THE ornate hall on the second floor of the Moscow City Council
building has been transformed from a reception room into a
Amid the gilt, mirrors, and red wallpaper, chairs have been
pushed aside to make room for the cots of 11 City Council deputies
entering their third week of a hunger strike. The action stems from
a dispute between some council members and Mayor Gavril Popov over
naming a new police chief.
"This is a political protest against the misuse of power," said
Vyacheslav Titov, a hunger-striker. "We are struggling to resist
anti-democratic methods used by Popov."
The 11 council members aren't alone in complaining that the
nation's new democratic leaders, who greatly increased their stature
following last month's failed coup, are usurping authority from
elected bodies. After facing down the common threat, democrats in
Russia have begun to battle among themselves. For example, the
300,000-strong Democratic Russia movement, once a supporter of Boris
Yeltsin, has backed away from the Russian president, with some
saying that the new leadership is acting no better than the old.
Since the coup, "those in power have shown a tendency to
monopolize politics, the economy, and the media," said Democratic
Russia leader Vladimir Bokser at a news conference.
Mr. Bokser said Russian authorities had limited television to
presenting only Mr. Yeltsin's point of view. Other leaders
complained about a lack of action on economic reform, especially
from special Yeltsin appointees serving as presidential
trouble-shooters in outlying regions of Russia.
"The uncontrollable strengthening of the executive power can lead
to the suppression of the legislative arm and the emergence of a new
authoritarianism," warned Lev Ponomarev, another Democratic Russia
Pavel Voshanov, Yeltsin's press secretary, dismissed suggestions
that the president sought unlimited power. He said Yeltsin had
already canceled some decrees that enhanced his authority during the
crisis days of late August, such as an order making him commander in
chief of the Army. "President Yeltsin seeks to act only within the
framework of the Constitution," Mr. Voshanov said. "Everyone must
remember these are extraordinary circumstances and not the norm."
But Democratic Russia will continue to distrust Russian
authorities until direct multiparty elections are held at all levels
of government, leaders say. The elections could be held as early as
next year. In the meantime, the movement is preparing to form a
shadow government, Interfax news agency reported.
Georgia is already an example of democracy gone astray,
democratic leaders say. Earlier this year, the Transcaucasian
republic elected former dissident Zviad Gamsakhurdia president in a