Publication: Fortnight in Review Volume: 6 Issue: 12

?Surprisingly, perhaps, Boris Nemtsov, the head of the Union of Right-Wing Forces’ (SPS) faction in the Duma, joined the governors in criticizing Putin’s initiatives. Nemtsov said the plans smacked of “political adventurism,” adding that while the regional leaders should not have immunity from prosecution, it would be impermissible to give the Kremlin, rather than the courts, the right to remove them from office. Unlike the governors, however, Nemtsov also took aim at the Kremlin’s draft law giving the regional bosses the right to remove local leaders and end elections for municipalities with more than 50,000 people. This, he noted, would rob more than 100 million Russians of the right to elect their own administration.

The Kremlin also ran into resistance on the economic front. The State Duma did pass the government’s proposal to institute a flat 13-percent income tax, a move widely hailed as a first step toward shrinking Russia’s massive shadow economy. But lawmakers balked at replacing–with a single tax–the current system by which employers make separate payments into the country’s pension, social insurance and medical insurance funds. This measure was strongly opposed by both the Communists in the Duma and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, and even the liberal Yabloko said it would not agree to the measure until it was sure that it would not “worsen the situation of certain social groups.” All in all, you could say that Vladimir Putin’s honeymoon period was ending.