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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

High Court Rules Out Presidential 3rd Term

The Constitutional Court ruled Thursday that President Boris Yeltsin cannot seek another term in office under the Russian Constitution.

The verdict, which just a few months ago was being hotly awaited, is now unlikely to affect the 2000 presidential elections, since Yeltsin says he will not run again and has suffered political reverses that would make re-election unlikely if he tried.

The president expressed satisfaction with the ruling, spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin said. "He long ago answered what was the main question for him: that he will not participate in the presidential election in 2000," Interfax quoted Yakushkin as saying.

"This is not a victory for this or that political line, but a victory of law over emotions, of which we have had more than enough in the past few days," Yakushkin said.

Before his political fortunes soured in the wake of the August ruble devaluation, Yeltsin sent mixed signals about seeking a third term, saying he would not run while staff argued that he could.

His aides argued that his first term, which began in 1991 when Russia was part of the Soviet Union, did not count because it fell under the Soviet Constitution. By this reasoning his second term, to which he was elected in 1996, was his first under the 1993 Constitution.

But the judges, in a ruling delivered orally by chairman of the court Marat Baglai, ruled that the question was so clear that no extensive interpretation of the Constitution was needed.

The court, noting that Yeltsin is legally the guarantor of the Constitution, also relied on his own statements that he could not run again.

Yeltsin's representative to the court, Mikhail Mityukov, said the case was an attempt to harass the president politically.

"The case was not started by the president or the presidential administration, but by political forces who are interested in starting the election campaign early, and to an extent to put pressure on the president and to criticize him," Mityukov said.

Constitutional Court judges, many of whom were handpicked by Yeltsin, rarely rule against Yeltsin. The court made it clear when it took up the case several months ago that the case would have to wait its turn to be considered. But it is widely thought that the court delayed giving a decision until the issue became politically less sensitive.

State Duma Deputy Alexei Zakharov, who along with Deputy Yelena Mizulina initiated the Constitutional Court inquiry, said "it is a victory for the entire country" and an important affirmation of legal limitations on executive power. "Without legal succession, power is corrupt," he said.

Zakharov said the decision would have the beneficial effect of discouraging provincial governors from trying to hold onto power by using similar arguments.

Yeltsin's Communist opponents, who demand he resign before the end of his term, have been pressing him on several fronts, including a slow-moving impeachment process in the Duma, parliament's lower house. However, the impeachment procedure is complicated and is unlikely to produce any results.