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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Liberals Win Battle For Speaker Posts

The State Duma finally put an end Wednesday to its bickering over the top parliamentary posts, approving Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Lukin as deputy speakers after rejecting their candidacies last week.

Both Nemtsov, of the Union of Right Forces, or SPS, and Lukin, of Yabloko, hailed their victories as a sign that the Communists no longer control the parliament as they have in the past.

Friday's rejection of the two liberals for the largely symbolic post was seen as a slap in the face since the factions had previously agreed to take one deputy speaker from each faction. All the other factions saw their candidates approved immediately without debate.

Leading SPS member Irina Khakamada said the difference in the two votes was made up primarily by the People's Deputy group in the Duma, whose members for the most part did not participate in the vote last week. The People's Deputy is the main ally of Unity, the party of the Kremlin administration.

"This time People's Deputy also voted in favor because Nemtsov met directly with this faction and talked to them," Khakamada said in an interview. "It was necessary to observe a certain ... ritual. If Nemtsov wanted to become a deputy speaker, he had to make contact with each faction directly, which he did. He went to each of the factions, even to the LDPR [Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party]."

The battle over the deputy speakerships appeared to be a continuation of the conflict that erupted in January at the first session of the new Duma when Unity entered into a tactical coalition with the Communists, giving the Communists the speaker's post and dividing most of the committee chairmanships among the two parties and their allies.

In response, Yabloko, SPS and Fatherland-All Russia announced a boycott of the Duma, which ended Feb. 9.

SPS, which during the campaign presented itself as a pro-government party, said Unity would have no choice but to work with them to pass legislation that the Communists oppose.

"We went into session [last week] having agreed with Unity that on key issues we will find a common position. Unity agreed with this and fulfilled its obligations and the first time when Nemtsov and Lukin were up they voted in favor," Khakamada said.

She said that in the Duma's present configuration, Unity and People's Deputy have the freedom to team up with whomever they need to, be it the communists or the liberals, to determine the outcome of each vote.

While many have called this situation as a victory for the Kremlin, Nemtsov and Lukin cast it as a victory over the Communists.

"It's important not that they elected Lukin and Nemtsov - this is of course significant - it equalizes the Duma's face a bit - but the main issue is that today perhaps for the first time the current Duma showed that the Communists don't have a controlling stake," Lukin told journalists.

An interview with Irina Khakamada will appear in Saturday's Weekend section.