A right way and a wrong way to call a referendum

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A CRISIS of power that comes about as a result of badly thought out political, social and economic decisions is bound to upset the stability of a state system like ours. People mistrust both the government and parliament. Because of this mistrust, any attempt to change the established system could have the effect of destroying it totally, so precipitating a radical change in the political regime.

There are frequent precedents for this in world history - recently in Latin America, where democratic regimes have been overthrown by military dictatorships reminiscent in their style and mode of action of Russian party leaders at the time of the birth of Bolshevism.

Talking of the options for the 'dissolution' of the Congress of People's Deputies or its 'dismissal', and the 'dispersal' of the Supreme Soviet, I would stress one important factor. Such things can only be done within the framework of the Russian constitution and the law, and only in the following ways:

The Congress of People's Deputies could draw up a new constitution in which there is no provision for a two-tier legislative body;

The Congress could declare itself dissolved and transfer its powers to the Supreme Soviet (the smaller, standing parliament);

The Congress could declare itself to be the Supreme Soviet, that is, the only parliament, so replacing the standing body;

A nation-wide referendum could be held in accordance with the law of the Russian Federation. If it approved a change, the Supreme Soviet and the Central Electoral Committee would organise elections.

Any talk of using a nation-wide referendum actually to 'disperse' the Congress of People's Deputies is contrived. The decision to hold a referendum can only be taken by the Congress or the Supreme Soviet; a referendum cannot be held simply because a particular number of signatures has been collected. The signatures would be just one factor in influencing the Congress or the Supreme Soviet to take the decision.

There are no other legal methods of liquidating the Congress, unless you count attempts to 'legitimise' a coup on the model of the one declared by the State Committee for the State of Emergency in August 1991.

We accept, of course, that our constitution has many defects and that it needs to be replaced. A constitutional commission has been set up for this very purpose under the leadership of the president.

But it should be stressed that the existing constitution in no way prevents us from implementing economic and political reforms. We just need to implement them professionally, proceeding from the laws and resolutions passed by the Supreme Soviet.

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