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Russia: Duma Prepares For Impeachment As It Awaits Third Vote

Moscow, 9 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- When the Duma officially receives the letter with the name of President Boris Yeltsin's nominee for prime minister, it will have one week to vote on the new nomination. Whether the candidate is Viktor Chernomyrdin or another person, this next vote will be decisive.

If the Duma rejects Chernomyrdin or another nominee in a third vote, Yeltsin is required by the constitution to name a prime minister in charge of forming the government without seeking the endorsement of parliament and then dissolve the Duma and call a new parliamentary election. This election must take place within four months of the parliament's dissolution.

Some political analysts in Moscow point out that the Constitution does not give a timetable specifying how much time may pass between a third rejection of a premier and the Duma's dissolution.

It has generally been accepted that Yeltsin would order the Duma dissolved immediately but some Kremlin officials have floated the idea that he might delay his order dissolving the old Duma, thus further delaying an early parliamentary election. Some political analysts in Moscow say this could be one of the scenarios under discussion at a meeting Yeltsin had today with his advisors.

Meanwhile, the Duma is getting ready to begin impeachment proceedings. Duma deputies say that an impeachment vote could take place as early as next week. The Duma may initiate such proceedings with a vote supported by two thirds of the elected deputies (currently the chamber has 446 deputies so 298 votes will suffice).

The constitution says a president may not dissolve the Duma for at least three months if he is the target of formal impeachment proceedings. The possibility of impeachment proceedings has been ruled out in the past but could become more likely in the event of an escalating confrontation.

The Russian Constitution does not envision a situation in which the Duma launches impeachment proceedings, blocking its dissolution, and in parallel votes for a third time against the president's nominee for prime minister.

The Constitutional Court, which would have to play a role in such a case, has backed the president in most past conflicts. But it is unclear which way the body would rule, and how quickly, in the present situation.