The Guardian March 14, 2001


No confidence in Russian Government

Russia is going through another political and social crisis with severe 
socio-economic consequences for both society and the state, Gennadi 
Zuganov, leader of the CPRF (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) 
told the Duma. The communists blame the government of the Russian 
Federation led by the Prime Minister Kasyanov for its failure to implement 
meaningful economic and social measures. Kasyanov has been Prime Minister 
since May 2000. The following points are taken from the statement which was 
made on behalf of communist Duma representatives.

1. The government revised the 2001 budget after it had been passed. The 
state's budget policy is aimed at mainly providing debt repayments. It will 
mean shrinking investment in domestic industries, cuts to the development 
budget; cuts to social funds, health, education, science and technology.

2. The government's Labour Laws of the Russian Federation are a recipe for 
creating tension in society. They have been rejected by the working people 
of Russia, trade unions and the majority of the Duma deputies.

Under the new labour legislation workers' rights are not collectively 
protected; trade unions have no right to take part in discussions related 
to their enterprises. The new Labour Laws give the employer the right to 
increase the length of the working day to 12 hours. In essence, workers are 
put in the position of serfs with no rights and no protection.

Despite thousands of protest messages from workers who demand the guarantee 
of their rights and freedoms, the government is trying to push through its 
Labour Laws which will inevitable cause an even greater splintering of 
society and create dangerous social tensions.

3. The government insists on the free purchase and sale of agricultural 
land.

The changes that have already taken place in agriculture have caused a 
significant drop in production. Investment in agriculture is at an all time 
low. Agricultural machine building has almost been destroyed. The main bulk 
of mineral fertilisers are exported.

As a result of the neglect in agriculture, almost one half of agricultural 
produce is being imported. Russia has lost its food production security.

The proposed privatisation of agricultural land will inevitably lead to the 
end of agriculture as land will be bought by commercial banks, criminals 
and financial speculators.

4. The government's procrastination in solving urgent problems in the state 
sector and the continuing unregulated activities of such monopolies as gas 
and electricity, has seen emergency situations in a number of regions 
during wintertime.

The government is planning to "withdraw" from the 30 largest companies in 
the country. Despite a number of laws which specifically define the 
government's obligations, the state continues to divest of economic 
responsibility.

In addition to rising electricity and gas prices, the housing situation has 
also reached crisis proportions.

According to official figures, 40 million Russian citizens live in 
substandard housing, including two million who live in conditions not 
suitable for human habitation.

The most acute situation is in small cities and in the country. The 
government has done nothing to deal with the crumbling housing sector and 
continues to do nothing.

The government is also accused of neglecting the crises in education, 
science and culture. The main thrust of the education reforms made public 
by the government in July last year is directed against free education.

The government has ignored the opinions of teachers and educators and once 
again is trying to review its obligations for free education as stated in 
legislation. Constant attempts are being made to privatise education and 
professional training.

This is not a complete list of grievances that concern parliamentarians.

In general, they are deeply worried about economic and social developments 
and want the government removed.

* * *
FOOTNOTE: According to the Russian constitution, if a no-confidence motion is successful it could mean early parliamentary elections. According to Gennadi Zuganov, the Communist Party is ready to take part in elections and would be likely to achieve good results. "The left forces are getting stronger as evidenced by the recent elections in Moldova where communists have achieved a resounding victory", he said. Another interesting aspect in the present situation is the fact that not only the communists in the Duma but Putin's pro-government Unity fraction are also thinking of supporting a no-confidence vote. In later developments President Putin and Gennadi Zuganov had a two-hour meeting. No details of the meeting were given and the proposed no- confidence vote will be presented in the Duma on March 14.

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