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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Communists Riled by Lures to Deputies

The Communists and their allies in the State Duma are up in arms at what they claim is a government campaign to bribe deputies to quit the opposition benches and join a new, pro-government faction.

According to one senior Communist, 12 deputies so far have been approached by recruiters working on behalf of the government and offered cars, apartments and government posts in exchange for switching their allegiance to the new faction.

In spite of the numerical superiority enjoyed by the Communist-led opposition in the Duma, it could take only a handful of defections from smaller allies to break the Communist stranglehold over parliament's lower house.

The presidential administration, which many deputies see as the force behind the formation of the group, denies any involvement.

"I can say unequivocally that that is not the case," said Viktor Desterov, of the administration's Directorate for Political and Parliamentary interaction.

"The presidential administration does not interfere in the affairs of the State Duma. It is only deputies who have the right to create new deputies' groups," he said in a telephone interview.

However, in an unsigned manifesto circulated to deputies, the proposed faction, which calls itelf the Russian Industrial Deputies' Group, makes no secret of its government affiliations. The manifesto, a copy of which was obtained by The Moscow Times, even offers deputies jobs in the government if they join the group.

"[We] are for new forms of parliamentary work, which will allow us to propel the best deputies into senior posts in the State Duma and the government," the document reads.

Leaders of the leftist factions that deputies allege have been targeted by the new faction have reacted angrily.

"The political object is clear: to break up the Commumist Party faction and ... disrupt the balance of power [in the State Duma]," said Valentin Kuptsov, the No. 2 man in the Communist faction, at a press conference last week.

However, the Communist faction was too disciplined to be seriously affected, Kuptsov added. Of the 12 deputies in his faction offered bribes to change sides, he said that all, "with one or two exceptions," had refused, and reported the incidents to the party leadership.

Nikolai Kharitonov, leader of the 36-strong Agrarian faction, was even more enraged. Any deputy who switches sides, "will be digging his own political grave, and will be tormented with guilt until the end of his days," he said, also last week.

Kharitonov has more reason to worry. His faction is perilously close to the 35-member limit, below which it is no longer officially considered a parliamentary faction. If this were to happen, the Agrarians would lose their seat on the Duma's presidium and risk losing their committee chairmanships.

Nikolai Ryzhkov's Power to the People faction, with membership standing at 37, is equally vulnerable, and according to deputies in the faction has already been targeted

But Gennady Zyuganov's 147-strong Communist faction would also stand to lose. The presence of Kharitonov, Ryzhkov and Communist speaker Gennady Seleznyov on the presidium gives Zyuganov an effective majority, allowing him virtually to dictate parliament's agenda and call emergency sessions.

The removal of his two allies from the presidium would break that monopoloy, possibly forcing a shift in the balance of power away from the Communist majority.