Conciliatory Words Soften Yeltsin's Bid For Additional Power
RUSSIAN President Boris Yeltsin is speaking quietly, while wielding more power than ever before, in the aftermath of an inconclusive session of the country's supreme legislature.
Mr. Yeltsin is seeking to heal differences between radical reformers and conservatives in the Congress of People's Deputies, as well as soften a growing rivalry between the government's legislative and executive branches. The rifts threaten the viability of radical reforms and the future stability of state structures, the president said in a speech Tuesday closing the Congress's two-week session.
Yeltsin, avoiding the kind of scathing language that characterized past speeches, called for an end to the bickering that prevented the Congress from passing legislation favored by radical reformers. While he reproached the 1,046-member body for failing to make much progress on such issues as land reform and a new constitution, Yeltsin voiced hopes that all branches of government will be able to work together in the future.
"We are ready to cooperate with [the opposition in the Congress] and hold a constructive dialogue. There are plenty of issues on which we practically do not differ," Yeltsin said.
But beneath his compromising exterior, Yeltsin left no doubt about his deep commitment to radical reforms. And though he gave the impression that he is willing to meet the parliament halfway when it comes to charting the country's future, Yeltsin actually sought increased authority for the executive branch.
If conservatives in the Congress refuse to take his olive branch, the president indicated he would not hesitate to deliver a hammer-blow in the form of a referendum. But a popular vote of confidence in the legislature and new parliamentary elections would be held only as a last resort, Yeltsin stressed.
"I consider this possible in case the deputy corps rejects the course toward radical reforms," he said.
Yeltsin also sought to ease opposition to the broad authority the executive branch wields over the economy. The president now enjoys the right to run the economy by decree, including the appointment of government ministers without parliamentary consent.
During the just-completed session of the Congress, the legislative and executive branches struggled constantly for control over the government, first voting to strip the president of his special powers by July 1, then adopting a resolution leaving the executive branch's absolute authority over the government intact.
IN his speech, Yeltsin said the Congress would have a voice in future appointments. But at the same time he proposed a law that would cement executive control over the government. The draft law would give the president the right to appoint the prime minister, subject to parliamentary approval.
Should the nominee be rejected by the legislature, the president could unilaterally appoint an acting prime minister for up to a year. The head of government would also nominate the other Cabinet candidates.
The draft law underscores Yeltsin's intention to maintain direct control of the government.
"Without a strong executive power, we will not have reforms, order, or statehood," he said.
It is now unlikely Yeltsin's foes will be able to block the draft law in parliament, because Yeltsin stayed away from the often acrimonious exchanges during the Congress. By not interfering in the debate, Yeltsin preserved his authority.
"There's a very Russian psychological syndrome because our former President [Mikhail] Gorbachev talked so much [during parliament sessions] that ordinary citizens became fed up with him," said Ivan Polozkov, an arch-rival of the president and former head of the Russian Communist Party.
"If President Yeltsin talked as much as Gorbachev, the people would have stopped trusting him, too," Mr. Polozkov added.