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Russia: Duma Speaker Seleznev Bucks Request To Step Down

In Russia yesterday, the country's Communists called on party member Gennadii Seleznev to resign as speaker of the State Duma (lower house of parliament). The move -- meant to solidify the party's opposition role -- comes after the Duma's pro-Kremlin centrist majority stripped the Communists of eight key parliamentary positions in early April. But Seleznev says he will retain his post despite the call to step down.

Moscow, 11 April 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Gennadii Seleznev, speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, said yesterday he will stay in his post despite calls from his fellow Communists to tender his resignation.

Seleznev announced his decision following yesterday's 74 to 15 vote by the central committee of the Communist Party recommending that he resign. The vote came in the wake of a move by the Duma's centrist majority to strip the Communists of eight key leadership positions in parliament.

The party, which in the past has played a fairly pliant role in parliament, has responded to the slight by attempting to refigure itself as a consolidated opposition force -- something many members believe cannot happen without Seleznev's resignation from the speaker post.

In a television interview yesterday following the Communist vote, Seleznev said he was unhappy with his party's recommendation that he step down: "I cannot be happy with the resolution [of the party], since I tried to convince my party comrades present at the plenary meeting that the decision they took on 3 April [to relinquish control of two additional Duma committees and to suggest that I step down] be changed. I insisted that their position was too strong on the issue of whether the State Duma speaker should resign, but they didn't agree with my point of view. The plenary meeting concluded that the party had already decided and that the decision had to be fulfilled."

Seleznev went on to say that although his position as Duma speaker will now be far more difficult, he has too many governmental and social obligations -- including his role as a Security Council adviser -- to immediately relinquish his post.

Speaking today, however, Seleznev said he has reached a "compromise" with his fellow party members.

"A compromise has been reached [with the Communist Party], that I myself will determine how my life is going to develop, and moreover, that the chairman of the State Duma has a lot of state-related responsibilities," Seleznev said.

Seleznev said he will not give up his party membership, and that he does not believe his decision will cause a serious split in the party. He also asserted that the Duma chairmanship should be, first and foremost, a non-partisan post.

"To say that I should act only in the interests of the party is impossible, from the point of view of my post -- regardless of who holds the post. I must -- especially with the current critical situation in the State Duma -- make sure that the Duma works normally, that it democratically passes any law whether it is supported by the right or left, in accordance with existing procedures," Seleznev said.

Some senior Communists had proposed that Seleznev be made head of the party's Duma faction as compensation for giving up the Duma chairmanship. Gennadii Zyuganov, who leads the Communist Party, currently heads its Duma faction as well. But Seleznev said he is more interested in retaining his post as speaker.

Following yesterday's vote, Zyuganov said it was Seleznev's personal decision to keep his post: "He understands the party's position and what is going on [at the Duma] perfectly well. In any situation, statesmen must choose the position they think is most effective in that moment."

But Zyuganov also said the Communist Party has decided to "strongly oppose" the Duma's decision to strip their committee leaderships, adding the party will organize "many demonstrations of protest" -- both at the Duma and nationwide.

Under former President Boris Yeltsin the Communist Party dominated the Duma, but after the 2000 elections the party lost control of the lower house. The recent Duma vote put an end to a Kremlin-inspired deal, sealed in January 2000, which had given the Communists control of one-third of the Duma's 29 committees as well as the right to chose the Duma's speaker and deputy speaker.