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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Prepares No-Confidence Motion Against Cabinet

In an unlikely alliance, pro-Kremlin and opposition lawmakers forged ahead Tuesday with a proposal that could force President Vladimir Putin to choose between firing his Cabinet or dissolving parliament.

The leading members of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, scheduled a no-confidence vote in the Cabinet for Mar. 14, Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov told reporters.

If the motion is passed twice within three months, Putin must fire Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and his ministers or disband parliament, prompting early elections.

The discussion left many Russians wondering what political upheavals could be in store after a year of relative calm since Putin entered office.

"One gets the impression that those in power are tired of the political calm and have decided to get down to business," the daily Izvestia commented.

The Communists proposed a no-confidence vote last month. They say they were motivated by the Cabinet's failure to improve the nation's living standards and social conditions, and its desire to spend the budget surplus on foreign debt payments instead of domestic needs.

Few thought the measure stood any chance of passing until Monday, when legislators from the pro-Kremlin Unity party announced they would support it - indicating Putin's own backing.

Unity was to meet Tuesday to decide how the party would vote. Unity leader Boris Gryzlov said he favored voting no-confidence in the Cabinet to spark early elections that he predicted would give his party even more seats.

But many politicians and analysts say the Kremlin would not benefit from new elections, and suspect other motives. After sweeping 1999 parliamentary elections - depriving the Communist-led alliance of dominance - Unity and other pro-Putin factions have enough seats to push through most presidential initiatives. There is little indication they could win more.

Deputy Duma speaker Vladimir Lukin of the liberal Yabloko party suggested Putin wanted Unity to support the no-confidence vote to get rid of Kasyanov. The prime minister has strong ties to ex-President Boris Yeltsin's former team, which has been plagued by corruption allegations.

Others say Unity's move is aimed at threatening the Communists with early elections to make them stop criticizing the government.

Irina Khakamada of the Union of Right Forces faction said her party, a sometime ally of the Kremlin, would give the government a month to prove itself. The party says it wants to see whether the Cabinet will push through promised legal, land and military reforms.

"If we see the government can cope (with its tasks), we won't support the no-confidence vote," she said.