Duma drowns in a sea of presidential decrees
Wednesday 12 January 1994
Handed out with name lists and a digest of bleak economic statistics, the book was the centrepiece of their induction kit - and President Boris Yeltsin's way of reminding legislators not to get ideas above their station.
Deputies now have the full texts of every decree - 891 in all - signed by Mr Yeltsin between 21 September and 24 December. They have no power to alter them but are invited to 'consider' them. The compilation begins with a sobering text for consideration: decree number 1400. It was with this that Mr Yeltsin dispatched the old parliament to oblivion and set about transforming Russia's political system by executive fiat.
'This parliament will be much better than the old one,' predicted Mikhail Poltoranin, a loyal Yeltsin ally. 'Because it has no power. No matter how much noise it makes on the first day it will be better, more balanced, less arrogant because it is less powerful.'
Everything has been done to emphasise the break with the Communist past and revival of tsarist tradition. The Duma meets not in the White House, renovated after being shot up by tanks and commandeered by the government, but in more modest premises across the road, a conference hall originally built for the Soviet trade bloc Comecon. Even the canteen staff have been replaced to eliminate any danger of a fifth column in favour of Ruslan Khasbulatov, the former parliamentary speaker now in Lefortovo Prison. In place of the hammer and sickle on the podium is a gold double-headed eagle, enshrined as state emblem by another Yeltsin decree.
This, at least, is the script. But, as with most aspects of Russian politics these days, scripting has little to do it. While Mr Yeltsin is clearly the most powerful man on paper, it was Vladimir Zhirinovsky who basked in the glow of television lights and constant attention yesterday.
'I've never been a Communist or been in prison, never been in a mental asylum, never been an alcoholic,' he said. Protected by bodyguards, Mr Zhirinovsky then stomped through the corridors, letting it be known at the top of his voice that he considers Francois Mitterrand mad for suggesting air strikes against Serbian forces and Bill Clinton a coward for refusing to meet him. As for Latvia, the day's preferred target of attack, it will have to live without electricity if it persists in being independent.
Mr Zhirinovsky commands a parliamentary battalion some three-score strong. Even the man chosen to chair yesterday's State Duma, 68-year-old Georgy Lukava, was one of his.
The spectacle delighted Mr Yeltsin's opponents, including Anatoly Lukyanov, veteran Communist, former chairman of the Soviet Union's parliament and defendant in the trial of the August 1991 putschists. 'This is certainly not a pocket parliament,' he laughed. 'The confusion is quite normal. There are 350 people here who have had nothing to do with legislature before. It will pass with time, just like a disease, like 'flu.'
By lunchtime, after three hours of unruly procedural debate, some of Mr Yeltsin's allies, outnumbered on the reformist benches, were already asking whether it might be best if the State Duma shares the fate of the first such duma of 1906. The tsar shut it down after 72 days. 'I do not think it will last for a long time, the beginning of the session was like a carnival,' scoffed Gleb Yakunin, a reformer. 'I do not give it more than a year.'
Others pleaded for patience. Grigory Yavlinsky, a reformist economist, said: 'You have to remember how long the road is to democracy. The West had 200, 300 years to get there. We have had only two or three.'
- 1 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 2 Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
- 3 Daily Show's Jon Stewart destroys Fox News for its Ferguson coverage
- 4 When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
- 5 Brother and sister, Christopher Buckner and Timothy Savoy, arrested for 'committing incest after watching 'The Notebook''
Ashya King missing: Police hunt five-year-old boy with brain tumour snatched from Southampton hospital by his parents
Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
YouTube video posted by Isis militants shows 'execution of 250 Syrian soldiers'
Botched ice bucket challenge leaves man critically injured after plane drops hundreds of gallons of water
Papua New Guinea Mount Tavurvur volcano eruption sees international flights diverted
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
- < Previous
- Next >
£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...
£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...
£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...
£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...