President Boris Yeltsin is meeting today with leaders of all the factions of the Duma in an effort to persuade opposition leaders to call off a no-confidence vote scheduled for tomorrow. After an eleventh-hour appeal from Yeltsin, the Communists and their nationalist and agrarian allies agreed last week to postpone their threatened no-confidence vote for seven days. The Communist faction is to decide later today whether to proceed with the vote, currently scheduled for tomorrow, though at present there seems little doubt they will abandon it.
Yeltsin has said he wants to establish "a more stable and predictable relationship" between his government and the Duma in order to avoid such crises. First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said yesterday that the rows between government and parliament are harming the economy and deterring urgently needed foreign investment. The government has indicated its willingness to make minor changes to the draft 1998 federal budget and Yeltsin is expected to agree at today’s meeting to convene a roundtable of 23 political parties and movements to discuss other contentious issues, such as the land and tax codes, over which government and parliament are at loggerheads.
Today’s meeting between Yeltsin and Duma leaders arises out of a meeting yesterday between the "Big Four" — Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and the speakers of the two houses of parliament. Both sides expressed themselves satisfied with that meeting. The government agreed to fund a "parliamentary hour" on Russian TV and radio, as well as to help the Duma publish its own newspaper and to set up supervisory councils to monitor the state-controlled ORT and RTR TV channels. It was agreed to create a trilateral commission of the government and the two houses of parliament to discuss opposition demands for a two-year freeze on housing and utility charges. Also discussed was the opposition’s demand that bank savings deprived of their value in the 1992 economic reform should not be included in the ruble redenomination due to take effect on January 1 next year. And, according to Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev, Yeltsin agreed to sign into law a bill on the government which he vetoed during the summer. (RTR, ORT, AP, October 20)
Meetings of the "Big Four" will in the future be regular occurrences, Chernomyrdin said yesterday, though he made it clear that the government’s price for agreeing to the opposition’s demands is unconditional withdrawal of the threatened no-confidence vote. Liberal economist Grigory Yavlinsky said his Yabloko faction will continue to press for a no-confidence vote unless the government radically changes its budget and taxation plans, but Yabloko is not strong enough on its own to get a vote placed on the agenda. (NTV, October 20)
Rokhlin Eats His Words.