Russia’s Communists have backed off their threat to call a vote of no confidence in the government, and observers say they now doubt the vote will take place. A plenum of the Communist Party’s Central Committee voted over the weekend to postpone a decision on Wednesday’s threatened no-confidence vote, saying it would wait to see how President Boris Yeltsin responds to the demands the Communists made last week. These include a two-year freeze on rents and greater access for the Duma to state-controlled media; the parliament also wants its own newspaper.
Yeltsin has said he will not made significant changes to his government’s policies but has promised to consult more with the opposition. In his first move to carry out that promise, Yeltsin is to meet today with the "Group of Four" (himself, the prime minister, and the Speakers of the two houses of the Russian parliament). (RTR, October 18) First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Anatoly Chubais has said that the government may raise its forecast of 1998 GDP to 2.84 trillion redenominated rubles ($460 billion) from the original 2.75 trillion, opening up possibilities for increased government spending on the army and social needs as demanded by the Communists and their allies. (Itar-Tass, October 17)
The Communists’ decision makes it much less likely that Wednesday’s vote will take place. The threat will not recede altogether, however. Last week’s drama was not the first time the opposition has threatened to vote the government out and is unlikely to be the last. Russia’s 1993 constitution gives parliament virtually no power to set policy, which means that the only way the Duma can get the government to change course is through the kind of brinkmanship seen last week. This introduces an element of perpetual instability into the political process and limits policy-formation to a small circle not subject to democratic control.
Tuleev Wins Landslide in Kemerovo.