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Cablegate: Russian Duma Takes On Aggressive Agenda

VZCZCXRO3894
PP RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #0102/01 0161518
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 161518Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6150
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 000102

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIAN DUMA TAKES ON AGGRESSIVE AGENDA

REF: 07 MOSCOW 5682

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SUMMARY
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1. (U) The Duma has planned an aggressive legislative agenda
for its spring session. The lower body of parliament has
decided that more than 600 bills will be considered by its
committees during the session that runs through July. Of
these bills, a much smaller number are considered to be high
priority. Quality of life issues are expected to dominate
the session with pension reform, an increase in wages for
government employees and other social issues leading the way;
issues emphasized by Putin during the Duma campaign. Among
the bills to be considered is one that would establish
presidential libraries for Russian presidents since the fall
of the Soviet Union. The Duma plans a new "Government Hour"
during which officials will respond to questions from Duma
deputies. End summary.

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DUMA TO CONSIDER HUNDREDS OF BILLS
----------------------------------

2. (U) The Duma, which began its legislative work on January
11, is scheduled to consider more than 600 bills during its
spring legislative session which runs through July. Of the
651 bills proposed so far, more than 30 are considered to be
high priority. Most of these bills were submitted by the
government and two were submitted by the presidential
administration. Under Russian law, bills can originate
within the Duma or Federation Council or they can come from
the Kremlin or government. According to news reports, Deputy
Speaker Oleg Morozov said six bills involve "state and
constitutional structure," eight concern the economy, eight
are budget-related and eight deal with defense and security.
Quality of life issues will be a major focus during this
session. Pension reform and increasing salaries for
government employees and payments to military personnel are
expected to be considered and approved early in the session.
Other bills regarding water issues, prevention of
homelessness and third party car insurance are also expected
to be taken up during the session.

3. (U) The Duma's legislative focus is expected to follow the
course set by Putin which he laid out in a speech to the
United Russia Congress in October. In his remarks, Putin
emphasized the need to increase salaries of government
employees, increase payments to military personnel and
examine the pensions of military retirees. Duma Speaker
Boris Gryzlov has noted with dismay that the Duma is ready to
pass bills to accomplish these things but that the government
has not yet submitted the necessary draft laws.

4. (U) The Communist faction, the only opposition faction in
the Duma, has expressed its dissatisfaction with the agenda.
Vice Speaker and Communist faction member Ivan Melnikov,
told the media "the agenda is missing a whole row of
important legislation," specifically citing draft laws on
corruption, progressive income taxation and changes to the
laws on water and forestry which are intended to "stop the
stealing of natural resources."

5. (U) A draft law backed by Federation Council Speaker
Sergey Mironov and other members of the Just Russia party,
would establish presidential libraries for heads of state
following the end of the Soviet Union. The libraries would
serve as a repository for presidential papers and other
memorabilia. The Kremlin has not commented on the idea.

---------------
DUMA COMMITTEES
---------------

6. (U) Members of the United Russia faction, which holds a
constitutional majority in the Duma (315 of 450 seats), will
lead 26 of 32 Duma committees (reftel). Of the 35 posts of
first deputy committee chair, four were given to members of
parties in the minority (2 to the Communist Party, 1 to the
Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) and 1 to Just Russia.) Of
the 107 deputy committee chairmanships, 36 will go to members
of minority parties. A commentator in Vedomosti noted that
an enticing aspect of these positions is the right to a
personal car.

7. (U) Despite the fact that the Duma session is underway,
the leadership is still working on committee assignments.
This unfinished piece of business has been a major irritant
for some Duma deputies. Until they are assigned to a
committee, they are without an office. Offices are assigned

MOSCOW 00000102 002 OF 002


based on proximity to the committees on which deputies serve.


------------------------------------
NEW "GOVERNMENT HOUR" TO BE LAUNCHED
------------------------------------

8. (U) A new feature to be added to the work of the Duma will
be a regularly scheduled "Government Hour" during which
officials of the executive branch will answer questions posed
by deputies. The idea was initiated by Communist Party
faction member Anatoly Lokot, who expressed interest in
questioning Prime Minister Zubkov about inflation. Another
member of the party has stated she would like to question
ministers about social reforms.

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COMMENT
-------

9. (SBU) As the Duma sets out on an aggressive course of
lawmaking, the path it follows will be determined by the
Kremlin. While there will be some expressions of dissent
from the Communist faction and the voice of LDPR leader
Zhirinovskiy will be heard often, United Russia's
constitutional majority guarantees that any legislation it
takes up will pass with limited debate.
BURNS

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