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World - Europe

Yeltsin action complicates Russian political front

Russian President Boris Yeltsin speaks on state television, announcing that he has fired Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and nominated Sergei Stepashin as his replacement

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May 12, 1999
Web posted at: 1:43 p.m. EDT (1743 GMT)

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin's decision to fire Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov raises several constitutional questions that could have unpredictable results.

Yeltsin has already presented the name of his new nominee, Sergei Stepashin, to the lower House of Parliament for approval. Members have three chances to vote; if they reject him the first time, Yeltsin can submit Stepashin again. If members reject the nominee three times, Yeltsin can dissolve the Duma and call for new elections, which must be held within three months.

The situation is more complex in light of impeachment hearings which are to begin Thursday in the Duma. Yeltsin is facing five charges: (1) destroying the USSR, (2) firing on the Parliament in 1993 during a bloody stand off with communists, (3) launching the war against the breakaway republic of Chechnya, (4) destroying the Russian army, (5) carrying out "genocide" on the Russian people by impoverishing them.

If the Parliament votes only one of the charges (Chechnya has the best chance of passing), Yeltsin, by law, cannot dissolve the Duma and a standoff could ensue.

Should that happen, and the Duma votes down the nominee three times, Yeltsin by law can simply name him permanent prime minister, wait until the impeachment issue goes through the Supreme Court, and then dissolve the Duma.

Also complicating the situation is that the Russian Constitution is not clear on what would happen if Yeltsin should die or become incapacitated in the period that the Parliament is voting on the nominee, potentially taking three votes which could take up to three weeks or more. Ordinarily, the prime minister would be next in line, taking over for three months until elections can be held.

Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty contributed this report.

Russian Duma schedules debate on ousting Yeltsin
May 11, 1999
Yeltsin says Russia "will spare no effort" to end war in Yugoslavia
May 9, 1999
Russian rivals set sights on presidency
October 11, 1998

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