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Russia: Duma Begins Debate On No-Confidence Measure

Moscow, 15 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian legislators of the State Duma have begun debating a motion of no-confidence in the government. Itar-Tass says Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais and other Cabinet members are attending the Duma session. Debates are scheduled to last for about an hour and a half before a vote is expected.

Itar-Tass says the Duma deputies will consider two no-confidence measures. The communists have proposed one version that accuses the government of failing to implement the 1997 budget according to law. That measure has wide support in the opposition-dominated lower house of parliament. The reformist Yabloko faction has unveiled its own measure.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov opened the debate by criticizing the government's economic reforms which he blamed for a drop in industrial output to a rise in alcoholism. Zyuganov said: "The longest queues in the country are to the cemetery and for jobs."

Just hours before the debate, Chubais warned that Chernomyrdin would step down if the Duma's no-confidence measure succeeds. For that to happen, a majority of the 450 deputies would have to pass the measure twice within three months. Then President Boris Yeltsin would have to decide whether to replace the Cabinet or disband the State Duma.

The Communists say they are confident of success. Yeltsin has expressed his support for the cabinet and suggested he would disband the State Duma.

ITAR-TASS today quotes the text of the communist initiative as accusing the government of "complete bankruptcy" in executing this year's budget. It also says the government of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had become what it called a "hostage to its radical wing."

No government officials were named, but Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyev said yesterday the vote was not directed at Chernomyrdin but his two deputy prime ministers, Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, both of whom were brought in to speed up Russia's economic restructuring.

Meanwhile, the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, today urged the State Duma to work together with it, Yeltsin and the government to overcome what it called "the state of crisis in the country."