Question: What is currently going on in the Duma? Why are the chairmen of the committees are being changed so often now? Some people say that these are the political games of the Kremlin?
Answer: I would not like to say that these are games, since games are basically for children’s entertainment. And we have here very serious things, which affect the well-being of the people. The idea to change the administration of several committees at once is not grounded from the point of view of the procedures. When the State Duma was formed after the elections, nine groups and factions failed to come to consent with each other. Small factions like SPS (or the Union of Right Forces), Yabloko, liberal democrats had a lot of claims. Since the committees are not the same from the point of view of the fields that they deal with, or decisions that they make, then each faction wanted to obtain a more important committee, of course. In this case it was not possible to come to any conclusion without a coalition.
There were dozens of variants of how to distribute the committees, and this resulted in a dramatic situation, and the decisions pertaining to the distribution of the committees were made by four largest groups. This was definitely not good for the rest. This situation appeared on their own initiative. I think that the reason for remaking the committees in the Duma was the activity of our right committee and its chairman, Mr. Isakov. Our government is being very late with the development of the bill, and it wants the Duma to pass them without even looking at what is written in the documents. There are a lot of responsible deputies in the Duma, who always vote, claiming responsibility for their decisions.
There are also questions about long procedures of passing the bills. A lot of laws are often raw, for example the last one, which is connected with the road funds. The documents are coming out very late. We make decisions and the officials are supposed to formulate the notions and do the polishing work. Just imagine, how much time it takes to check everything in a bill of 100 pages. And they want us to do that within one night.
For example, why the decisions, which were connected with the bill on small business, the joint social tax and the imputed earnings tax, were made so late? Of course, there are problems coming up. On the other hand, Boris Isakov was not giving explicit answers. For instance, we will not conduct the expertise of a bill, because it was submitted too late. We all work together. If we work at night, then it means that officials are supposed to work at night too. So, everything started with Isakov, and all decisions of four largest parliamentary groups were aimed against him. Then they offered to revise the administrative staff, because it was not working efficiently. I do not have any complaints to it, I always read the conclusions of the legal administration, the analytical department gives good materials now.
The problem of the State Duma is in the fact that it is the only open institution for the citizens. Everything is discussed in public there. When we are passing a law, then we have to consider it from every angle, opposition is vital here in order to avoid mistakes. The example with the changes to the single social tax and the imputed earnings tax: they hurried with those decisions, and the president ordered to elaborate another chapter pertaining to the taxation of small business.
Q: Maybe there is some financial interest there?
A: I am not interested in this issue. If there is a question coming up that the chairmen of the committees have to be changed, for making them work more efficiently, then there is another question: in whose interests are they supposed to work more efficiently? The answer is: in the interests of the people, who elected them – in the interests of the voters. If large industrial companies, or the government helped them to become deputies, then it is a completely different matter. At present moment the government and the Finance Ministry in particular, are trying to equalize everyone. But can a provincial farmer and a diamond industry work on the one and the same basis? A businessmen is supposed to pay 13% of taxes, and this level is the same for another businessman, who has 20 people working for him. The rules should be different, and the government is setting the same rules of the game for everyone.
Q: Including the Law about the land, which has not been thought-out through?
A: You are right. The laws are being passed hastily, provoking the shadow turnover of capital. We wanted to make a normal code, which would work for people, we are trying to consider suggestions from the deputies from every possible angle.
Q: Do you think this could be called a coup d’etat?
A: Absolutely not. There was no coup, no one withdrew mandates from the deputies, no one forbade us to work in the committee and stand for our positions. There are a lot of those, who wish to promote their own people, pay wages to them, give offices and cars to them. This absolutely does not go together with the needs of the people, because this is not the point of the parliament’s work. I have recently been to Spain, there is an unofficial rule for the work of the parliament. Only a representative for the opposition can be the chairman of the budgetary committee there. This helps to have the unbiased, independent view on the suggestions that the government submits to the parliament. The same thing is in Holland. And we say that the opposition is an obstacle for working.
Q: Was changing the speaker a political step?
A: This is a big dream of our four largest associations in the parliament. I mean Unity, Fatherland, SPS, Russian Regions. The work of the chairman of the State Duma is not easy, and not everyone can do it the way that Gennady Seleznyov does. Just try to imagine, what is going to happen, if everyone comes from one team. The head of the state must trace those procedures.
Q: Did you try to address to the president?
A: Gennady Seleznyov talked to the president. He reported the president on the situation. Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the Russian communist party, also talked to Putin. I think that Vladimir Putin is well-aware of what is going on in the State Duma. He said that it was the inner affair of the Duma, but I think that this statement was not correct. The State Duma is not a club of interests. This is a very important law-making state institution.
Q: Do you still trust the president, or maybe he is being pressed?
A: I trust not in the president, I trust the common sense of a citizen.
Q: What may the deputies do, if it does not stop?
A: I think that our response is in the professional work at the committees. I know a lot of examples, when a deputy, which does not have any positions, had a decisive opinion.
Q: Don’t you think that the situation of the year 1993 might repeat?
A: No, I do not think so.
Q: Why did several factions succumb? For example, Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s faction, who was criticizing the president before, but then he stopped doing it.
A: I have a special opinion regarding Zhirinovsky and his party. I think that he behaves in a destructive way. PR comes first for him, not a result. Since there are very few of them, they have not been affecting the decision-making process.
Q: What about other factions?
A: SPS and Yabloko are getting even with each other, because they do not have any posts.
Q: Did communists support Putin before?
A: They never did. Putin did not have a program, so there was nothing to support. Or do you mean to support him just as a human being? A good person is not a reason for taking a senior state post.
Q: Can this all lead to the economic crisis in the country?
A: No, it cannot. The laws, which have been passed before, control the economic situation in the country. It is very important for the government and the Central Bank not to make hasty decisions.
Q: Can the president dissolve the Duma now?
A: Not now, but there are two articles in the Constitution, pursuant to which he is entitled to do so. One of them says that the president can dissolve the Duma, if we reject president’s suggestion to appoint the head of the government three times in a row, or if we do not pass the law about the budget. There are no other reasons for that.
Sergey Shtogrin was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
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