#1 - JRL 7228
Putin's Cabinet Wins No-Confidence Vote
June 18, 2003
By STEVE GUTTERMAN
MOSCOW (AP) - President Vladimir Putin's Cabinet survived a no-confidence motion Wednesday in a parliamentary vote that drew attention to dissatisfaction with the government but underlined the Kremlin's political power.
The motion received 172 votes in the 450-seat lower house, or Duma, while 163 lawmakers voted against it. Six abstained and 109 did not cast ballots. The measure required a majority - 226 votes - to pass.
The effort, initiated by the Communists and the liberal Yabloko party, was widely considered doomed from the start because the Duma is dominated by centrists loyal to Putin.
The Communist Party has accused the Cabinet led by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov of deepening poverty in Russia, where the gap between rich and poor is broad and millions struggle to get by despite recent economic improvement.
``The government's policy as a whole is fatal and destructive for the country. It is leading to the loss of sovereignty,'' Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said before the vote. ``We will face serious social upheavals unless we change the government and form a Cabinet serving national interests.''
The pro-Kremlin moderates who control the Duma dismissed the no-confidence motion as a populist gesture ahead of December parliamentary elections.
``It's a good show by the Communist and Yabloko theater companies,'' said Lyubov Sliska, the Duma's deputy speaker and a member of the leading pro-Kremlin party, United Russia.
Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky has vehemently denied the vote was a publicity stunt, saying it gave voice to legitimate criticism of a government he said has failed to encourage economic growth and carry out long-overdue structural reforms.
``The current political system is very far from one that could form a basis for a market economy,'' Yavlinsky said before the vote, comparing today's situation to the Soviet era, when the state controlled politics and the economy.
Outside the parliament building near the Kremlin, Communist supporters held Soviet-era red flags and placards that read ``Oust Kasyanov's Cabinet.''
Kasyanov, a holdover from Yeltsin's Cabinet, has faced strong criticism and the Russian media have reported a rift between him and prominent economic policy-makers within the government.
Putin has avoided criticizing his appointee Kasyanov in person but has frequently chastised his Cabinet for failing to stimulate faster economic growth, cut red tape and combat corruption and other crime.
Had the no-confidence motion succeeded, Putin would have had the option of firing the Cabinet - which he can do anyway - or disagreeing with the legislature. In the latter case, the Duma would have had to confirm its censure in a second vote within three months, and Putin then would have had a choice of firing the Cabinet or dissolving the Duma.