MPs set for new fight with Yeltsin: Battle lines drawn over two drafts for a post-Soviet constitution

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MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian MPs yesterday released their version of a new post-Soviet constitution for Russia that provides for a figurehead presidency and would force President Boris Yeltsin to seek approval from parliament to appoint his government.

The draft constitution, released by the parliamentary constitutional committee, also called for abolishing the Supreme Soviet and the Congress of People's Deputies and creating a smaller two-chamber parliament.

The proposal came a day after Mr Yeltsin presented a plan to push through a fundamental law to allow for a powerful presidency and also abolish the hardline Congress. The release of a rival version of a new fundamental law for Russia set the stage for a 'war of constitutions' with both sides calling on regional leaders to decide which version they prefer.

Parliament has called on leaders of Russian regions and republics to consider the proposal and said they had until 10 June to respond to the constitutional commission. In his address Mr Yeltsin said regional leaders should delegate representatives to a constituent assembly in late May or early June to adopt the constitution.

In releasing the parliamentary version, Oleg Rumyantsev, chairman of the committee, criticised the plan proposed by Mr Yeltsin as 'a document that was a rough draft, very rough. It is a political document and not a legal one.'

In the parliamentary draft, the president would be forced to seek approval from MPs to appoint the cabinet and to name judges to the constitutional and supreme courts and the chairman of the central bank. Mr Yeltsin had proposed that the parliament be allowed to ratify the appointment of the prime minister only.

The MPs also called for retaining the post of vice-president, scrapped under Mr Yeltsin's plan, and said the president could not dissolve parliament or call a referendum.

Parliament set the tone for another battle with Mr Yeltsin yesterday when the Speaker, Ruslan Khasbulatov, reiterated that the Congress was the sole authority empowered to adopt a new constitution. 'This circus number called a presidential constitution will not pass,' Mr Khasbulatov told the Rossiskaya Gazeta.

President Yeltsin named Oleg Soskovets, a steel industry technocrat, as a first deputy prime yesterday, strengthening the voice of industrial managers at the top level of government,Reuter reports.