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By Ivan Rodin


Nezavisymaya Gazeta, December 29, 2001

The autumn session of the third Duma ended on December 27. It became the place where the president and the Cabinet exploited the capacities of a parliamentary majority to the utmost. This became particularly clear over the last three months, when the Kremlin administration virtually stopped relying mostly on Unity and balanced at the same time between the left and right in the Duma. When this method of controlling the Duma was abandoned, the communists and agrarians found themselves outside virtually all vital parliamentary functions.

Here are the official results of this session of the lower house. It took the Duma 28 plenary meetings to discuss over 300 laws, including four federal constitutional laws and four codes (Land, Criminal-Procedural Code, Labour, and on administrative violations). The Duma adopted approximately the same number of laws in different readings. In short, the government was responsible for virtually all lawmaking.

The autumn session showed the nation and voters how the legislators operated in the so-called parliamentary republics. In these republics the government relies on the silent and obedient majority in parliament which meekly adopts everything desired by the executive branch of government. This is the sort of majority we have in the Duma nowadays. In advanced parliamentary republics, the government is formed by the party or coalition that won the parliamentary election. That is why "financial stimuli" to rank members from top echelons of the party never reaches the scope it had in Russia. Supported by the presidential administration, the government formed a group of supporters...

Everything began with the 2002 draft budget and the so-called zero reading, i.e. clandestine consultations between the Cabinet and its potential supporters in the Duma. According to Oleg Mironov of the Russian Regions, the consultations began with deputies telling the finance minister of their planned rejection of the draft budget prepared by the government. This marked a start to the bargaining. The left termed it "government purchase of deputies with state money."

According to our sources, the mechanism of work with deputies was simple. Key legislators were given control over certain financial resources that they could spend as they saw fit - for their territories, regions, etc. Communists even claimed that the money could be spent to line some pockets as well.

The budget process was protracted: most deputies favourably approved of government initiatives all through the session. Meanwhile presidential initiatives have always been backed. Also importantly, three different political organizations (Unity, Fatherland, and All Russia) merged to form a single pro-presidential party simultaneously with the autumn session.

Other factions of the lower house sporadically took part in lawmaking. The left wing abandoned even pretence of cooperation with the Kremlin right after adoption of the constitutional laws on the courts. Yabloko snoozed every now and then and did not always adequately estimate its own abilities on awakening. The Union of Right Forces faction spent almost all the session in preparations for its own congress, forgetting about the legislative process.

In short, autumn 2001 was fully controlled by the so-called centrists. They are not going to bother looking for abstract ideological values. Instead, they keep a close eye on the political

situation and minute fluctuations in the Kremlin's policy. It is crystal that they are bound to succeed in such circumstances.

Nezavisymaya Gazeta, December 29, 2001

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