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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City Duma: No Dissent On Budget

The digital signboard that records the electronic voting spelled out in green electric dots: "For: 35. Against: 0. Result: 100 percent for. Motion adopted."

The Moscow City Duma passed the 1.4 trillion-ruble city budget with no dissents and no abstentions in its first legislative vote, conjuring up images of the rubber-stamp councils of the Soviet era and prompting Russian newspapers to trot out the moniker they slapped on it even before its election: Mayor Yury Luzhkov's "pocket duma."

But the head of the Duma's budget committee, Valery Petrov, said Thursday that Wednesday's quick vote signaled not subordination but a new era of influence and effectiveness for Moscow's legislative branch.

If Duma deputies took a gratuitously confrontational stance, he said, "we would be isolating ourselves. We would be excluded from government discussions on the budget, and we wouldn't be able to develop cooperation with concrete individuals within the government."

His remarks contrasted the Duma with its predecessor, the hardline-dominated Moscow City Council, known as the Mossoviet.

It consistently deadlocked with Luzhkov, who reacted by transferring the majority of its powers to his government.

"If we dragged out the process of deciding on a budget, as did the Mossoviet, we would hold up spending on things that are really needed, like social spending for the population," Petrov said. "So we found a friendly mutual understanding with the city government."

With members of reformist parties holding 24 of the Duma's 35 seats, the City Duma was expected to be more cooperative than the fractious new national parliament.

Petrov said that despite Luzhkov's hefty powers -- among them an irrefutable veto -- the Duma had "considerable input" into the budget.

Petrov himself chairs the joint mayoral-Duma committee that hammered out the budget, starting with a draft that he said he and a mayoral official coauthored.

"There were many hot debates" about issues such as the amount of money to be spent on each elementary school student per year, Petrov said. However, he added, the mayor's numbers prevailed "because in the executive branch they have specialists and they came to us with scientific data that we could not refute."