Yeltsin agrees to hold early presidential vote Parliament must face polls first

September 19, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW -- President Boris N. Yeltsin said yesterday that he would agree to early presidential elections to resolve Russia's seemingly hopeless political gridlock -- but only if parliamentary elections are held six months earlier.

Mr. Yeltsin made the surprise offer after he was once again outmaneuvered by political foes in a bid to create what would amount to an alternative parliament.

However, it seems unlikely that the conservative Congress of People's Deputies will agree to hold elections before its term expires in 1995.

The Congress is scheduled to convene Nov. 17. Lawmakers have made no secret of their intention to strip Mr. Yeltsin of most of his powers if they can. Mr. Yeltsin's foes warned -- not for the first time -- that the president is preparing to dissolve parliament.

"All constitutional formalities and legal norms may be forsaken," said Vice President Alexander I. Rutskoi, who has been suspended and physically barred from his Kremlin office by Mr. Yeltsin. "They will try to push the country into an emergency regime and dictatorship."

Parliament's Deputy Chairman Yuri Voronin told the regional leaders yesterday that Mr. Yeltsin might declare "special rule" in the Moscow region, Interfax reported. Yeltsin aides dismissed "these absurd rumors" and said he has no such plans.

Ever since parliament tried to impeach Mr. Yeltsin in March, the ++ president has been trying to get rid of it -- but has been unable to do so without violating Russia's Soviet-era constitution.

Lawmakers have ignored Mr. Yeltsin's threats to dissolve parliament, laughed at his suggestion that parliament dissolve itself, stymied attempts by Mr. Yeltsin to push through a new constitution, and refused to call early elections.

Frustrated, Mr. Yeltsin organized a "Federation Council" composed of the executive and legislative heads of each of Russia's 88 regions. The Yeltsin team hoped the new body would meet in Moscow yesterday, set itself up as an alternative quasi-legislature, and call for new elections. They hoped it might also play a role in adopting a new constitution.

The scenario reads much as if President Clinton were to call the governor and legislative lower house leader of each of the 50 states to Washington, have them declare that Congress no longer has the support of the people and call early congressional elections.

Unfortunately for Mr. Yeltsin, Russia's fractious independent regions refused to play ball.

The leaders did meet yesterday in the Kremlin's St. George Hall. But they not only refused to set up a Federation Council, many also tromped off immediately afterward to meet with Mr. Yeltsin's archenemy, parliament Chairman Ruslan I. Khasbulatov.

Though the officials are scheduled to meet again in October, yesterday's incident shows that Mr. Yeltsin lacks the political clout to bend local leaders to his will, just as he has been unable to coax or browbeat parliament into approving his free-market policies.

In the closed-door session, Mr. Yeltsin told the regional leaders that he was "categorically opposed" to simultaneous elections for president and parliament, which he said would endanger stability.

But Mr. Yeltsin would agree to early presidential elections six months after parliamentary elections are held, presidential aides said. Mr. Yeltsin has previously said he would not stand for

re-election when his term expires in 1996.

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