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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Gets Set to Topple Communists

In a move to assure even smoother passage of Kremlin-backed legislation, the centrist and liberal factions in the State Duma proposed Tuesday to strip their foes, the Communists, of eight top committee posts in parliament's lower chamber.

In a draft resolution to be considered at Wednesday's Duma session, the powerful coalition led by the Kremlin-backed Unity faction called for a redistribution of nine of the chamber's 29 committee chairmanships. The move would leave the Communists with only two committees -- on public organizations and religious groups and on culture and tourism -- instead of their current 10.

The proposal's supporters said the Communist faction, whose representative Gennady Seleznyov holds the speaker's post, has grown too powerful and often hinders the passage of government-backed bills.

There would not have been a need for the reshuffle "if the committee chairmen from the Communist Party didn't sabotage bills submitted by the president and the Cabinet," Unity Deputy Oleg Kovalyov told reporters.

The Communists, predictably, slammed the move.

"Now that Putin's government has been effectively resubordinated to [UES head Anatoly] Chubais and the 'family' ... the destructive forces in the Duma have decided to ultimately castrate it and paralyze its work," party leader Gennady Zyuganov said during a visit to the Penza region, Interfax reported.

Under the draft resolution, the Communists would lose control of the committee on state-building, which would go to the Fatherland-All Russia faction, or OVR; the labor and social policy committee would go to the Union of Right Forces, or SPS; economic policy and entrepreneurship would also go to SPS; industry, construction and advanced technologies would go to Russia's Regions; regional policy to OVR; education and science to Yabloko; and women's, family and youth affairs to the Agro-Industrial Group.

The resolution also proposes giving control of the Duma's mandate commission, now headed by the Communists, to the Agro-Industrial Group, while transferring control of the committee on agrarian issues from the Agro-Industrial Group to OVR.

Publicly, the Kremlin has remained neutral on the potential reshuffle. President Vladimir Putin's envoy to the Duma, Alexander Kotenkov, called the lawmakers' plan to redistribute power an "internal affair." However, media reports suggested that the Kremlin approves of the move. The Kommersant newspaper reported that presidential deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov attended the Monday meeting where the centrists and liberals decided to submit their proposal.

Seleznyov, whose job as speaker came under attack from the centrists last month, implored his fellow deputies to wait for the president to return from Sochi to discuss a compromise. But the Communists' opponents -- who hold some 308 votes in the 450-member Duma -- could not be persuaded.

"One can say that the Duma's best days are over," Seleznyov said in televised comments. "Now we'll have nothing but earthquakes."