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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kiriyenko Floats Idea Of Weaker Presidency

Former Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko proposed Thursday holding referendums that would change Russia's Constitution to severely limit the powers of the president and parliament in favor of the Cabinet.

"We want to change the system of government," Kiriyenko said. "This is not an attempt to limit the powers of this president; this is an attempt to limit the powers of the next president."

He said the series of three referendums could be accomplished in six to nine months and be completed before Russians go to the polls to elect a new president in July 2000.

Kiriyenko said the measures contained in the referendums were the only way to achieve meaningful change in Russia's political system, in view of what he called the country's corrupt and "agonizing" regime, in which the Kremlin is preoccupied only with maintaining its grip on power.

Kiriyenko's referendums, however, would be purely consultative. The Constitution may be changed only by parliament and the regional legislatures, or by a constitutional convention.

The first referendum, he said, would ask people if they would support a list of measures, including making it more difficult for the president to sack the government; an unspecified limit on the president's age; mechanisms to remove officials who break the law or perform poorly; and requiring the Cabinet to approve parliament's agenda.

The second and third proposed referendums would ask people if they support, respectively, "protection of private property" and "strengthening legal and political guarantees of media organizations' independence from the state and journalists' independence from media owners."

Boris Nadezhdin, coordinator of the referendum task group with Kiriyenko's political party, New Force, said the party has formed initiative groups in Moscow, Tver, Novosibirsk and Arkhangelsk. Now, they are in the process of applying for registration, he said, after which they can start gathering signatures. Two million signatures have to be gathered for a referendum to be held.

Kiriyenko said the maximum age for a new president should be 60, but the limit should not apply to the 2000 presidential elections. Former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, 69, and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, 62, would thus be able to run.

In a reference to Luzhkov and his Fatherland political movement, Kiriyenko said that Russia's main threat today is the system of "bureaucratic capitalism," which he said has been perfected by Luzhkov.

"Moscow is the best example of bureaucratic capitalism," he said. "I do not want to observe how one 'family' receives the baton from another 'family,' even if the new one is better."