Russian Federation leader Boris Yeltsin faces a parliamentary test of strength Saturday with Communist hard-liners seeking to remove him and quell his rebellion against Kremlin rule.
Under communist pressure, the Congress of People's Deputies dropped from its agenda Friday proposals for an executive Russian presidency that would boost Yeltsin's power at the cost of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.Yeltsin hit back in a keynote address to the republic's highest legislature. He accused Gorbachev of abandoning reform and, bitterly invoking a word Gorbachev himself coined to describe the rule of predecessor Leonid Brezhnev, said he offered "stagnation" rather than perestroika to his people.
Saturday will provide hard-line Communists with the opportunity of replying to Yeltsin's report, in which he said he would not let up in his efforts to break Gorbachev's strong hold on the union republics.
Yeltsin has vowed to press on with attempts to end direct Communist control over the armed forces, security services and legal system.
But several factors may restrain hard-liners from calling a full vote of no-confidence against Yeltsin or at least limit their chances of success, should they do so.
The removal of Yeltsin, his popular authority only bolstered by a demonstration in defiance of central government orders Thursday, could kindle further street protests and inflame a coal strike already dogging industry.
Gorbachev's move Thursday to thwart a pro-Yeltsin rally by an overwhelming show of force also showed the limits of support for hard-liners in the party itself.
As thousands of police, interior ministry troops and soldiers mustered on the streets of the capital, Congress easily approved a motion urging Gorbachev to rescind his three-week ban on demonstrations.
Communists who see benefits in restraining rather than ousting Yeltsin and facing the possible social consequences, could draw comfort from their success in removing from the agenda plans for implementing the Russian leader's plans for an executive presidency.
A referendum March 17 gave popular backing to the project, which could make Yeltsin the first directly elected senior leader in Soviet history.
Liberals see a moral obligation on deputies to pass the constitutional amendment and electoral law needed to call the poll. But few of the Communist deputies are likely to back an amendment that would seriously impinge on Communist leader Gorbachev's authority.
A Congress called by hard-liners to settle a power struggle against Yeltsin may, in the end, do little more than highlight the parliament's paralysis. Yeltsin has only a frail majority in his legislature and faces the effective veto of Gorbachev in any efforts to implement his own economic reform policies.
The Federation's Russian Information Agency cited Russian Communist Party deputy Sergei Baburin as saying the Congress may prove its complete inability to function. In that case, he said, it should dissolve itself and call new elections.