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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Parliament Approves Budget in 2nd Reading

The lower house of parliament Friday approved the draft 2000 budget in a second reading, paving the way for its final passage by the New Year.

An overwhelming majority of the State Duma voted for the bill, which passed 265 to 57 with eight abstentions.

The vote puts the government on track to enter the new year with a budget broadly approved by the International Monetary Fund, a first in recent years.

First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, who shepherded the draft through the Communist-dominated Duma, told journalists after the vote that Friday's calm discussion gave hope that the next of four required readings would be smooth.

"There is every reason to expect we will prepare as well for the third reading and it will happen in the same manner," he said.

The Communist Party, the dominant faction in the chamber, decided before the debates to allow its members to vote freely on the budget, a tacit acceptance of the spending plan.

Communists and their allies stalled the first reading until the state agreed to increase projected spending on industry, agriculture, military and science.

Now, deputies and the government are eager to get the budget approved before a Dec. 19 parliamentary election. The Duma has tentatively planned a third reading for Nov. 29 and a fourth for Dec. 3. Khristenko said election politics may influence the third reading, when the Duma will consider items line by line. The fourth and final reading is largely formal.

The bill must also win support in the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, before the president can sign the budget into law.

The government wants support from its largest creditor, the IMF, which helped draft the plan, but has not officially signed off on amendments, including 27 billion rubles ($844 million at the projected exchange rate of 32 rubles per dollar) in higher military spending.

Western governments have urged Russian moderation as troops fight in the breakaway Chechen republic.

Khristenko, who is responsible for IMF talks, said the Fund was not worried by the high military spending.

"They stressed in all negotiations that political questions are the business of the country's leadership and have nothing to do with financial and economic questions," he said.

The draft budget targets revenues of 797.2 billion rubles ($25 billion), spending of 855.1 billion and a deficit of just more than 1 percent of gross domestic product.