President Boris Yeltsin's supporters say his draft constitution offers Russia the best hope for overcoming its current political crisis.

But Yeltsin opponents denounce the president's draft as politically expedient today, but fraught with danger for Russia tomorrow.

"It's written to serve a concrete individual [Yeltsin]. It's a single-use thing, like a disposable syringe," says Mr. Yeltsin's chief rival, parliament Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov.

"Yeltsin is possessed by only one idea - to retain power," political analyst Vladimir Pribilovsky added.

The two aspects of Yeltsin's draft that most concern scholars are provisions on presidential power and Russia's federal structure. Many scholars say the Yeltsin draft paves the way for dictatorship because it concentrates power in the executive's hands.

For example, the Yeltsin draft would allow the president to dissolve the parliament if the legislature refused to approve a candidate for prime minister. The president could also call elections and a referendum.

In addition, the Yeltsin draft abolishes the vice presidency and handicaps the legislature by requiring a majority vote of all elected deputies, not just a majority of those voting, to pass laws.

"If anything is borrowed from Russia's unique past experience, it's the political tradition of autocracy and Bolshevik one-man command," wrote legal scholar Vyacheslav Nikonov in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper.

The proposed federative structure is also facing criticism, with some saying it creates conditions for ethnic conflict. Yeltsin's draft would grant Russia's autonomous republics privileges not enjoyed by other regions. Some, including many republican leaders, call the proposals insufficient, while others say they give too much to the autonomies.

Mr. Nikonov said the Yeltsin draft showed Moscow suffers from a "mania to regulate everything," adding this "defective philosophy dooms the country to a growth of separatist tendencies."

Despite the supposed defects, most scholars say the Yeltsin draft is still better than a constitutional version drawn up by parliament's Constitutional Commission. "At least it [the Yeltsin draft] is a step in the right direction," Nikonov said.

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