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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Changes Rules To Ease Impeachment

The State Duma approved new rules Friday designed to make it easier for parliament's lower house to impeach President Boris Yeltsin.

The rule change comes as some Duma deputies are showing signs of losing heart in the impeachment campaign and as the Liberal Democratic Party, the third largest faction, said it would vote against impeaching the president.

In a vote of 272 to 71, the Duma decided to vote separately on each of the five articles of impeachment. It looks unlikely that all five could pass, but one or more could easily pass individually.

Deputies also decided that the impeachment vote should be held by ballot, rather than electronically with voting cards, which allows them to vote for absent colleagues.

They have not decided whether the ballot will be open or secret, but the majority of deputies favor an open ballot. The feeling is that this would put waffling deputies under pressure to vote for impeachment, rather than face anger from an electorate eager to punish Yeltsin.

The impeachment vote is tentatively set for next Thursday.

Communist deputies, who make up the largest faction in the 450-member house, were visibly nervous Friday about rumblings that Yeltsin was planning to ban the party, sack the Communist-backed government and introduce a state of emergency in the country.

Yeltsin sought to reassure them.

"The Communist Party must not be dissolved," Yeltsin was quoted as saying by Interfax. "It would get the opposite result. Our people pity those who are attacked."

He also denied he was planning to introduce a state of emergency, but he was less clear on Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov's future.

Rumors of plans to dismiss the Cabinet "don't come from me," Yeltsin said, while adding he had unspecified plans to "strengthen" the government - a possible reference to a reshuffle.

The liberal Yabloko faction, with 42 votes, said Friday that it would vote to impeach Yeltsin on only one point, for carrying out the war in Chechnya.

This point has been expected to garner the two-thirds majority required for impeachment, or 320 votes, but one large bloc of votes appeared to slip away Friday.

The Liberal Democratic Party, led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, an extreme nationalist who is nonetheless an inveterate supporter of Kremlin policy, announced a majority of its deputies would vote against the articles of impeachment.

Two of the counts - genocide of the Russian people by decisions that induced poverty among the population, and the destruction of the military - are politically charged and find little support outside parliament's more radical circles.

A third charge, the collapse of the Soviet Union, is also politically charged, but it may pass due to the vast leftist majority in the Duma.

The other two - the Chechen war and the use of force against a rebellious parliament in October 1993 - find the broadest support.

If the articles of impeachment pass the Duma, they would then go to the Federation Council. Members of the upper house who met Friday with Yeltsin in the Kremlin said they would turn the measures down.

"We believe sincerely, responsibly and in good conscience that we cannot allow shake-ups in the difficult period the country is now living through," the news agency Itar-Tass quoted Chuvashia President Nikolai Fyodorov as saying.

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who wields hefty influence in the Federation Council, was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying: "Any rocking of the state boat ... this impeachment they have thought up - these are processes that negatively affect stability in the country."

Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov told lawmakers that Yeltsin suggested Friday that the impeachment debate be delayed. But Yeltsin spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin den ied this, saying the president does not want the impeachment vote postponed.

If the articles of impeachment pass both houses of parliament, both of Russia's high courts would have to declare them valid before Yeltsin could actually be removed.