Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 15

The stand-off continues between the minority factions in Russia’s new State Duma–including Fatherland-All Russia, the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) and Yabloko–and the two largest factions–Unity and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF). The three minority factions, along with some members of the Russia’s Regions group, are boycotting the Duma, alleging that Unity, which backs Acting President Vladimir Putin, together with the KPRF, conspired to return Gennady Seleznev to the post of Duma speaker and to divide between them the chairmanships of the Duma’s key committees. The KPRF won the chairmanships of nine committees, including the committee on economic policy and entrepreneurship (chairman–Sergei Glazyev, the KPRF’s main economist), the committee on industry, construction and scientific technology (chairman–Yuri Maslyukov, who was first deputy prime minister in the Primakov government), and the committee on federal affairs and regional policy (chairman–Leonid Ivanchenko). Unity won the chairmanship of seven committees, including the committee on property; the committee on energy, trade and communications; the committee on security; and the committee on local self-government.

In addition, Konstantin Vetrov, a member of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), was elected chairman of the committee on information policy (Zhirinovsky himself was elected as one of the Duma’s deputy speakers); Dmitri Rogozin of the People’s Deputy faction (who formerly headed the nationalist Congress of Russian Communities movement), was made chairman of the international affairs committee; Aleksandr Shokhin, formerly economics minister and a top member of Russia is Our Home, won the chairmanship of the committee on credit organization and financial markets; and Andrei Nikolaev, former head of Russia’s border guards service, was picked to chair the Duma’s defense committee. The LDPR, People’s Deputy, Shokhin and Nikolaev are all pro-Putin. The chairmanships of five committees (legislation, budget, tax, CIS affairs, nationalities) remain unfilled. The SPS, OVR and Russia’s Regions were promised one committee chairmanship each, but, as part of the minority factions’ protest, they have refused to accept them (Russian agencies, January 19).

Seleznev said yesterday that the issue of divvying up the Duma’s posts would not be revisited, and warned the minority factions that if they did not agree by January 25 to fill the three chairmanships they were offered, the posts would be given to Unity and the KPRF. The three minority factions, however, show no signs of giving in. They have together formed a Coordination Council, and Vladimir Lukin, first deputy head of Yabloko, said yesterday that Yabloko, OVR and SPS would boycott Duma plenary sessions until the Coordination Council said otherwise, but would continue to carry out committee work. Lukin noted that the three protesting factions include the deputies with the greatest legislative experience, and accused the government of trying to turn the parliament into a “transmission belt”–the term once used when referring to Communist Party control over governmental organs (Russian agencies, January 20). Seleznev characterized the protesting factions’ Coordination Council as an “unconstitutional organ” (Segodnya, January 21).