Russia Table of Contents
During 1992-93 Yeltsin had argued that the existing, heavily amended 1978 constitution of Russia was obsolete and self-contradictory and that Russia required a new constitution granting the president greater power. This assertion led to the submission and advocacy of rival constitutional drafts drawn up by the legislative and executive branches. The parliament's failure to endorse a compromise was an important factor in Yeltsin's dissolution of the body in September 1993. Yeltsin then used his presidential powers to form a sympathetic constitutional assembly, which quickly produced a draft constitution providing for a strong executive, and to shape the outcome of the December 1993 referendum on Russia's new basic law. The referendum vote resulted in approval by 58.4 percent of Russia's registered voters. The announced 54.8 percent turnout met the requirement that at least 50 percent of registered voters participate in the referendum.
The 1993 constitution declares Russia a democratic, federative, law-based state with a republican form of government. State power is divided among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Diversity of ideologies and religions is sanctioned, and a state or compulsory ideology may not be adopted. The right to a multiparty political system is upheld. The content of laws must be made public before they take effect, and they must be formulated in accordance with international law and principles. Russian is proclaimed the state language, although the republics of the federation are allowed to establish their own state languages for use alongside Russian (see The Russian Language, ch. 4).
The 1993 constitution created a dual executive consisting of a president and prime minister, but the president is the dominant figure. Russia's strong presidency sometimes is compared with that of Charles de Gaulle (in office 1958-69) in the French Fifth Republic. The constitution spells out many prerogatives specifically, but some powers enjoyed by Yeltsin were developed in an ad hoc manner.
Data as of July 1996