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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

SEASON OF DISCONTENT: No Gain From Constitutional Amendments




Leader of the Communist Party Gennady Zyuganov is calling ever more insistently for the abolition of presidential elections via direct nationwide voting. He proposes either the abolition of the presidency as an institution or the election of a president via a limited group of electors.


It seems odd that his advisers, some of them intelligent and educated people, are not rushing to tell him what a serious political and public relations mistake he is making. Such calls from the undisputed leader of all public opinion surveys point to Zyuganov's total lack of confidence in his ability to win direct presidential elections.


This refusal to fight at the crucial moment shows that Zyuganov has not become the leader of the left on a national scale, but has remained the provincial apparatchik he always was. Winning direct presidential elections in Russia at the end of the 20th century would signify far more for the left than simply an accession to power. It would mean above all the ideological and metaphysical revanche of the left idea and the shedding of the totalitarian aura that has accompanied it for 70 years.


The prospect of such a victory cannot fail to enthrall true adherents of the left idea - assuming, of course, that such people exist. Especially when such a victory has been facilitated by the colossal damage inflicted on the liberal idea by the bandit capitalism that has established itself in Russia.


Were the left to have a leader of the status, let's say, of Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski (and he's no political giant), it would have already won without any difficulty back in 1996.


But let's turn to the more general and significant issue of the presidency as an institution in Russia.


Few have seconded Zyuganov's calls, but almost all political camps have declared their support for the introduction of constitutional amendments that would, to varying degrees, redistribute power in favor of parliament.


The disillusionment caused by Boris Yeltsin's presidency, his blatant failures and abuse of power, have shaped general perceptions of the entire institution of the presidency as consolidated by the 1993 Constitution. Such a reaction is entirely natural and understandable on a psychological level, but is insufficiently thought through in political terms. Yeltsin did initiate a criminal war in Chechnya. But, according to the Constitution, the State Duma had sufficient political means, and the Federation Council sufficient legal means, to stop this war. But they didn't. Yeltsin did indeed aggressively propose his candidates for prime minister. But who forced the State Duma to approve them? Nor is it written anywhere in the Constitution that a crook like Boris Berezovsky should become the financial manager of the presidential family and begin influencing political decisions. A warrant for his arrest, which for some reason has not been made out by the constitutionally independent Prosecutor General's Office, would long ago have ended Berezovsky's spectacular career, which has so shamed Russia.


Maybe it's not a question of the Constitution or Yeltsin's personal integrity, but of the general level of moral responsibility of our "political elite."


A few innocent-looking amendments to the Constitution could easily transform Russia from a presidential republic into a parliamentary one, even if the presidency continues to exist. In a country lacking a developed party system, such a republic would be a blueprint for chaos and disintegration.