DUMA DISCUSSES RAPPROCHEMENT BETWEEN RUSSIA AND BELARUS

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DUMA DISCUSSES RAPPROCHEMENT BETWEEN RUSSIA AND BELARUS

Izvestia, November 13, 2002, p. 4 EV

“How very greatly our legislation has diverged over the years of rapprochement,” commented one participant in the Duma hearings of November 12. Moscow experts and some members of the Belarussian opposition decided that a “new”, EU-style rapprochement should be initiated. A spokesperson for Gazprom threatened to suspend gas supplies to Belarus should defaults in payments recur.

In the opinion those who organized the hearings – members of the Union of Right Forces (URF) and Communist factions, and Valery Draganov of Fatherland-All Russia – the main reason why parliamentary hearings on the problems in Russia-Belarus relations have become necessary is that the agreements signed between the two states are not being implemented.

Members of the Belarussian opposition who came to Moscow agree. Among them is Mikhail Chigir, a former Belarussian prime minister, who tried to “dispel the myth of Belarus as a prosperous state.” He said that even bread is twice as expensive in Belarus as it is in Russia.

Anatoly Lebedko, chairman of the United Civil Party and head of the Belarussian delegation, who is constantly harassed by the Belarussian authorities, said that the reason why the treaty doesn’t function is simple: Russia and Belarus have different development models – the “controlled democracy” is clashing with “the velvet-glove dictatorship.”

Moreover, in the opinion of Lebedko, “the policy of uniting with Lukashenko rather than Belarus was a mistake.” The Belarussian opposition supports the union concept proposed by the URF – revise all aspects of the treaties already concluded, set up a classic free-trade zone, and transform the political system on the basis of a real separation of powers, adherence to democratic principles and human rights.

The second phase would entail the creation of a unified customs union, and “the third phase entails rapprochement of our states within the framework of the EU, as a result of which Belarussian and Russian citizens should become full-fledged members of the united Europe.”

At the same time, the URF supports creation of the union based on the principle of the EU.

NON-UNITED RUSSIA

Izvestia, November 13, 2002, p. 4 EV

Yesterday, leaders of the United Russia party were denying rumors of the alleged expulsion of Lyubov Sliska, a member of the party’s Supreme Council and senior deputy speaker of the Duma, from the party. According to some observers, the denial marks an end to a scandal within the party; while others think the conflict will continue.

Franz Klintsevich, deputy chairman of the Unity faction, released a statement saying that the issue of Sliska’s expulsion from the party was neither raised nor discussed at the general council of United Russia. According to Klintsevich, “there was no vote on this in which two members of the general council allegedly favored her expulsion.”

The scandal broke out in the provincial city of Saratov, where Lyubov Sliska has been and remains an influential politician. During the elections for the Saratov regional Duma, held in early September, Lyubov Sliska supported her brother Sergei Timoshin. The local branch of United Russia had its own candidate in the same electoral district. Hence, an ambiguous situation took shape: one of the party leaders supported her relative rather than her colleague. Members of the Saratov branch of United Russia took offense at their compatriot and lodged a request to clear up the matter “within the party.”

Nobody knows how long the complaint might have remain shelved, but Franz Klintsevich arrived in Saratov, where he said that the matter had supposedly been discussed at the general council’s meeting and two of its members allegedly voted in favor of Sliska’s expulsion from the party. As Klintsevich admitted yesterday, the information released at the press conference in Saratov “was erroneous, given on the basis of unreliable reports.”

Formally, this conflict could be regarded as settled; however, some Unity deputies admit that Lyubov Sliska “doesn’t seem to be getting on well with some members of the general council, mainly her compatriots from Saratov.”

THE PARTY OF CONSTRUCTIVE PROPOSALS

Parlamentskaya Gazeta, November 13, 2002, p. 1

On Monday Justice Minister Yury Chaika handed over a registration certificate for the Party of Russia’s Revival to Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev. It has become the 43rd political party registered with the Justice Ministry.

The new party was created in early September on the basis of the Russia movement. At present the party has over 20,000 members and branches in 71 regions.

Gennady Seleznev said at a press conference: “Our party will become a modern party of socio-democratic type. We will combat for turning Russia into a social state; in other words, for realizing article 7 of the Constitution. We intend to create a broad coalition of patriotic forces in order to revive Russia.”

According to the leader of the Party of Russia’s Revival, practically all layers of society share these goals, which means that the party may succeed in a parliamentary election in December 2003. At the same time, Seleznev did not rule out that the Party of Russia’s Revival will run for seats in the parliament together with other parties and organizations. He said that the Party of Workers’ Self-Government, the Labor Party, and a range of social organizations are the new party’s allies.

Seleznev noted that his party will not have anything in common with the CPRF. Unlike the CPRF, the Party of Russia’s Revival does not raise the issue of the government’s dismissal, though the government deserves criticism. However, the party will refrain from using dramatic slogans during the parliamentary election campaign, in order to prevent political chaos. Seleznev noted that his party is not a party of scandals. This is a party of constructive proposals and constructive opposition.

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