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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Eject Yeltsin, Then Alter Constitution




The Russian Constitution gives the president too much power. From the Communist Party to the Yabloko party, all are in agreement: the Constitution needs to be amended to share more power with parliament and the Cabinet.


However, former Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko has taken this idea and run with it in a very dangerous direction. Kiriyenko is insistent that Russia amend the Constitution immediately - during a timeout of some sort between the December State Duma elections and the July 2000 presidential elections.


"The new president must be elected under a new constitution," Kiriyenko said Tuesday. He says he intends to organize a national referendum to put constitutional amendments on the table in just months.


This is a horrible and irresponsible idea. Boris Yeltsin must legally transfer power under the existing constitution. We cannot start changing the rules of the game at this late date.


Grigory Yavlinsky's Yabloko party has for years advocated rewriting the Constitution to limit the powers of the president - but Yabloko is also emphatic that Yeltsin leave office under the existing constitution. Yabloko is right.


Kiriyenko is not stupid; he surely understands that if he and his allies in Right Cause manage to organize a major rewrite of the Constitution, the July 2000 elections will not be held on time. Right Cause is pushing not just the idea of reducing the Kremlin's power, which enjoys broad support, but also far more controversial ideas - including a presidential age limit (aimed at Yevgeny Primakov?) and an end to immunity from prosecution for members of parliament.


If Kiriyenko gets his way, does anyone see Russia agreeing on a new constitution in weeks, or even months? Of course not.


Then again, that may well be the point. One of Right Cause's top leaders, Anatoly Chubais, is deeply involved in the Kremlin's chess games. Players like Chubais stand to lose a lot in July 2000 - unless they can find a way to keep the Kremlin in the family.


Enter Kiriyenko, with a proposal that would, if nothing else, buy time for the regime - by manipulating the exasperation with it.


The Right Cause siren song goes like this: If only we had had a young, sober president, an independent Cabinet, a corruption-free Duma! We should write these things into the Constitution. But this is at best a delusion. We get none of those good things if we start taking apart the Constitution now.


See Yeltsin out the door and a new president in, through elections - and then, if Kiriyenko still wants to organize his petition drive, we at The Moscow Times will be the first to sign.