Russia experienced a burst of political activity at the end of 1997, following Yeltsin’s return to the Kremlin after two weeks’ absence recovering from the flu, and before the New Year and Orthodox Christmas festivities enveloped the country. On December 24, the State Duma acceded to Yeltsin’s appeals and approved the draft 1998 federal budget in the second reading. The vote was 231-155, with three abstentions. (RTR, December 24) Despite last-minute threats by the Communist and Liberal-Democratic factions to reject the budget, in the end, all the members of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s faction and enough members of the Communist faction voted in favor for the budget to scrape through. Only Yabloko voted unanimously against. Russian law requires the Duma to consider the budget in four readings before it goes to the upper house. The third reading is scheduled for January 23.
Former prime minister Yegor Gaidar said the budget was now worse than it had been in the first version. According to Gaidar, the government had originally given the Duma a "good, realistic" draft, into which the Duma had introduced "10-12 percent of air." Even so, Gaidar said, the revised document is better than last year’s budget, which he said was "50 percent air." (RTR, December 25)
Nemtsov Under Fire.