Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 18

The Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS), one of the three minority factions in the State Duma which have been boycotting the body’s proceedings, has agreed in principle to resume full participation in the Duma’s activities. The three factions announced a boycott earlier this month after the two largest Duma groups, the pro-Kremlin Unity faction and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), cut a deal to make KPRF member Gennady Seleznev, the speaker of the last Duma, the chamber’s speaker once again, and to divide the Duma’s key committee chairmanships among themselves. The minority factions charged that the deal was the result of a conspiracy, hatched in collusion with the administration of Acting President Vladimir Putin, to monopolize the legislature at their expense. SPS, Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) and the Russia’s Regions group–some of whose deputies also joined the boycott–were originally offered one chairmanship each, while Yabloko, headed by economist Grigory Yavlinsky, was offered none. Later, Seleznev offered to create three additional committees to give to the protesting factions, but warned that the original three chairmanships on offer would be given to the majority factions if the dissidents did not end their boycott by January 25. Yesterday, however, Seleznev moved the deadline to tomorrow (January 27).

After meeting with Putin and Boris Gryzlov yesterday, the head of Unity’s Duma faction, SPS leader Sergei Kirienko, said that SPS had rejected the idea of the new committee posts but that Unity had promised to support some of SPS’s legislative projects. Kirienko also said that he had informed the other two dissident factions, OVR and Yabloko, about the talks after their conclusion. The Coordinating Council which SPS, OVR and Yabloko formed last week will meet today [January 26] to discuss the results of the Kirienko-Putin-Gryzlov talks.

While Kirienko apparently did not consult the leaders of the other dissident factions about a possible compromise, it appears that they too are also ready to follow suit. OVR leader Yevgeny Primakov indicated as much yesterday, saying that the three factions would not demand a new vote for speaker, first deputy speaker and for the committee heads, and denying that the three factions were split and in “disarray.” Primakov said that the three minority factions were ready to accept “certain compromises.” Likewise, Yabloko leader Yavlinsky said the minority factions could not cede the Duma to the Communists, the Kremlin and Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, which has allied itself with Unity and the KPRF. “This is a gray force which cannot pass the laws the country needs,” Yavlinsky said.

A newspaper today quoted a source in the presidential administration as saying that Kirienko won agreement from Putin and Kremlin administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin that, in return for SPS’s abandonment of the boycott, the Kremlin would “settle the dispute” between the main lobbyist of SPS’s interests, United Energy Systems chief Anatoly Chubais, and the main lobbyist of Unity’s interests, Boris Berezovsky (Segodnya, January 26). This report, if accurate, would give credence to the theory that Berezovsky initiated the Unity-KPRF deal as a way to weaken Chubais. It would also suggest that Putin is beginning to emulate his predecessor in playing the “grand arbiter” in the perpetual competition among Russia’s main political-financial clans as a way to divide and rule.