. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deputies: Showdown Over Budget Unlikely

A pugnacious State Duma is unlikely to pass a budget for 1997 this year, but the government can continue to function without a budget in place and take its time to work out a compromise, according to deputies working on the bill.

The Communist-dominated lower house of parliament last week put off consideration of the draft budget until Dec. 4, and Mikhail Zadornov, chairman of the State Budget Committee, said the house is likely to reject the draft when it comes up.

Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communists, the biggest Duma faction, has said his members will reject the budget -- a hardline gesture that will satisfy the radical wing of his party ahead of what is expected to be a stormy party conference in mid-December.

Under the constitution, a flat rejection of the budget would give President Boris Yeltsin the option of dissolving the Duma and calling new parliamentary elections.

Zadornov, who has been battling to get the budget passed this year, believes that is just what Yeltsin might do. Alternatively, he said, Yeltsin might try to appease the Duma, possibly by sacking all or some of his government.

But deputies argued that the government could manage without a 1997 budget and that a dissolution of parliament or the government was unlikely.

According to reformist deputy and member of the State Budget Committee Alexander Pochinok, there would be no disaster if the government is forced to go into 1997 without a budget.

Economics Minister Yevgeny Yasin told a government meeting Thursday that a delay in ratifying the budget will mean underfinancing of government projects.

But Pochinok noted that under a special law on the adoption of the budget, if there is no agreement on the full 1997 budget, the government can submit to the Duma a budget covering only the first quarter of next year. Failing this, the government's finances will be run according to the 1996 budget. Pochinok said this would not involve major adverse economic effects.

While the government could in theory dissolve the Duma to overcome the deadlock, opposition deputies are confident that fresh elections would hurt the government. "The dissolution of the State Duma would be just one big headache [for the government]," said one deputy in the Communist camp.

According to reports in the Russian media, the looming budget deadlock is making more moderate deputies nervous, as they fear for their seats if they are forced to seek re-election after a dissolution of the Duma.

Conversely, left-wing deputies would be only too glad to go to the polls, having voted against a tight-spending budget which many believe has been dictated to the Russian government by the IMF.

Even if the rejection of the budget leads to a dissolution of the Duma, Kharitonov, like many other deputies on the opposition benches, is unconcerned.

The government might eventually be able to win some support for the budget by offering a compromise. The Duma would be prepared to pass the budget if the government also drafted a plan promising increased investment in domestic manufacturing over the next three years.