Yeltsin rejects move to rewrite constitution
Saturday 15 February 1997
Speaking for six minutes in a clear but slightly croaky voice, the embattled President sought to remind both his friends and foes that although he may be down - he has been off sick for most of the last seven months - he is not yet out.
Significantly, though, he did not dismiss the possibility of eventual changes to Russia's 1993 constitution, in which he secured sweeping powers, saying only that they must follow a "natural process" and not be rushed.
Alarmed by the prospect that he may be too unwell to rule for much longer, Moscow's political establishment has been embroiled in a debate about altering the constitution, partly to ensure that Russia's fate no longer rests so heavily in the hands of one man, and partly to block the favourite for the presidency, Alexander Lebed.
Suggestions have included considerably extending the time that the Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, can stand in when the President is ill, a move that would delay the date of an election.
There have also been rumblings about allowing parliament to appoint the next president, a move that would radically alter the nature of Russia's political system. Both ploys would severely damage Mr Lebed's prospects.
Yesterday Mr Yeltsin sought to dampen down what has become a heated issue. "The constitution is the pivot of the new Russian statehood," he said.
"It is premature today to subject the new structure of the Russian state, as it is being built, to a test of its durability. It is more than that - it is foolhardy."
His broadcast came as he secured a small victory - the failure of a symbolic and lacklustre attempt in the Russian parliament's lower house, the Duma, to secure a motion calling on him to step down because of ill health. A truer measure of the President's fitness lies in the days ahead.
Mr Yeltsin's calendar for next week includes a meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.
After that loom even more daunting tests of his strength on which all eyes will rest - a speech to parliament on 6 March, and a summit with President Bill Clinton in Helsinki on 20-21 March.
- 1 Toddler throws a tantrum at the White House – in front of Barack Obama
- 2 Irish people are travelling home from all over the world so they can vote to legalise gay marriage
- 3 Picture of couple posing with beached dolphin 'that later died' causes outrage
- 4 16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
- 5 Witch doctor arrested after forcing newborn baby to walk in Indian village
Toddler throws a tantrum at the White House – in front of Barack Obama
Maryland mother found pushing her dead child on a swing in a playground
16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
Picture of couple posing with beached dolphin 'that later died' causes outrage
Nicola Sturgeon did want David Cameron to win the general election, report concludes
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...
£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...