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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Need Not Resign if Ill

The Constitutional Court handed President Boris Yeltsin a victory Tuesday by ruling he would not have to give up office if temporarily unable to perform his duties because of illness or other reasons.

The court made the decision in response to requests from the Communist-led opposition for a ruling on what happens if the president is incapacitated. The Constitution is vague on the subject, which is considered important because of Yeltsin's poor health and prolonged absences from work.

The Constitution says that if the president leaves office before his term is over, elections for a new president must be called within three months. It does not say whether a president could be removed because of ill health.

The court ruled Tuesday that if the president were temporarily unable to perform his duties and the prime minister assumedthem, there was no requirement to call early elections.

As acting president, the prime minister would be prohibited from some presidential powers: dissolving the lower house of parliament, or State Duma; calling referenda; or proposing constitutional amendments. He would leave office once the president had returned to office or a new president was elected.

Yeltsin's representative to the court, Mikhail Mityukov, said that the court decision was in complete accord with the Kremlin's opinion. Following the collapse of an impeachment bid in May, the opposition has turned its attention from ousting the president to ensuring that he doesn't cling to office beyond presidential elections scheduled for mid-2000.

Yeltsin is constitutionally barred from running again. However, some have speculated that Yeltsin may try to hold onto power.

Yeltsin said in an interview published Tuesday in the Izvestia daily that he is ready to leave office after next year's presidential elections and hoped that "young and energetic" leaders would carry on his political legacy.

Yeltsin said his main focus now was on ensuring "worthy" elections. "New leaders, young and energetic and with new governing ideas, must emerge," he said. "They must emerge through an honest and open election campaign. I will turn over my powers to such an authority with an easy mind, as they say."