Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 161

The Russian Duma will reconvene tomorrow (September 3) after its summer recess. It has already scheduled a debate on the draft 1998 budget for October 10-11. Also on the Duma’s agenda is the draft tax code, which has already been approved in the first reading and which the government says is essential to bring revenue and spending into balance by 1999. Communist deputies have warned the government that neither the budget nor the tax code will have a smooth passage and the Communist Party says it is planning a series of protest strikes in the fall. (RIA-Novosti, September 1)

Russian media continue to speculate that President Yeltsin may respond to the Duma’s intransigence by dissolving parliament and calling fresh elections. But public opinion polls indicate that new elections would likely produce a Duma even less inclined to do business. The Communist/nationalist opposition would likely remain steady at around 45 percent of seats, but Grigory Yavlinsky’s Yabloko would double its present numbers while Aleksandr Lebed’s nationalist party would take the seats presently occupied by Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s supporters. The main loser would be the pro-government "Russia is Our Home," currently in disarray following last week’s resignation of faction leader Sergei Belyaev. Belyaev’s departure is being seen as evidence of a definitive split in the government between moderate reformers headed by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and radicals led by First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, Belyaev’s long-time ally. (Financial Times, September 29; Itar-Tass, August 30) The man tipped to replace Belyaev is Deputy Speaker Aleksandr Shokhin, a moderate reformer who was dropped from Yeltsin’s first reform team because of his poor organizational skills.

Revised Version of Religion Bill Said to be Even Tougher than the First.