United Russia alone is associated with unpopular decisions.

Amendments to the 2009 budget were adopted by the Duma on April 15 simultaneously with endorsement of the Cabinet’s anti-crisis program. United Russia, political party all but controlling the lower house of the parliament, voted for the anti-crisis program. Political monitories (CPRF, LDPR, Fair Russia) voted against it. Neither had these three political parties backed the new version of the 2009 budget during the first reading on April 6.

United Russia leader Boris Gryzlov was enraged by other factions’ reluctance to back the anti-crisis action plan and called it “a challenge” and attempt “to rock political stability”. “All political forces should be consolidated while we are fighting consequences of the global crisis and while the situation in the country is problematic,” Gryzlov said and once again condemned efforts “to rock the boat by voting against.”

That was surely an exaggeration on Gryzlov’s part because the clout wielded by factions of the CPRF, LDPR, and Fair Russia in the Duma makes their “boat-rocking” abilities a laugh. First, United Russia with its overwhelming majority is quite capable of adopting absolutely any document whatever the opposition. Second, endorsement of the anti-crisis program by the Duma or failure to do so has absolutely no effect on its implementation because the anti-crisis action plan was never forwarded to the lower house of the parliament in the form of a law.

“From the legal standpoint, the document in question has the status of a governmental decree or resolution. Endorsement by the Duma merely adds to its political weight because dealing with the crisis is not a task for the government alone to handle,” Yevgeny Fyodorov (Committee for Economic Policy and Businesses Chairman, United Russia faction) said. The lawmaker added that corrections would be inevitably introduced into the document yet, and doing so was easier when the document lacked the status of a law.

United Russia wanted more than just a formal endorsement of the anti-crisis program. It clearly wanted endorsement by all political forces represented in the lower house of the parliament. “Debates and disputes are fine in the time of peace. In crises, however, all political forces should pull together as a team or efficiency of the anti-crisis measures goes down,” Fyodorov said. “We cannot hope to implement the program as effectively as we want it implemented without help from the Communists, Fair Russia, LDPR, right-wingers, and the majority of other political forces in the country. It’s nothing juridical, it’s pure politics. The Cabinet outlined the measures that it thought were needed. The situation being what it is, all political parties should forget their own interests and come to their country’s help. This program is our only chance to save the country. It’s either this program or chaos. How could other political parties be so blind as to fail to see it?”

United Russia is particularly peeved by the fact that the parliamentary opposition voted against the Cabinet’s anti-crisis action plan even though the document incorporated some proposals they themselves had suggested. Some of the proposals made by leaders of Duma factions and chairmen of committees at meetings with Premier Vladimir Putin also made the so far final version of the document. “They are always there whenever there is a chance to do some bargaining with the powers-that-be and nowhere to be found when it is necessary to help the country,” Fyodorov said.

Experts in the meantime say that United Russia’s petulance has a different explanation altogether. “The ruling party once voted monetization i.e. conversion of social benefits into finances. It turned out to be a thoroughly unpopular decision,” Political Techniques Center Vice President Aleksei Makarkin said. “Amendments to the budget nowadays fail to take into account interests of numerous sectors of economy. It’s logical actually because if all of them were taken into account, the Contingency Fund would have lasted less than a single month… Anyway, very many sectors of economy are disappointed and vexed and that means lobbyists, businessmen, managers, and employees. It follows that United Russia is thoroughly uncomfortable now because the responsibility is its and nobody else’s. No wonder it would dearly like to share responsibility for the decisions with the opposition.”

“Had the opposition backed the anti-crisis action plan, United Russia would have presented it as a decision by consensus,” Makarkin said. “As it is, however, parties of the parliamentary opposition are loyal to the regime but not so loyal as to want to smear their own image in the eyes of their voters.”