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Russia to Vote This Fall On Yeltsin’s Proposed Constitution, Aides Say

By Associated Press May 29, 1993, 12:00am MDT

President Boris Yeltsin probably will put his proposed constitution to a nationwide vote this fall, top aides said Friday.

“If we do not adopt a new constitution, we’ll doom Russia either to dictatorship or to disintegration,” Yeltsin told a Kremlin meeting of his hand-picked regional administrators.He summoned the 66 administrators to Moscow to prepare for next week’s constitutional convention, where about 600 delegates from across the country are to finish drafting a new charter. The convention is due to open in the Kremlin on Wednesday and to last five to 10 days.

The constitution now gives supreme authority to the Soviet-era Congress of People’s Deputies, which has been battling Yeltsin for months, trying to block his reforms and strip him of power.

Yeltsin proposed a new constitution creating a powerful presidency and an American-style, two-house legislature. “Russia won’t flourish without strong leadership,” he said Friday.

Yeltsin said constitutional convention delegates would be given his proposal to use as their basic text, but could also borrow from a rival draft by a parliamentary commission.

He said that after the convention writes the constitution, the document could be adopted by a referendum, by a special assembly of representatives from across Russia, or by electing a new parliament that would then vote on it.

Sergei Shakhrai, the president’s top legal adviser, told reporters a referendum was the most likely option.

“The prevailing view is that the constitution should be adopted by a referendum to give it the greatest legitimacy,” presidential press secretary Vyacheslav Kostikov added.

Kostikov said the referendum should take place this fall.

“Speed is of principal importance, because the neo-communist opposition is ready to lead the country toward disintegration,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak.