Disquiet grows in Moscow as awareness sinks in that Yeltsin had no idea when he sacked Viktor Chernomyrdin’s government three weeks ago with what or whom to replace it. Yeltsin’s visit to Japan has already been put off due to the government crisis and Moscow is unwilling to put it off again. Yeltsin’s aides insisted yesterday that the visit will go ahead this weekend. If the Duma rejects Kirienko again on April 17, the president’s departure would leave the country without a substitute leader. The constitution stipulates that, if the president is unable to fulfill his duties, the prime minister assumes his powers for three months. The constitution does not, however, say what happens if the prime minister is only an acting premier not yet approved by parliament. The present crisis has therefore highlighted yet again both Yeltsin’s capricious manner of ruling and the deficiencies of the Russian constitution, its lack of checks and balances and the inordinate power it places in the hands of the chief executive.
Yesterday, Yeltsin brushed aside a proposal by the Duma’s normally loyalist "Russia is Our Home" (NDR) faction. NDR has always been pro-government but, now that there is no government, is beginning to show unaccustomed signs of thinking for itself. Faction leader Aleksandr Shokhin proposed over the weekend that article 92 of the constitution be amended to read that, should the president be incapacitated, his powers be temporarily assumed by the speaker of the upper house of parliament rather than by the prime minister.
Yeltsin rejected this idea out of hand. There would be no changes to the constitution as long as he was in office, he growled. Yeltsin called Shokhin’s proposal a stop-gap measure made on the spur of the moment rather than an arrangement that made long-term sense. He skated over the fact that Shokhin feels that desperate times required desperate solutions. Shokhin himself expressed "disappointment" yesterday. He said he understood Yeltsin’s reluctance to open to gates to the flood of constitutional amendments proposed by the opposition, but reiterated his conviction that, in this instance, an exception should be made. (RTR, April 13)
Duma in Tough Mood.