative and requires correction by a parallel body.

However lightly Yeltsin may take the new council, it has been established as a constant and implicit threat to warn the Duma that if it does not cooperate, the ground has been laid for parliament to be dismissed, without being much missed at all.

This may be clever power politics, but it is also potentially unconstitutional. Moreover, with his new mandate, the president would do better to start building a normal political relationship with the Duma rather than indirectly undermining it.

The normal business of politics would mean Yeltsin should now be horse-trading, back-room dealing and compromising with the Duma majority, however uncooperative the opposition may at first be.

The aim, after all, should be to ensure that real legislation gets passed in quantity over the next few years, rather than just presidential decrees of uncertain authority.