The Russian Duma reconvened yesterday after its summer recess. High on its agenda for the fall session are the government’s draft budget for 1998 and a new tax code that the government says is essential to bring government revenue and spending into balance by 1999. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov attacked the draft budget yesterday as "an offense to reason," but the criticism of Grigory Yavlinksy, leader of the Yabloko faction, was more pointed. Yavlinsky said the draft was "realistic" in that the revenues and expenditures it projects are so small that they will be relatively easy for the government to realize. But, he continued, they are too low to stimulate the 2 percent economic growth promised in the budget. Yabloko will therefore vote against the budget, Yavlinsky said. (RIA Novosti, September 3)
Both Yavlinsky and Zyuganov said their factions will support constitutional amendments reducing the powers of the president. But Yavlinsky stressed that, whereas the Communists want to curtail the powers of the president immediately, Yabloko will be content for the amendments to come into force only after President Yeltsin’s leaves office in 2000. The Communists, Yavlinsky said, want to transfer all the president’s powers to the Duma and to transform the president into a virtual figurehead. Yabloko wants to increase parliamentary oversight but to retain an effective presidency. The faction’s main concern, Yavlinsky said, is that the constitution could otherwise open the door for a dictator of the right or left to come to power once Yeltsin leaves office. (RIA Novosti, September 3)
Also yesterday, the Duma set up a commission to probe charges of dishonest dealings in the sale of blocks of shares in Svyazinvest and Norilsk Nikel. The Communist-dominated parliament has complained about privatization deals in the past but the government has ignored its protests. Now, however, the Duma’s move will have the novel effect of aligning it with some of the powerful media tycoons who had, until the controversial deals during the summer, supported the government. The media attention to these deals is therefore likely to continue.
Public Executions in Djohar-Gala.