The Communist faction in Russia’s State Duma has increased its hold over its nationalist allies by drafting eight of its members to bolster the friction-torn "Power to the People!". One member of the allied Agrarian faction has also transferred to the nationalist faction. (RIA Novosti, February 12) The new blood will prevent membership of "Power to the People!" from falling below the thirty-five threshold necessary to secure official recognition as a faction. "Power to the People!" was at risk of falling below this number after the defection of its radical wing, led by nationalist firebrand Sergei Baburin. Baburin objected when the leaders of the nationalist faction voted to approve the government’s draft federal budget. But Baburin’s attempt to oust former Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov from the faction leadership failed when Communist members of the faction threw their weight behind Ryzhkov.
Although the Communists have expressed disappointment at President Yeltsin’s recent expression of support for First Deputy Premier Anatoly Chubais, Baburin’s ouster signals the further consolidation of centrist opinion within the Communist faction and in the Duma it dominates. It confirms the likelihood that parliament will continue to cooperate with the government of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. This means the 1998 federal budget is likely to be approved when it comes up for its fourth and final reading next week. It is also a good omen that the new draft of Russia’s tax code will secure parliamentary approval.
The leader of the pro-government "Russia is Our Home," Aleksandr Shokhin, said last week that the battle for the soul of the Russian Communist party has been won by the Social-Democratic tendency. The radical "Bolshevik" wing, he said, has been marginalized. In five years’ time, Shokhin predicted, the Communist party will have completed its evolution into a mainstream European-style social-democratic party and "no one will need to fear its coming to power." Shokhin said, however, that he did not believe the process would be complete by 2000, when the next presidential election is due to be held. The Communist candidate in that election, he predicted, is still likely to be viewed as someone advocating a return to the past. (Itar-Tass, February 11)
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