Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin briefed the Russian Duma yesterday on the economic results for the first nine months of 1997 and called on parliament to cooperate with the government in adopting the 1998 draft federal budget. The Duma responded with an almost unanimous vote condemning the government’s management of the economy. The Duma is to debate the budget today and tomorrow.
Chernomyrdin appealed to deputies not to press ahead with a threatened vote of no confidence in the government. He said there was no reason for confrontation when the government’s policies were starting to produce results and the economy was showing the first signs of growth after nearly a decade of recession. According to Chernomyrdin, GDP rose 0.2 percent in the first nine months of 1997 compared with the same period last year, industrial output was up by 1.5 percent over the same period, inflation fell in the past two months, and Russia is expecting a bumper harvest.
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov snubbed Chernomyrdin by saying his faction had collected the requisite number of signatures and would press ahead with its call for a vote of no-confidence in the government. Zyuganov’s move requires the Duma to vote within a week. This was a softer option than that advocated by the Yabloko faction, which wanted to hold a no-confidence vote right away. Instead, the Duma instructed Speaker Gennady Seleznev to consult with faction leaders and decide when to put the Communists’ proposal on the agenda. (Itar-Tass, Reuter, October 8)
The Russian constitution specifies that the president can dissolve the Duma if it votes no confidence in the government twice in three months. Zyuganov’s move could therefore prove to be the first in a series of steps that would eventually provide President Yeltsin with a pretext to dissolve the Duma. In reality, neither side is believed to want a showdown: threats of dissolution and no confidence are part of a game of chicken in which both sides are tying to force the other to make concessions over the budget.
Maskhadov Sends Letter to Yeltsin.