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Growing Power of Russian Right Promises Tumultuous Congress

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WITH Russia's supreme legislature preparing to meet, President Boris Yeltsin is frantically seeking centrist support for a political compromise to end a paralyzing constitutional crisis.

But the president may have a tough time finding supporters because his ultraright opponents are expanding their influence in the legislature at the expense of moderate opponents.

The ultraright seems uninterested in compromise and intent on creating a confrontation at the Congress of People's Deputies, which is holding an emergency session beginning tomorrow. The more chaotic the Congress, the greater the chance that the hard-liners' small but well-organized core of deputies can influence events, political observers say.

"A majority of the parliament [the Supreme Soviet] is irrationally aggressive toward the government. Centrist forces are in a minority," said moderate Deputy Oleg Rumyantsev. "The political extremes are pushing the country into a dangerous situation."

The main goal of the hard-liners, an alliance of neo-Communists and so-called nationalist-patriots, is the rollback of economic reform. To achieve this they want early, simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections to take place this fall. Such a vote, they hope, would oust Yeltsin and mandate the reversal of reforms.

Yeltsin has not rejected the idea of early elections, but says presidential and legislative votes should not occur simultaneously. Parliamentary elections must precede a presidential vote, Yeltsin has said, to ensure stability in Russia.

But if Friday's session of the Supreme Soviet, or standing parliament, is any indication, the hard-liners just may have enough power to implement their agenda. At the session, Parliament Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov - with whom the president wants to reach a power-sharing arrangement - seemed to cede control to the ultraright during debate on a political compromise plan proposed by Yeltsin.

Hard-line deputies poured scorn on the president's plan, designed to allow the government to implement economic reforms without interference from the parliament and Central Bank.

"It would be a step toward the liquidation of representative and legislative power at all levels in Russia," Deputy Ilya Konstantinov, a leader of the ultraright National Salvation Front movement, said of the compromise plan.

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