Gennadi Seleznyov was stripped of his voting rights in the Duma
yesterday and may soon lose his post as speaker: that was how
the majority of Duma members interpreted Unity's move. As a curtain-raiser,
the speaker only lost his casting vote in the Duma Council. Afterwards
the Protocol Committee was instructed to study the feasibility
of replacing the speaker of the lower house.
No one can say with any degree of certainty whether the Kremlin
and the Cabinet want all this. Presidential and governmental representatives
refused to comment on the Duma decision yesterday. Consequently
no one knows what this meant: was Unity acting on orders from
above or has it finally decided to show in its third year of existence
that it can come up with new ideas all on its own? In any case,
the reshuffle in the lower house of parliament and speaker resignations
are not in the plans of the pro-presidential Alliance of Four
comprising the Unity, Fatherland √ All Russia, People's
Deputy and Russia's Regions. According to the Protocol Committee
Chairman Oleg Kovalev, the alliance merely wanted to settle a
"technical issue" and bring the correlation of forces
in the Duma Council into line with that in the Duma. The alliance
holds a majority in the lower house of parliament but not in the
Duma Council. Before yesterday, the Duma Council consisted of
the speaker (including casting vote) and nine leaders of factions
and groups. The pro-presidential alliance believes that the Communist
Party has two votes on the Duma Council since Seleznyov himself
is a communist.
This particular communist suited Unity quite well two years ago
when the portfolios were split. Essentially, they were split between
two factions, the Communists and Unity as the largest ones. The
Alliance of the Four did not exist then. Fatherland - All-Russia,
Russia's Regions, Yabloko and the Union of Right-Wing Forces were
deprived of their slice of the pie. Justice was partially restored
when the four factions called for a boycott of Duma meetings.
Additional committees, sub0committees and commissions were set
up to placate them. Everything is different now. A United Russia
wants the "technical issue" concerning the speaker's
communist vote to be resolved.
That done, the Alliance of the Four holds a distinct advantage
in the Duma Council. The Duma minority wanted more than that.
At first, agrarian leader Nikolai Kharitonov suggested a vote
of confidence in the speaker. The idea was backed by Boris Nadezhdin
of the Union of Right-Wing Forces who suggested instructing the
Protocol Committee to consider replacement of the speaker. Sergei
Ivanenko of Yabloko demanded a revision of the package agreement
and suggested his own version. "Let the majority appoint
the Duma Speaker and chairmen of all committees, but let the minority
electsthe senior deputy speaker and senior deputy chairmen in
all committees," he said. According to Ivanenko, this is
how "parliaments operate all over the world." In Russia,
however, "attempts are being made to remove Yabloko, the
Union of Right-Wing Forces, the communists, and the agrarians
from political decision-making."
The Duma accepted Nadezhdin's proposal. The future of Speaker
Seleznyov is now in the hands of the Protocol Committee.