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The Moscow Times, September 9, 2003

Budget Tops Agenda as Duma Reconvenes

By Anna Dolgov

After a two-month summer break, the State Duma returns for its fall session Tuesday to discuss the draft 2004 federal budget and dozens of other bills, including those on foreign trade and commercial secrets.

But deputies are likely to be too busy preparing for Dec. 7 parliamentary elections to do much more than fulfill their main task -- the approval of next year's budget, analysts said Monday.

"If they approve the budget, then that would be enough to thank the Lord for," said Yury Korgunyuk, an analyst with the Indem think tank.

Beside the budget -- which comes up for the first of four readings Sept. 19 -- the Duma is expected to consider more than 60 bills. These include bills on commercial secrets, the state regulation of foreign trade and the procedure for adopting constitutional laws.

Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the liberal Yabloko party, will continue his annual tradition of proposing an alternative federal budget.

This time, Yavlinsky's version will introduce subsidies to raise 35 million Russians who live below the poverty line to the minimum subsistence level, Izvestia reported last week.

Yavlinsky said his faction also will propose 11 bills -- including an amendment to the Criminal Code -- to impose public control over the secret services, Izvestia said.

When they gather Tuesday morning, deputies will first draft the Duma schedule for September and the following months and then review in first reading amendments to the law on bankruptcy and the Administrative Code.

Deputies are expected to split their time between the Duma and trips to meet with voters ahead of the December elections.

Due to the looming vote, the fall session is likely to be filled with populist actions -- some of which appear to have started already.

The Communists are pushing for revising the results of privatization, while a group of deputies from the centrist People's Deputy faction are calling for the resignation of Unified Energy Systems head Anatoly Chubais.

"The authors' arguments are like this: First, Chubais is disliked by the people, second, he is responsible for turning off power in the regions," said Boris Nadezhdin, deputy head of the Union of Right Forces, or SPS, Interfax reported.

Under Chubais' reign, UES has repeatedly switched off electricity over debts.

Chubais is running for a Duma seat on the SPS ballot.

People's Deputy has submitted to Duma committees a draft appeal to the government to call an emergency meeting of UES shareholders to consider dismissing Chubais.

The state holds a majority stake in UES.

Communist lawmaker Tatyana Astrakhankina has drafted an appeal to revise privatization results, Interfax reported.

Communists have constantly complained about privatization, which enriched a few insiders and impoverished millions.

But supporters insist the privatization was carried out according to the laws of the time, and that revising its results would wreck havoc in the country.

Neither of the two proposals is likely to go far, Korgunyuk said, dismissing them as "nothing but pre-election propaganda."

"As for the Communist Party, all of its public proposals in recent years should be regarded as nothing but election campaigning," Korgunyuk said.

Berating Chubais also has become a favorite populist pastime, Korgunyuk said.

While deputies were resting up during the summer, a new gym was built in the Duma building, according to local media reports.

It remained unclear how popular the facility would be among the deputies, many of whom are overweight.


See also:

the original at

Budget 2004

The Moscow Times, September 9, 2003

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