Yeltsin may delay elections

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The Independent Online
ONE of Boris Yeltsin's aides said yesterday the Russian leader might postpone parliamentary elections due in December and hold them next year, with a presidential poll. This is precisely the formula the dissolved Soviet-era parliament suggested before Russia's political crisis descended into violence and troops stormed the White House last week.

A definite decision is unlikely to be made until the President returns from Japan where he is on an official visit, but politicians in Moscow are complaining that there is too little time to organise proper parliamentary elections for 11 and 12 December as scheduled. Yesterday Itar-Tass news agency quoted Georgy Satarov, a member of the presidential council, as saying Mr Yeltsin would probably 'agree to re- election in March 1994 simultaneously with elections to the representative powers within the Russian Federation'.

If this happens, the irony will not be lost on supporters of the old parliament which, after resisting the idea of pre- term elections for many months and provoking Mr Yeltsin to dissolve it on 21 September, offered the President the concession of March elections to both the executive and legislature. He rejected this, saying Russia would be left with no one in charge if all its leaders were engaged in election campaigning at once.

But Mr Satarov saw other problems if the polls were not held simultaneously. 'The postponement of elections to the Federal Assembly (new parliament), without the fixing of simultaneous presidential elections, could be regarded by the opposition as the President's striving to prolong authoritarian rule,' he said. 'Simultaneous elections will be the expression of Mr Yeltsin's striving to continue democratic transformations.'

More than 120 people died in last week's fighting and many Russians, who saw little difference between the two sides struggling for power, are asking what the bloodshed, worse than during the October Revolution of 1917, was all for.

Since all hardline parties involved in the uprising have been banned, the main legal opposition comes from centrists and industrialists. Some extreme nationalists, however, avoided being dragged into last week's fight and are still operating. The fascist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, is very much looking forward to taking part in the vote.

TOKYO - Mr Yeltsin yesterday told the Japanese Prime Minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, that Russia recognised the existence of the dispute over four small islands in the Kuriles chain, seized by Soviet troops at the end of the Second World War, Reuter reports.

The dispute, which has prevented Japan signing a peace treaty on the war or extending large-scale aid to Russia, will be taken up by Mr Hosokawa when he visits Russia.

Mr Yeltsin asked Mr Hosokawa to take the initiative in rescheduling Russia's debts to Japan, which he said amounted to dollars 1.6bn ( pounds 1.05bn) and would reach dollars 2bn in another half-year.