Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 149

President Yeltsin yesterday signed into law the bill on the formation of the Federation Council (the upper house of the Russian parliament, or Senate) that the lower house (the Duma) had adopted the previous day. (8) His action settled, at least for the time being, a dispute that had been threatening to develop into a full- blown constitutional crisis.

The new law says each of the Russian Federation’s 89 constituent provinces will send two deputies to the upper house: the head of the legislature (the speaker of the provincial parliament) and the head of the executive (known in Russia’s regions as the governor and in most of its republics as the president). The law goes on to stipulate that the heads of executive must be elected by December 1996. (As things stand at present, 31 governors and presidents have been popularly elected, while a further 14 are due to be so elected on December 17.) The Federation Council earlier rejected this formula, claiming it violated the provinces’ constitutional right to decide when to call elections. Yeltsin had earlier tried to resolve the dispute by asking the Constitutional Court for a ruling. On signing the bill December 6, the president announced that he was canceling this request, but the speaker of the upper house, Vladimir Shumeiko, who opposes the law, was said still to be planning to ask the Court for a ruling.

Yeltsin’s decision to sign the Duma’s bill into law goes some way toward resolving the dispute, but a fresh crisis could erupt over the 1996 budget, which the Duma adopted December 6 and which needs to be debated by the upper house before becoming law. The mandate of the incumbent Federation Council expires December 13, and Shumeiko has scheduled the final session for December 9. Yeltsin may now decide to prolong the Council’s mandate to give it time to debate the budget.

Duma Adopts 1996 Budget.