The Russian parliament refused yesterday to set a date for a debate on the government’s proposed budget cuts and may not vote on them before June 4. (AP, May 22) Yesterday, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin appealed to the Duma not to play "political poker" with the economy and to support the government’s plans. He rejected calls by Communist parliamentarians to double the money supply, saying this would re-ignite inflation and cause the crash of the ruble. (Itar-Tass, May 21)
The Duma’s refusal to debate the issue reflects deep uncertainty on the part of the dominant Communist faction over how to react to Chernomyrdin’s proposals. Even the Communists know, in their heart of hearts, that calls for increased monetary emission are self-defeating. Although the Communist faction denounced the government’s "pernicious policies," therefore, they stopped short of calling for the government to be replaced. The Communists are uncomfortably aware that, if they try to bring the government down, President Yeltsin will use his power to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections. And while there is massive popular anger at persistent wage and pensions arrears, this has not translated into support for the opposition. The Communist Party is not, therefore, confident that it would do as well in new elections as it did in those of December 1995.
It is significant that the Duma’s Economic Policy and Budget Committees have both criticized the government’s economic performance yet neither has called for the government’s replacement. Only Grigory Yavlinsky’s Yabloko — the only faction that voted against the 1997 federal budget when it was adopted early this year — has consistently called for a no confidence vote. Yabloko yesterday struck an unlikely alliance with the hard-line People’s Power group; together they claim to have mustered the 96 votes necessary to call a confidence vote. They will not be able to topple the government without Communist support, however, and there is at present no sign that such support will be forthcoming.
Chechnya and Tatarstan Sign Friendship Treaty.