Russian Congress sets oversight vote for today

December 05, 1992|By Will Englund | Will Englund,Moscow Bureau

MOSCOW -- A crucial measure that would strike a direct blo at President Boris N. Yeltsin's power is scheduled for a vote today in the Russian Congress of People's Deputies.

The same measure had been scheduled for a vote three different times yesterday and was put off each time.

Yesterday's session of the powerful but unwieldy Russian Congress saw Mr. Yeltsin's conservative opponents appearing to gain the upper hand. But it was also a day full of intrigue, private meetings, threats and deal-making -- and when it ended nothing had quite been resolved.

Former Communists, their allies and other disaffected legislators have sponsored constitutional amendments that would give parliament the power to confirm or deny ministerial appointments.

Proponents point out that such legislative oversight is the practice throughout most of the world. Mr. Yeltsin and his allies retort that most of the world doesn't have to contend with legislatures that are completely dominated by Communists.

The issue may have more symbolic value than substance, because Mr. Yeltsin could probably continue to govern pretty much as he has been even if the amendments pass.

But the amendments require a two-thirds vote of the 1,040 registered members of the Congress -- not just of those present. If Mr. Yeltsin's allies are unable to prevent a "yes" vote of that size, it would be seen as a major display of political weakness.

Initial first readings of those amendments sailed easily through the Congress yesterday morning, as opponents of Mr. Yeltsin's reforms seemed firmly in control.

The Congress also agreed to consider a resolution condemning the Cabinet's handling of the economy.

Shortly afterward, Mr. Yeltsin's chief spokesman, Vyacheslav Kostikov, said the president might need to consider sponsoring a referendum to dissolve the Congress, which is not scheduled to face new elections until 1995.

Later, another Yeltsin aide, Sergei Stankevich, denied that the president was planning such a move.

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