Yeltsin's Pledge for Early Elections Lacks Legal Basis, Parliamentary Critics Claim

WARNING that reforms will be doomed unless Russia's political crisis ends soon, President Boris Yeltsin vowed yesterday to launch an all-out offensive to crush his political opponents in Parliament.

Mr. Yeltsin, who has been engaged in a long-running power struggle with the conservative-dominated legislature, said he was formulating a 2 1/2-month "action plan" to restore political stability.

"The parliament's activity has taken on an antipopular character. It increasingly threatens the country's security. A stop must be put to such a practice," Yeltsin said at a news conference on the second anniversary of the failed 1991 coup.

"A new Russia cannot have such a Parliament," Yeltsin added. Earlier this month Yeltsin predicted a "decisive political clash" was looming in September, adding that August should be used for an "artillery barrage" to soften up the opposition.

The tactic Yeltsin hopes to use to defeat his hard-line opponents is to call for early parliamentary elections, which under the Constitution are not due until 1995. A new vote could sweep away many of the former Communist Party apparatchiks now dominating parliament, and thus remove the main obstacle to passage of a new constitution, the president says.

The opposition insists the president does not have the constitutional authority to call early elections without the approval of the Congress of People's Deputies, Russia's top legislative body. The Congress is resisting early elections.

But First Deputy Premier Vladimir Shumeiko, a Yeltsin supporter, said Wednesday the results of April's nationwide referendum give the president the power to call early elections. In that poll, Yeltsin received popular backing for his administration and economic policies, but at the same time, proposals to hold early parliamentary and presidential elections failed to win sufficient popular support.

If early parliamentary elections are Yeltsin's target, there are signs he may not have enough political ammunition.

The Russian economy is again showing signs of faltering following a brief period of progress. Inflation, for example, shot up 8 percent during the first week of August, the largest weekly rise since early January. In addition, industrial production dropped 3 percent in July from the previous month and is down 18 percent from 1992 levels. A sharply declining economy could deprive Yeltsin of much-needed popular support for his early election effort.

Yeltsin's opponents have made clear they will resist the plan.

"The political circles around Boris Yeltsin ... are persistently pushing the president toward coercive action," warned Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, an outspoken Yeltsin critic. "Consequently, they are pushing the country to the brink, behind which lies blood, violence, chaos, and the collapse of Russian statehood."

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