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Russia Report: January 29, 2004

29 January 2004, Volume 4, Number 3
State Duma deputies voted on 16 January to confirm members of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia faction as chairpeople of all 29 Duma committees. In addition to the 28 committees in the previous Duma, deputies voted to create a new Veterans Affairs Committee. While eight committee heads have remained from the old Duma, many of the new committee chairpeople have little experience both in the subject area they will now be overseeing and in legislative work in general.

The appointment of former Pyatigorsk Mayor Yurii Vasilev to head the new Budget Committee was unexpected. According to on 13 January, Vasilev is essentially only known for having escaped a murder attempt in August last year, in which his jeep was blown up. Vasilev attended Leningrad State University, the alma mater of many ministers and of President Vladimir Putin. Similarly, St. Petersburg lawyer Vladimir Pligin, who was selected to head the Constitutional Legislation Committee, served under St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak in the mid-1990s, according to

Meanwhile, some Duma deputies with considerable experience were passed over. Motherland faction member and former Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko was not selected to head the Banking Committee. Oksana Dmitrieva (independent), a former deputy chairwoman and three-time member of the Budget Committee, was not even allowed to become a member of that committee again. It is possible that Dmitrieva, who changes parties often, damaged her chances by aligning herself with the obscure Development of Entrepreneurship in the 7 December election.

If present trends continue, ambitious legislators will certainly think twice before aligning themselves with any party other than Unified Russia or its Kremlin-designated successor.

This week, "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly" spoke with Thomas Remington, chairman of the political science department at Emory University, about the new leadership configuration. Among his publications are two books on the Duma: "The Russian Parliament: Institutional Evolution In A Transitional Regime, 1989-1999" (Yale University Press, 2001) and "The Politics Of Institutional Choice: Formation Of The Russian State Duma" (co-authored with Steven S. Smith) (Princeton University Press, 2001). (Julie A. Corwin)

RFE/RL: A lot of people have been commenting that the Duma is now just an extension of the executive branch, or that it is a new kind of "ministry for legislation" and has really ceased to exist as a separate branch of government. What do you think? Also, I'm wondering why a political nonentity such as Vasilev got the Budget Committee post.

REMINGTON: This Duma has made several significant changes to the way it operates as a result of the success of Unified Russia in winning an overwhelming majority of seats. For its first decade, over the first three Dumas, the legislature operated with a strong rule of proportionality in the way it distributed shares of power and leadership. Political factions and deputy groups were allocated leadership posts according to their overall strength in the membership. The Duma Council, which is the steering body of the chamber, went even further in the direction of power-sharing and away from majoritarianism. In it, each faction and registered group was represented by one person, its leader. Now the deputies have altered several key rules.

First, they raised the threshold for deputies' groups to register and thus gain the same status as political factions. A group must now have 55 members, while the threshold used to be 35, allowing several such groups to form and become, in effect, new parliamentary parties. This means it will effectively be impossible for deputies' groups, apart from informal caucuses, to arise.

Second, the distribution of leadership posts is almost American-style or Westminster-style in its reliance on majoritarianism. Just as the party winning a majority of seats in each chamber of [the U.S.] Congress takes all of the leadership positions in the chamber and the committees, so Unified Russia has taken every one of the committee chairmanships and nearly all the chamber deputy chairmanships. This is an unprecedented act of muscle flexing by the new majority party.

Third, they have turned the Duma Council into a structure very similar to the old Soviet-era Presidium. That is, formally the Duma Council remains the steering body, but it is made up exclusively of the speaker and deputy speakers of the chamber. This means that the administrative leadership of the chamber will control its legislative business, just as the old Presidium, with its hierarchical control over the Supreme Soviet, reflected the communist-era principle under which administrative officials dominated nominally elective representative bodies.

Finally, although some of the committee chairpeople have experience in the domains of their committees, others are new not only to their committee but to the Duma as well. This is the case with the new Budget Committee chairman, Yurii Vasilev. His lack of experience, compared with his predecessors as chairs of that committee, suggests that the Kremlin has decided to reduce the already limited influence the Budget Committee has to influence the state budget, and instead to ensure that control over budgetary decision making remains exclusively in the executive branch.

In the past, the Budget Committee was important because it had the ability to bargain with the government over the distribution of government spending across budget categories. Expert and experienced chairpeople of the Budget Committee were influential, and membership on the Budget Committee was highly attractive to deputies. Now the Budget Committee will be an extension of the executive branch within the parliament. The same pattern is likely to obtain in other issue arenas.

RFE/RL: What impact do you think the absence of the right-wing parties and reduced presence of the Communist Party will have on the Duma's day-to-day operations? I'm also curious how you think State Duma Speaker and Unified Russia faction leader Boris Gryzlov will be able to enforce discipline over more than 300 deputies. On the other hand, I'm also having a hard time figuring out what these deputies would bother being rebellious about.

REMINGTON: The huge two-thirds majority enjoyed by Unified Russia in the new Duma will allow the president and the government to monopolize agenda power and to control all legislative decisions. In the previous Duma, the pro-Kremlin majority was sufficiently thin and insecure that the executive branch had to bargain with deputies and factions to win passage of the president's and the government's agenda. Ultimately, the president and the government got their way in almost every case, but they often had to make concessions to their friends in the Duma.

Now the government and president are in a position to rely on sticks, rather than carrots, to ensure passage of their legislative program. A deputy who chooses not to support the president or government on an issue will find that he has no bargaining leverage whatsoever and might jeopardize his access to the executive branch for favors. Not only are the other parties marginalized, but so are individual members and the interests they represent within Unified Russia. In all likelihood, this Duma will operate not as a counterweight to the executive branch, but as a rubber stamp for its will.

Unified Russia faction leader Boris Gryzlov

First deputy speakers:
Aleksandr Zhukov (Unified Russia) former Budget Committee chairman, Unified Russia Central Political Council member
Lyubov Sliska (Unified Russia) first deputy speaker in the previous Duma and former legislator in Saratov Oblast, Unified Russia Supreme Council member

Deputy speakers:
Georgii Boos (Unified Russia) former federal tax minister, Unified Russia Supreme Council member
Vyacheslav Volodin (Unified Russia) head of the Fatherland-All Russia faction in previous Duma, Unified Russia Supreme Council presidium member, Unified Russia General Council deputy secretary
Vladimir Zhirinovskii (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, or LDPR) LDPR leader
Valentin Kuptsov (Communist Party) Communist Party Central Committee chairman
Oleg Morozov (Unified Russia) leader of the Russian Regions deputies group in the previous Duma, Unified Russia Supreme Council presidium member, Unified Russia General Council deputy secretary
Vladimir Pekhtin (Unified Russia) leader of the Unity faction in the previous Duma, Unified Russia General Council presidium member, Unified Russia party member
Dmitrii Rogozin (Motherland) former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee
Artur Chilingarov (Unified Russia) former deputy speaker in the previous Duma, member of Unified Russia's Supreme Council

Committee chairpeople. (All committee chairpeople in the new Duma are members of the Unified Russia faction.)

Agriculture: Gennadii Kulik, chairman of this committee in the previous Duma, former deputy prime minister and member of Fatherland-Unified Russia faction in previous Duma
Budget and Taxes: Yurii Vasilev, former mayor of Pyatigorsk
Constitutional Legislation: Vladimir Pligin, former lawyer for St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak
Credit Organizations and Financial Markets: Vladislav Reznik, former State Duma deputy, Unified Russia General Council member
Culture: Iosif Kobzon, former deputy chairman of this committee, popular singer
Defense: General Viktor Zavarzin, former Russian representative to NATO
Duma Regulations: Oleg Kovalev, chairman of this committee in the previous Duma
Ecology: Vladimir Grachev, chairman of this committee in the previous Duma
Economic Policy, Entrepreneurship, and Tourism: Valerii Draganov, former State Customs Committee chairman, former State Duma deputy
Education and Science: Nikolai Bulaev, former State Duma deputy, Unified Russia Regional Political Council Secretary
Energy: Valerii Yazev, Urals gas magnate, member of this committee in the previous Duma, Unified Russia Central Political Council member, Unified Russia Interregional Coordinating Council Coordinator
Ethnic Policy: Lieutenant General Yevgenii Trofimov
Federation Affairs and Regional Policy: Viktor Grishin, chairman of this committee in the previous Duma, Unified Russia Central Political Council member
Foreign Affairs: Konstantin Kosachev, former assistant to Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, first deputy head of the Fatherland-All Russia faction in previous Duma, member of Unified Russia's Central Political Council
Health Care: Tatyana Yakovleva, deputy chairwoman of this committee in the previous Duma, former chief doctor of a raion hospital and president of the Union of Medical Insurers
Industry and Technology: Martin Shakkum, chairman of this committee in previous Duma, Unified Russia Central Political Council member
Information Policy: Valerii Komissarov, former State Duma deputy and former host of the television program "My Family," member of Unified Russia's Central Political Council
Labor and Social Policy: Andrei Isaev, former State Duma deputy, Unified Russia General Council member
Legislation: Pavel Krasheninnikov, former justice minister, chairman of this committee in previous Duma, member of Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) party
Local Self-Government: Vladimir Mokryi, chairman of this committee in the previous Duma
Natural Resource: Natalya Komarova, former first deputy governor of Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, member of previous Duma
Northern and Far Eastern Territories: Valentina Pivnenko, chairwoman of this committee in the previous Duma, member of People's Deputy group in previous Duma
Property: Viktor Pleskachevskii, chairman of this committee in previous Duma, Unified Russia Central Political Council member
Public Associations and Religious Organizations: Sergei Popov, former Federation Council representative (Ust-Ordynskii Buryatskii Autonomous Okrug), Unified Russia's General Council member
Relation with CIS States and Compatriots Abroad: Andrei Kokoshin, former first deputy defense minister, Unified Russia Central Political Council member
Security: Vladimir Vasilev, former deputy interior minister and former Security Council deputy secretary
Sports: Vladimir Goryunov, president of the Rotor soccer club
Veterans Affairs: Federal Security Service (FSB) General Nikolai Kovalev, former FSB director, member of previous Duma
Women, Family, and Youth Affairs: Yekaterina Lakhova, former Duma deputy, former deputy chairwoman of Public Associations and Religious Organizations Committee, member of Unified Russia's Central Political Council

Duma Mandate Commission: Gennadii Raikov (Unified Russia), head of the People's Deputy group in the previous Duma

Sources: RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Central Election Commission website, (, State Duma website (

On 26 January, Motherland faction leader and presidential hopeful Sergei Glazev was facing both the prospects an investigation by the Moscow prosecutor's office and reports that a disagreement between Glazev and fellow Motherland bloc leader and State Duma Deputy Speaker Dmitrii Rogozin was creating a rift within the alliance.

The Central Election Commission (TsIK) on 26 January asked the Moscow city prosecutor to investigate charges that Glazev's campaign workers have been trying to buy voters' support, reported. TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told reporters that the commission inquiry was prompted by an ORT news report.

At the same time, reports about a split between Motherland bloc leaders Glazev and Rogozin appeared to snowball. On 24 January, Glazev's press service circulated a statement in which Glazev accused Rogozin of trying "to mislead the voters" with an earlier statement that the leadership of the Motherland bloc has not decided to support Glazev's presidential bid.

The next day, Glazev denied issuing the statement, saying that he considered it a "gross provocation" aimed at "creating contradictions within our bloc." On 26 January, Rogozin tried to minimize the controversy, telling NTV that no rift had occurred and that he and Glazev disagreed only about tactics.

Nevertheless, the damage was already done to the appearance of unity within the bloc's ranks. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 26 January interviewed political analysts about the reasons for the possible disintegration of the alliance.

Andrei Ryabov of the Carnegie Moscow Center noted that the coalition has always been "heterogeneous" and "fortuitous," commenting that a "union of socialists of Glazev's type and radical nationalists such as [Sergei] Baburin could not be easy."

Sergei Markov of the Institute for Political Research told the daily that one of the reasons the bloc might fall apart is it has already fulfilled its main function of taking away a significant part of the Communist Party's electorate during the 7 December State Duma elections.

Another reason, according to Markov, is that personal goals of Glazev and Rogozin differ. Glazev would like to become president in 2008, while Rogozin is hoping for a higher position within the current system of power and does not want to oppose the presidential administration. (Julie A. Corwin)

"RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly" on 16 January misidentified Unified Russia's Nikolai Kovalev as the winner in Russia's 111th single-mandate district in the December 2003 State Duma elections. The winner was Viktor Alksnis of Great Russia/Eurasian Union. Unified Russia won in 102 -- not 104 -- single-mandate districts.

On the eve of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) party congress on 24-25 January, SPS member and former Duma Deputy Andrei Vulf alleged in an interview published in "Russkii kurer" on 22 January that two-thirds of the party's Duma campaign budget was embezzled. According to Vulf, the charge that the bulk of the party's campaign funds was embezzled is just one of the conclusions drawn in a report prepared by a special panel to analyze why the party performed so poorly.

According to Vulf, the money was stolen at the lower levels of the campaign. He noted that he was surprised that some fingers have been pointed at campaign manager Alfred Kokh. Kokh, according to Vulf, is "a person who is not poor, to put it mildly. He is one of the party's sponsors. Why would he steal from himself?"

Vulf said the campaign was drastically short of money just when it was needed most -- some three weeks before the election. Campaign efforts in some regions were not financed at all, he said.

"Izvestiya" reported on 21 January that the panel, which was headed by Konstantin Remchukov, charged that the number of advertising billboards paid for in the cities of Ryazan and Vladimir, for example, did not match the number of billboards actually posted.

"Kommersant-Daily" on 10 December, just after the election, ranked SPS fifth in terms of ineffective campaign spending. Top "honors" went to the party Rus, which spent approximately 384 rubles ($13) per vote received in the party-list voting. SPS spent 92 rubles. The rankings were calculated using official data on campaign spending from the Central Election Commission. Unified Russia ranked 14th, having officially spent 9 rubles for each vote. (Julie A. Corwin)

DEMOTED: Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov announced on 19 January that council First Deputy Chairman Valerii Goreglyad (Sakhalin Oblast) will step down from his leadership post and become simply a senator, "Gazeta" reported on 20 January. Goreglyad confirmed Mironov's statement the same day.

OUT: President Putin has dismissed Duma Deputy Speaker Dmitrii Rogozin as his presidential envoy for Kaliningrad, Interfax reported on 22 January. According to the agency, the presidential administration found Rogozin's work satisfactory, but in the future all issues relating to Kaliningrad will be handled by the Foreign Ministry and other governmental agencies.

OUT: President Putin has relieved Duma Deputy Boris Pastukhov (Unified Russia) of his position as chairman of the state commission preparing a friendship and cooperation treaty between Russia and Georgia, "Izvestiya" reported on 22 January. The Foreign Ministry will now oversee work on the treaty.

OUT: Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Roald Piskoppel has retired from government service, reported on 20 January. Piskoppel oversaw the ministry's departments dealing with Europe and the United States. A ministry spokesman said the post will remain vacant while the ministry looks for a suitable replacement. Deputy Transport Minister Nikolai Smirnov is also retiring, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 January.

UP: President Putin has appointed Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov as first deputy chairman of the Victory Committee, which was set up to prepare and carry out special activities related to memorable events in Russia's military history, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 January. Ivanov was previously a member of the committee, which has one chairman, one first deputy chairman, and seven deputies.

28 January: Federation Council will hold its first session of 2004

28 January: 6 p.m. Moscow time is the deadline for candidates to submit registration documents for the presidential race to the Central Election Commission. Nonparty candidates and candidates from parties not represented in the State Duma must submit 2 million valid signatures in support of their candidacy

29 January: Deadline for Duma deputies who were not re-elected to vacate their government-allocated apartments

Early February: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev will visit Russia, according to Interfax on 8 January

1 February: NTV will resume work in Belarus

2 February: A jury will begin hearing the case against the accused murderers of State Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov

7 February: List of registered presidential candidates to be finalized

12 February-12 March: Period during which free airtime will be provided to presidential candidates

16-20 February: Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, will visit Moscow at the invitation of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia, according to Interfax

19 February: Cabinet will examine the preliminary results of the first stage of the administrative reform of the Russian federal government

20 February: Presidential-election ballot papers to be printed

23 February: Defenders of the Fatherland federal holiday

23 February: 60th anniversary of the 1943 deportation of the Chechen people by Stalin's NKVD

24 February: Next hearing in the St. Petersburg trial of the accused murderers of State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova

27 February: Early voting in presidential election to begin for citizens in remote areas of the Russian Federation

8 March: International Women's Day observed

9-14 March: Publication of results of opinion polls about the presidential election banned

11 March: EU-Russia ministerial troika to be held in Dublin

14 March: Election for president of the Russian Federation

14 March: Gubernatorial elections in Voronezh, Murmansk, Chita and Arkhangelsk oblasts, Altai and Krasnodar krais, and Koryak Autonomous Okrug

14 March: Republican-level presidential election in Udmurtia

14 March: Repeat State Duma elections in single-mandate districts in Ulyanovsk and Sverdlovsk oblasts and St. Petersburg, where no candidates succeeded in garnering sufficient votes on 7 December

25 March: Date by which prosecutors must either complete their criminal investigation of former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii or ask a Moscow court to extend his period of pretrial detention

26 March: Date by which official presidential-election results will be released

30 March: Date by which prosecutors must either complete their criminal investigation of Menatep Chairman Platon Lebedev or ask a Moscow court to extend his period of pretrial detention

31 March: Date by which prosecutors must either complete their criminal investigation of St. Petersburg legislator and accused murder conspirator Yurii Shutov or ask a St. Petersburg court to extend his period of pretrial detention

1 April: Administrative reform of Russian federal government will be completed, according to Deputy Prime Minister Boris Aleshin

4 April: Second round of federal presidential election to be held, if no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote in the 14 March first round

June: Communist Party will hold congress to hear reports and elect new party officials

1 June: New deadline for exchanging Soviet-era passports for new Russian passports

19 June: End of State Duma's spring session.