The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) found itself in the political wilderness yesterday, when the State Duma voted to take away the KPRF faction’s chairmanship of seven Duma committees. The initiative to redistribute the Duma’s committee chairmanships, put forward by the pro-Kremlin Unity party and passed 251-136, essentially undid the deal the KPRF struck in early 2000 with Unity and the Duma’s other centrist groupings to divvy up the chamber’s top positions between them.
In protest at yesterday’s proceedings, the KPRF’s Nikolai Gubenko and Viktor Zorkaltsev stepped down as heads of the only two committees left under the party’s control–culture and tourism, and public organizations and religious groups. The KPRF’s ally, the Agro-Industrial Group, rejected two committee chairmanships offered to them–nationalities and women’s, family and youth affairs. Meanwhile, the centrist Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) gained control over the committees on state building, regional policy and agrarian issues. The Union of Right Wing Forces (SPS) took over two committees–economic policy and entrepreneurship and labor and social policy. Russia’s Regions and Yabloko, respectively, won control of the committee on industry, construction and advanced technologies and the committee on education and science.
In strictly proportional terms, the redistribution of top posts made the 450-seat Duma less representative (Moscow Times, Kommersant, Moskovsky Komsomolets, April 4):
–KPRF, 84 seats, no committees–Unity, 82 seats, seven committees–People’s Deputy, 57 seats, five committees–OVR, 50 seats, five committees–Russia’s Regions faction, 48 seats, two committees–SPS, 32 seats, three committees–Yabloko, 17 seats, one committee–Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), 12 seats, one committee
The Communists were predictably livid over this turn of events. KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov said that, while the party will not boycott the Duma entirely, it would shift to a stance of “stiff opposition” to the government and Kremlin, which may include mass protests. He also said that the People’s Patriotic Union of Russia, the “national-patriotic” opposition coalition that he leads, will form a “shadow government” that “will not only simply criticize each step by the authorities but also offer a better solution to each issue.” The Kremlin has insisted that it had no role in the redistribution of Duma committee chairmanships. But another top KPRF member, Aleksandr Kravets, insisted that it was carried out at the Kremlin’s initiative. Zyuganov, meanwhile, criticized President Vladimir Putin for refusing to meet and discuss the issue (NTVru.com, April 3; Moscow Times, April 4).
The fate of the Duma’s speaker, Gennady Seleznev, who is also a top KPRF member, remains unresolved. Seleznev, however, is now under attack from both sides: The centrist factions recently initiated a measure that would remove him as speaker, and Zyuganov yesterday indicated that the KPRF expects Seleznev to step down. “A leader of the left wing does not have the right to head a Duma that is carrying out a destructive rightist policy,” Zyuganov said, adding that he was sure that Seleznev, as “a responsible person, will take the necessary decision” (NTVru.com, April 3). Seleznev, however, said he needed to think about what his next step would be (Moskovsky Komsomolets, April 4).
DUMA’S COUNCIL WILL CONSIDER PROPOSAL TO BAN KPRF.