Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 167

Primakov told NTV last night that the provisional agreement reached last month on redistributing powers between the president and parliament should be formally signed. “I am in favor of this agreement,” Primakov declared. “It can be updated and amended if necessary, but it should be signed” ((NTV, Reuters, September 13).

The deal, to which Yeltsin grudgingly agreed last month in an effort to persuade the Duma to approve Viktor Chernomyrdin as premier, would pave the way for constitutional amendments curtailing the wide powers vested in Russia’s president by the 1993 constitution. The president would lose his unfettered right to name all the ministers in the government save the premier, and be obliged to consult parliament over at least some of the key appointments. In the long term, the agreement could provide a welcome safeguard against uncontrolled power falling into the hands of a rogue president. In the short term, it would strengthen Primakov in relation to Yeltsin and give the new government a freer hand. Contrary to yesterday’s claim by Kommersant-Daily, it would not transform Russia overnight from a presidential to a parliamentary republic. It would, however, go some way in that direction and facilitate the transfer–which in Russia’s case is proving so painful–from reliance on charismatic leadership to government by officials whose policies are routinely scrutinized, as they are in “normal” democracies, by the people’s elected representatives.