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Russian parliament demonstrates unheard-of unity in outgoing year

December 24, 2014, 21:17 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, December 24. /TASS/. Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, on Tuesday reached the New Year and Christmas holidays on a rather cheerful note. Speaker Sergey Naryshkin said 2014 was a unique year in a sense, noting in particular what he described as “the accumulated experience of overcoming intra-factional disagreements.” Indeed, the outgoing year saw unheard-of unity demonstrated by the four State Duma factions on most key issues. Experts attribute this to universal support for the Russian leadership’s foreign policy, starting from Crimea’s reunification with Russia.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov sees the main result of the outgoing year in what he describes as “a display of the feeling of collectivism.” “In their policies the state and President Putin manifested certain new traits that earned support,” he said. “Be it Crimea’s reunification with Russia or assistance to Novorossiya. Or the southward and eastward turn in geopolitics. We firmly backed up those initiatives. We believe they are well-founded and fair.”

The State Duma this year has considered more than 1,200 legislative initiatives. Most lawmakers believe that Crimea’s return was the landmark event. They did a great deal to fast-track the integration of Crimea and of the city of Sevastopol with Russia’s legal system.

Experts say that the two-year prohibitive bias in this State Duma’s activities has continued. This year, most of the newly-introduced restrictions concerned the media and the Internet. Foreign Internet companies have been obliged to keep Russians’ private savings only in Russia. The law on bloggers put Internet contributors with readerships of 3,000 or more on the same footing with the mass media, with all the ensuing restrictions; foreign stakes in the capital of Russian media were slashed from 50% to 20%. Certain amendments were introduced to the anti-piracy law, specifically, the original ban applicable to the illegal copies of motion pictures was spread to books, music and software.

The State Duma early last summer drastically raised fines for abuse committed during mass demonstrations. There was wide public response to the introduction of criminal punishment for concealing dual citizenship.

Extravagant and outspokenly populist ideas and bills with absolutely no chances to succeed were too numerous to count. Federation Council speaker Valentina Matviyenko on Tuesday felt obliged to come up with an idea of codifying the law-making process somehow and to adopt a special act setting the rules of law-making.

The deputy leader of A Just Russia faction, Mikhail Yemelyanov, believes that the State Duma had at least two documents on the debit side. “It’s the budget and the fundamental principles of monetary and credit policies. By the moment of adoption both bills had gone irrelevant…One can only wish the legislators should be more independent and manifest their civic stance once in a while starting from next year,” he said.

In general the lawmakers paid too little attention to economic issues, the head of the Political Technologies Center, Boris Makarenko, has told TASS. “Overwhelmed by the surge of patriotism they overlooked the economic problems that had started piling up long before the introduction of sanctions and the oil price slump. It was only towards the end of the year that it dawned upon them something should be done about them fast.”

The National Strategy Institute’s president, Mikhail Remizov, believes that among the legal acts passed this year some were really important, for instance, the deoffshorization act, but there was a great deal of populism and show-off, as well.

“In the context of the Ukrainian events the State Duma looked homogenous and to an outsider it might have seemed it was an enlarged ruling party,” he told TASS. “But this effect will soon fade away as the crisis gets worse and the divergence of opinion regarding the steps to be taken in the economy grows wider.”


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