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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deputies Sweat Out Wait for Party Lists

The indications were few during Wednesday's State Duma session that deputies were even aware that there was an election campaign under way.

But the presidential decree officially opening the campaign was finally published Wednesday and, behind the scenes, deputies said their electoral prospects were the main thing on their minds.

Inside the parliament, deputies referred to the December vote only twice during the session, and there was no reference to the president's decree at all.

Liberal Democratic Party Deputy Valentin Sviridov was responsible for one of the references, proposing that the Duma allocate one hour every day during the session to allow factions to deliver campaign statements.

"I can see that the daily agenda isn't very heavy," he said in an apparent suggestion that the move would not impede debate on legislation.

Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov countered with a proposal, which was ultimately passed, that the regularly scheduled Friday time slot for such statements be extended from the current 30 minutes to a full hour.

Communist Deputy Viktor Tyulkin, addressing the topic of elections, called for newspapers to publish a list of deputies who have switched factions in the Duma, in order to discourage people from voting for them again.

He then added a dig at the LDPR, tied to the recent defection of one of its senior members, Alexei Mitrofanov, to pro-Kremlin party A Just Russia.

"We all understand perfectly that the ship is sinking," Tyulkin said, in reference to the LDPR. "It has completed its political function."

Gryzlov had warned on Tuesday that politicking would not be tolerated in the new session, and he reacted to Tyulkin's comments by cutting his microphone.

"Let's get busy with legislative activity instead of politics," he said.

The temptation to play to the voters was high Wednesday because President Vladimir Putin's decree, which sets the vote for Dec. 2, was finally published in Rossiiskaya Gazeta, the official government paper of record.

The decree was particularly important because parties are prohibited from nominating candidates until 10 days after its publication, and the real campaigning can only begin when the candidates are in place.

One of the most notable moments of the first 30 minutes of Wednesday's session, when deputies are permitted to address issues not on the agenda, came courtesy of Communist Deputy Nikolai Kondratenko. He called for parliamentary hearings to question current widespread condemnation of Stalin's purges, 70 years ago.

"A Zionist point of view has prevailed that the people who perished were the most talented and hardest working," he said.

Gryzlov suggested that Kondratenko file a formal request.

Most other lawmakers were less controversial. Communist deputies Makhmud Makhmudov and Viktor Vidmakov proposed a Duma investigation into a recent doubling of cement prices that has driven up housing costs.

LDPR Deputy Andrei Ostrovsky urged the Duma to call on the Cabinet to make diamond monopoly Alrosa supply more raw diamonds to the Kristall cutting factory in the Smolensk region. Alexei Chernyshov, also from the LDPR, called on fellow lawmakers to address the question of disappearing rural schools.

"It has been a St. Bartholomew Day massacre for rural schools," Chernyshov said, referring to a day that kicked off a wave of Catholic mob violence against Protestants in France in 1572.

After the 30-minute period ended, lawmakers steamrolled through a day's worth of bills in a mere two hours.

With their legislative work done for the day, however, most deputies said behind the scenes that the December elections were the main thing on their minds.

"Whether we like it or not, this is the dominant subject," Communist Deputy Oleg Kulikov said.

"You have just three days to pack up and leave once your term ends," said Georgy Leontyev of United Russia. "People do get together and discuss their prospects."

For some deputies, the nervousness stemmed from concerns that their parties might not include them on their lists for the next Duma, Leontyev said.

He added that this had not been a major issue yet, but that it was likely to have a greater effect on deputies' moods in the parliament after the parties hold their congresses -- from mid-September to early October -- to finalize their candidate lists.

"Those whose names don't make the lists will just stop working," Kulikov said, adding that his party had already assured him he would have a spot.

United Russia faction members are perhaps feeling the greatest stress, as a large number won their seats in single-mandate districts, an opportunity not available this time around. According to the latest polls, the party does not have enough support to provide seats for all current members of the Duma faction.

But United Russia's Leontyev, himself elected in the single-mandate district of Kamensk-Uralsky in the Ural Mountains in 2003, said some of his fellow faction members were ready to leave.

"Naturally, everybody has a fallback option," he said. "They have thought it out in advance."

Asked whether he himself had made plans for life after the Duma, he answered, "Of course."

Despite Mitrofanov's defection to A Just Russia so close to the election, LDPR Deputy Andrei Golovatyuk downplayed the effect that it would have on the party's prospects. He said the Duma faction was confident that its performance this session would win the party more votes.

"We are in a competitive spirit and have increased our commitment to work," he said.

But Svyatoslav Nastashevsky said Mitrofanov's move might not be the last, as other deputies might switch allegiances if they think it will improve their chances of holding on to their seats. A former independent himself, Nastashevsky is now a member of the A Just Russia faction in the Duma and is in negotiations for a spot on its party list.