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Last session of State Duma’s convocation: tough decisions vs populism

January 18, 10:05 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Under the complicated economic situation in the country, the deputies first of all will have to focus on maintaining the financial stability
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© Artiom Korotaev/TASS

MOSCOW, January 18. /TASS/. The first plenary week of the State Duma’s spring session opens on Monday. The home stretch of the lower house’s sixth convocation promises to become rather tense for the deputies, many of who have already de-facto begun election campaigns. The session will be over in late July - literally several weeks before the elections, which may bring new faces.

Under the complicated economic situation in the country, the deputies first of all will have to focus on maintaining the financial stability, and, quite possibly, they will thus have to take unpopular decisions instead of offering "pre-election sweeteners."

Realistically, most deputies returned from the New Year break well a week earlier and have been working at committees and factions already. The first meeting will be on Tuesday, January 19, and on Monday the Duma’s Council will discuss the agenda for the week.

On the first day of the plenary week, experts say, the deputies may voice the final decision regarding participation of the Russian delegation in PACE’s January session.

No time for populism

The State Duma’s speaker Sergei Naryshkin several times quite delicately warned his colleagues against misuse of the right on legal initiatives and heavy populism, but in his traditional speech in the end of the autumn session in late December, he voiced most clearly those approaches: "Now is not at all the time, where politicians could be throwing promises of any kind in the economic sphere, no matter how useful they could be for the upcoming election campaign," he said, thus directing the deputies in their legislation activities.

While addressing future candidates for the State Duma’s seventh convocation, he pointed to "the importance of a dialogue of all political forces" and "necessary professional approaches to legislation activities, skills to subordinate own political targets and positive ambitions to the nation-range tasks."

United Russia promises tough actions

Deputy speaker of the State Duma and leader of the United Russia faction Vladimir Vasilyev sees a key task of the parliamentary majority in continuing "work on the legal basis for social and economic growth of the country." United Russia, among others, will be involved in implementation of the tasks, outlined in the president’s address to the legislators - "on democratisation of the election process, decriminalisation of non-grave economic crimes, amnesty of capitals, support of socially-oriented public organisations, returning lands, where agricultural works stopped decades ago, back into production," he said.

Another deputy speaker - Andrei Isayev, whose responsibility is the social sphere, confirmed the last session of the current convocation would be complicated, first of all since the country had entered a major economic crisis. "Secondly, it affects the election campaign, and thus the party’s statements and actions will be more tough and decisive," he told TASS.

In the social policies, he said, most important now is to offer mechanisms to raise consumption. "No economy ever managed to overcome a crisis under conditions of declined purchasing power. We may be undertaking whatever measures for the small and medium businesses, but if there is no demand for their products, any suggestions are useless," the politician said.

Communists ready for combat session

The State Duma’s first deputy speaker, and first deputy head of the Communist Party’s central committee, Ivan Melnichenko does not doubt the legislators are facing a session of uncompromised discussions. "Because of the upcoming parliamentary elections, and on the background of the complicated financial and economic situation, it would be rather a most combat session of not only the parliament’s sixth convocation, but also of the many past years," he told TASS in response to a question about his expectations.

He shares the view of the lower house’s speaker that over the coming six months populism is not acceptable. "On one hand, I would want to express hope this context does not provoke an avalanche of empty and provocative bills, which sometimes kill the authority of entire State Duma, its all factions and every deputy," he said hoping the media would not present private initiatives bearing shades of yellow as common positions of the entire parliament.

On the other hand, he said, there will be many "most tough issues, battles, major disputes." He said, in the past there was a period of "consolidating sessions," where the key issues were related to foreign agendas, while now the deputies will face a "session, which will demonstrate differences in programmes." "And here the CPRF (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) faction will have a most serious role, as the active work with the electorate has given to all of us requests from the regions where the living standards are slumping. Thus, we shall have to react with less compromise to all attempts of the governmental party to fill the gaps at expense of most people," he said.

In this aspect, the CPRF deputy said, of a key importance "will be the topic related to the desire of the party at power to cut even more the federal budget for 2016, to lower even further financing of the social obligations, healthcare and education." At the very first meeting, the party’s leader Gennady Zuganov will make a speech on this topic presenting "a categorical position against further cuts," the politician said.

The culmination of the session, he forecasted, would be the government’s report due in April. "The situation dictates, it would be not just putting together results of the cabinet’s work in 2015, but also a tough analysis of many false liberal provisions," he said.

A Just Russia and LDPR want to offer social protection

The faction of A Just Russia will also focus on legislation to support socially unprotected layers of the population in the current economic crisis. "No doubt, we shall not give in our initiatives regarding pensions, wages, education, assistance to, first of all, the poor," the party’s leader Sergei Mironov told TASS.

He added, expectations should be based on reality. "Thus, in offering bills for settlement of socially important issues to improve the living of people, we shall request toughly from the government their plans and possible actions," he said.

The party leader said the spring session begins under the conditions of falling national currency. "Who if not the government should be considering seriously the financial policies?! Over the recent months we have not seen anything clear and concrete. This is exactly what we shall be discussing at the sessions, and at meetings with ministers. We shall be asking from those who should make certain actions to overcome this situation," Mironov said.

LDPR (Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia) sees its priority in the last session of the State Duma’s sixth convocation, first of all, in the social and economic issues, deputy speaker Igor Lebedev told TASS. "Clearly, the elections are very close, and we could expect a flow of populism, but for our faction, first of all, of importance will be to social direction," he said. In case of a possible budget cut for the current year, he said, the party first of all will insist on keeping social expenses.

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