[main page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][guestbook][publications][hot issues]
By Ivan Rodin

One Day in the Lower House

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 22, 2001

The Duma approved the law on political parties at its third reading; it will now be submitted to the Federation Council. However, it is not ruled out that the Federation Council may reject it: then this law would have to be reconsidered by the lower house. The Duma would have to continue working on this law together with the upper house, as only 238 deputies voted for it, whereas at least 300 votes are required to override a Federation Council veto.

The number of supporters of the law was so small because the Duma Committee for Public Organizations rejected all amendments during the second reading. Therefore, the Communists, the Agrarians, and the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) did not support the law on June 21. Each faction had its own reasons for voting against the law. Thus, the law would have failed to pass without the Yabloko faction's support. Yabloko voted in favour, as the committee had complied with their amendment, which stated that prosecutors should be excluded from the list of
those who will inspect political parties.

Another important law considered by the Duma on June 21, 2001, concerned
amendments to the law on the media, restricting ownership by foreign individuals and companies in the Russian media industry. This law first appeared during the final stage of the NTV network scandal, when various options for deciding the fate of the TV company were being discussed. Some of these options involved foreign
media magnates buying NTV. At that time, a group of Duma deputies proposed that foreigners should be banned from owning a controlling interest in Russian
media. Their position had been considerably modified by the second reading, partly due to President Putin's opinion on this issue. On June 21, they proposed a law that would affect only the four nationwide TV networks: ORT, RTR, NTV, and TV-6. Radio, the print media, and regional TV companies were excluded from this list.

This law was not passed, as it was rejected by the Communists, the Agrarians, the SPSand Yabloko. The SPS considers that there should be as few restrictions for foreign investors as possible, while the left wing says that foreign participation in such an important area as television should be no greater than 30%. A member of the Duma Information Committee argued against both viewpoints and tried to prove that the initial draft is the compromise version. However, his arguments had no effect, and the law gathered only 223 votes, needing at least 226 to pass.

Another law considered by the Duma concerned procedures for accepting a new member of the Russian Federation or founding a new region. The second reading of this law had been in preparation since December 1999. Although 300 votes were required for adoption of this law, it was supported by 391 deputies. Not a single deputy asked a question or made a comment during the discussion of this law. The success of this law may be attributed to the fact that its postulates are virtually irrelevant now. Disputed issues related to integration between Belarus and
Russia that have been discussed for the past few years are not resolved by this law. The essence of this law is that any foreign state can sign a treaty to accede the Russian Federation, even if this state does not share a border with Russia. A state can also agree with the Russian government on part of its territory being annexed by the Russian Federation. As for founding a new region on the basis of two or more existing regions, this issue should be resolved by referenda in all regions intending to merge. It is worth noting that the main role in mergers between regions is accorded to their legislatures.

At the end of the Duma plenary session on June 21 deputies considered three alternative laws on the privatisation of municipal and state property. One of the drafts was proposed by the Cabinet, the other two by the left and right in the Duma. However, the authors of the two alternatives to the Cabinet's draft can only hope that their amendments will be taken into account during the second reading.
Alexander Kotenkov, presidential representative in the Duma, says that the Cabinet has not taken any decision on the alternative drafts presented by the Duma minorities, since the authors have not set out their financial and economic references. Kotenkov stressed that according to the Constitution, these laws do not have to be considered by the lower house. It they are considered and one of them is adopted by the Duma, the president is entitled to reject it without any explanation.

Nevertheless, all three alternatives were discussed by the Duma on June 22. The first speaker on these drafts was Deputy Property Minister Alexander Braverman. He noted that the Cabinet's draft contains the compromise alternative of distributing privatisation powers between different branches of government. The list of non-strategic enterprises is supposed to be approved by a government
resolution, and the list of strategic enterprises is to be approved by a presidential decree. With regards privatisation of natural monopolies, such as Russian Joint
Energy Systems (RAO ES), Gazprom, and Russian Railroads, their privatisation may be permitted by a federal law.

Braverman said that the Cabinet would also present to the Duma a list of entities subject to privatisation before the start of each budget year, and at the end of the year it would account for the results of privatisation. The Cabinet proposes that all potentially saleable assets should be divided into two groups. The first group should include enterprises worth over five million times the minimum monthly wage, and the second group should include the remaining enterprises.

The enterprises in the first group may be privatised only by auction or tender. The range of methods of privatisation will be wider for the second group.

Braverman also noted that the Cabinet's draft envisages social security measures for the employees of privatised enterprises. For instance, according to the Cabinet's draft, work contracts cannot be changed for three months after privatisation of an enterprise.

As we went to print, the authors of the two alternative laws were praising their own work and severely criticizing the draft proposed by the Cabinet. However, the silent pro-presidential majority was waiting for the moment when it could vote as the government wishes.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 22, 2001

[main page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][guestbook][publications][hot issues]