The Russian Communist party suffered an unusual parliamentary defeat last week when the Duma refused to adopt in the third reading a Communist-sponsored bill setting up a human rights commissioner. (Interfax, April 3; Izvestiya, April 4) The bill was twice put to the vote, but gathered 257 and 259 votes instead of the 300 required. Voting against were members of the Liberal Democratic Party, whose leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, objected to the proposal that the human rights commissioner should be appointed by a simple majority vote, since this would ensure the election of the Communists’ preferred candidate. Zhirinovsky and deputies from other factions argued that the commissioner should be elected by a two-thirds vote.
In fact, the identity of the candidate proposed by the Communists for the post is already known. He is V. B. Isakov, a widely respected lawyer about whose candidacy few deputies have any objection. A native of Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg), Isakov was a leading member of the Duma elected in 1993 but, as a candidate of the Agrarian Party, failed to win reelection in 1995. He has for many years been a sharp critic of the Yeltsin leadership, particularly on human rights issues, which has driven him into cooperation with the Communist and nationalist opposition. As the bill stands at present, the human rights commissioner would be appointed for a period of five years and could be dismissed by the Duma by a simple majority in a secret ballot.
Moscow Trying Out Policy of Differentiation.