President Boris Yeltsin has condemned proposals for amending the constitution that are circulating in Moscow. Yeltsin’s press spokesman said the president thought "It would do great harm to the state and society to start making changes to the constitution when it has been operating for only three years." (Itar-Tass, January 31) Communist radical Viktor Ilyukhin nevertheless continues to beat the drum for an amendment allowing parliament to impeach the president on grounds of ill health. But foxier comrades are more ambitious. The Communist chairman of the Duma’s Legislation Committee, Anatoly Lukyanov, says his committee is looking into the possibility of reintroducing the post of vice-president to the Russian constitution. (Interfax, January 29) The Russian newspaper Izvestia reports that, should the post of vice-president be reinstated, the Communist party would argue that its leader, Gennady Zyuganov, should be appointed to it, since he was runner-up in last summer’s presidential election. Zyuganov would then be ideally placed to move into the presidency if Yeltsin is persuaded or forced to stand down. Izvestia says that the present government sees a Zyuganov presidency as a lesser evil than the likely result of a democratic election — a victory by maverick Aleksandr Lebed. (Izvestia, January 31)
The main problem with this ingenious strategy, however, is the difficulty of amending Russia’s Constitution. Under Article 135, amending the constitution in such a way would require the calling of a Constitutional Assembly (the constitution does not define what this is) and the approval of its recommendations either by a two-thirds vote of the total number of the Assembly’s own members or by a nationwide vote in which not less than half the electorate must take part. Translating the Communists’ plan into reality would therefore be easier said than done. But there is no mistaking the panic that the idea of a Lebed presidency provokes in both the government and the Communist opposition, and their will to find a solution that would keep them in power should not therefore be underestimated.
Moscow Reacts Warily to Yugoslav Crisis.