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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Rulers View Legal Niceties As No Hurdle




Our people are very compassionate, and therefore we will not ban the Communist Party." So stated President Boris Yeltsin last week during a meeting with the presidents of Russia's autonomous republics. It appears that he was speaking with complete sincerity and that it never occurred to him that the Communist Party should not be banned, not because the people are compassionate, but because there are no legal grounds to do so. And that when and if such grounds appear, then it will be the courts that dissolve the Communist Party, through an adversarial legal process and with the observation of appeals procedures.


Surprisingly, Yeltsin's comment, which was completely inappropriate coming from the country's supreme guarantor of constitutional rights, drew no protests from the Communist Party leaders. Apparently they, like Comrade Yeltsin, believe that the authorities, and only the authorities, should make decisions concerning the existence of opposition parties, based exclusively on considerations of political expediency.


The exact same approach is taken to other important political questions. Thus the head of the Communist Party, Gennady Zyuganov, describes the country's political prospects after impeachment as follows: "All three branches of power will assemble and decide all questions, including the issue of the presidency." What do the "three branches of power" have to do with it? All questions regarding the functioning of the political institutions in case of the removal of a president are answered in detail in the constitution - direct general presidential elections after three months.


But it is well known that Zyuganov does not want direct general elections (because he has no chances to win them), and, if the impeachment undertaking is successful, he apparently plans to disregard constitutional procedures. First, to impeach the president and then to impeach the people, by revoking their right to elect the next president.


Is there even one politician in Russia who honors the constitution and is prepared to follow its procedures? Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov's memorable letter of January, "on social accord," came down to one essential thesis - "Yevgeny Maximovich Primakov cannot under any circumstances be removed from office until the middle of the year 2000." Even if one agrees that it would be of absolute and unconditional benefit to the country for him to remain in office as long as possible, it is impossible not to note that such an "accord" would annul, or at least freeze, a whole host of articles of the Russian Federation's constitution.


Such a replacement of the constitution by an "accord" would create an extremely dangerous precedent. Presidential elections could then be replaced by an "accord" between ruling comrades. This scenario is completely realistic, given that the notion of a civilized "accord" in politics - meaning the strict observation of a constitutionally-mandated separation of powers - is totally alien to our political class.


"We will empty the jails and camps for those whom we will be imprisoning there," Primakov declared, with apparent sensual satisfaction. We will be jailing, we will be banning. The two 70-year-old former Soviet Politburo candidate-members who rule us are in a desperate under-the-carpet struggle with each other. But they both came out of the same school of totalitarian consciousness.