The lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, has adopted in the second reading a federal constitutional law on the government of Russia. The law, passed 344-1 with one abstention, is expected to go to a third reading. All factions voted in favor except Yabloko, whose leader, Grigory Yavlinsky, called the law toothless and said would not have the desired results. The aim of the law is to make the government accountable to the Duma, something not provided for in the Russian Constitution. The law states, for example, that the prime minister and other cabinet members are obliged to reply to any questions parliament asks them.
But the fact that this was a federal constitutional law meant that it required at least 300 votes for approval. That, in turn, led to some of the law’s more radical features being toned down in order to get it through parliament. One article was dropped, for example, that would have given the Duma the right to approve appointments not only to the post of prime minister, but to a number of other key ministerial posts as well. It also contained a provision to the effect that the presidential staff has no authority with regard to the government. This is slippery ground. The Communist-dominated Duma wants to assert control over the government. But, on the principle that "my enemy’s enemy is my friend," it also wants to strengthen the government’s hand vis-a-vis the presidential apparatus. (ORT, Itar-Tass, Nezavisimaya gazeta, November 13)
Lebed’s Political Movement Grows.