Communist-Backed No-Confidence Motion Defeated in Russian Duma
A Communist-sponsored no-confidence motion against the Russian government was defeated Wednesday in a vote seen as a boost to President Vladimir Putin's efforts to keep parliament in check.
The bid to censure the government for alleged economic blunders collected only 127 of the necessary 226 votes in the State Duma lower house, with 76 deputies voting against and five abstentions.
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's government welcomed the result, saying that it "opened the way to fruitful work between the government and the Duma" on legislation necessary to pass next year's budget, Interfax reported.
Only half of the deputies registered for the vote after the largest pro-Kremlin faction, Unity, withdrew its support for the move on Tuesday and said it would boycott the vote.
Backing from the 84-strong Unity faction had been vital to Communist hopes of driving Kasyanov from office.
Until the eve of the debate, Unity had seemed to favor backing the censure motion in order to force early polls, gambling that the Communists were losing public favor and would lose their status as the largest Duma faction in new elections.
But Unity leader Boris Gryzlov announced the last-minute U-turn, denouncing the Communist move as "a political farce."
Nevertheless Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov used the showcase debate Wednesday to launch a virulent attack on Putin's government, which he accused of pursuing the "murderous policy" of the Yeltsin era.
"The government is pursuing the murderous policy of (former president Boris) Yeltsin," Zyuganov said, adding that there had been "no change of direction, only a change in corrupt cliques."
Putin has already declared he had no immediate plans to overhaul his government, and Kasyanov was conspicuously absent from the Duma chamber during Wednesday's debate.
The prime minister has lost public favor for failing to capitalize on windfall oil and gas revenues to reform Russia's battered economy or reschedule the 38 billion dollars of Soviet-era debt owed to the Paris Club of international creditors.
The Communist move marked the first challenge to the Russian president since his arrival in power 15 months ago from a parliament that has been remarkably compliant in contrast with the stormy Yeltsin years.
Putin, who is still riding high in the opinion polls, has been successful in driving through legislation to curb the powers of regional governors and eject them from the upper house of parliament.
He also got through parliament a package of major tax reforms, despite protests that cutting income tax to a uniform rate of 13 percent favored the rich at the expense of Russia's impoverished population.
But the Duma showed its teeth last month by forcing Kasyanov's government to amend its budget proposals by allocating less money to foreign debt repayments than the Kremlin had wanted -- MOSCOW (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)