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'I See the Silhouette of a Dictator' : Russia: Boris Yeltsin's parliamentary nemesis fears a rollback of democracy.

April 04, 1993

RUSLAN KHASBULATOV, Speaker of the Russian Parliament, has been locked in a power struggle with President Boris Yeltsin. Khasbulatov was interviewed last Wednesday in Moscow by Mikhail Bruk for Global Viewpoint. Following are excerpts:

Question: How do you see events unfolding now?

Answer: On the horizon, I see the silhouette of a dictator. At the end of Congress, I told the deputies that the most important thing was to defend the democratic beginning we already have, because today there is a rollback of democracy toward personal power.

Now we must guard against a coup d'etat. Dictatorship can be communist. Or it can be anti-communist. Our people are tired of dictatorship and fear its return. That is why if Western leaders really want to help the rebirth of Russia as a democratic state, they should very seriously think before they actually name personalities whom they will exclusively support.

We need support in Russia for the evolution of our democratic institutions, for parliamentarian and constitutional rule. We need support for the democratic reforms that have been started not by the president but by the Parliament, because that is what the people demand.

Q: How do you view the summit?

A: I don't think this meeting is very important for the Russian people. It has very little to do with real life. You know, the more there are appeals to support Yeltsin from the West, including from the United States, the more our people are put off by interference in our affairs. Frankly, I'm afraid this continuing interference may lead to the explosion of an anti-American mood.

In Russia, the people have chosen the course of democracy. Why, they ask, are Western leaders offering personal support to only certain named leaders, especially when their economic policies have driven the country to the brink of poverty, and not to our fledgling democratic institutions and to the democratic sentiments of the people? Why not support the Constitutional Court, whose members are democrats to their bone marrow, and not just Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin?

Q: What if President Yeltsin wins the April 25 referendum? What if he loses?

A: The law should triumph anyway. Nothing else. No illegal actions should take place. Yeltsin contradicts himself. He said if he loses the referendum, he will resign. If he wins, he says that Parliament must not question his actions as president until the end of his term. But why is his rule then legitimate and not ours? We were both elected when the Russian Republic was still part of the old Soviet Union.

I continue to believe that simultaneous early elections for both the president and the Parliament is the best way to settle this question of who is legitimate and who is not.

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