Some Question Legality of Yeltsin's Actions
By setting aside the Constitution to save market reforms, Yeltsin may have unwittingly set back the cause of democracy in Russia. His act underscores a Russian craving for order.
IN acting to disband an obstinate legislature and conduct new parliamentary elections, President Boris Yeltsin is bypassing Russia's Constitution in the name of preserving the nation's nascent democracy.Skip to next paragraph
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Presidential allies, such as Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, defend Mr. Yeltsin's sudden move against his political enemies, saying such decisive action represents the only way out of the intractable political conflict.
But in employing Bolshevik-like methods, in which the ends justify the means, Yeltsin is running the risk of wrecking Russian democracy, opponents of his actions say. Lacking a democratic tradition, Russia is vulnerable to a return to authoritarianism.
``Here, a tough, authoritarian regime that preserved free enterprise, and the course to a market economy, would be welcomed by the people,'' says Viktor Kiselev, a sociologist at the Moscow Institute of Political and Economic Research.
Yeltsin's reasoning for dissolving parliament is that Russia's Soviet-era Constitution is secondary to the legitimate will of the majority, which favors a market economy. Both the Constitution and parliament are holdovers from the era of Communist Party rule, which ended following the failed coup of August 1991.
Throughout the political struggle, Yeltsin and his supporters have argued that legislators have not been acting in the nation's best interests, and instead are protecting their privileges. The deputies counter that their activity is dictated by the Constitution. Antireform stronghold
Under Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov's stewardship, the parliament has become an antireform stronghold, in which deputies opposed adopting a new, pro-market constitution. As the conflict with the president intensified, Khasbulatov silenced his critics within parliament, removing pro-Yeltsin deputies from key posts.
As a result, parliament has come under the domination of hard-line deputies, who recently have been exhibiting their neo-Communist colors. Mr. Khasbulatov and Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, who now claims to be Russia's legitimate chief executive, both have called for the revival of the Soviet Union.
The fact that the Constitution is riddled with contradictions gives added weight to the president's cause, his supporters say. But though he is ignoring the Constitution - which clearly makes the president's power-play illegal - Yeltsin is trying to preserve a sense of order in Russia.
In his televised speech Tuesday announcing the banning of parliament, the president stressed that the government would not order the use of force to end the political standoff. Moral obligations
While basing his decision on moral obligations, Yeltsin has sought to give his actions an air of legality. He cited constitutional provisions in his decree disbanding the parliament. He also said the April referendum, which overwhelmingly endorsed his rule, gave him legal latitude to act.
Following that plebiscite, Yeltsin sought to circumvent parliamentary opposition to a new constitution, convening an assembly of representatives from all Russian regions in June to hammer a compromise on a new Basic Law. Due to parliamentary resistance, however, the assembly's momentum soon stalled.