Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Russia's Independents May Hold Reins Parliament's Tugs of War Expected to Be More Complex Than Before

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Russia's Independents May Hold Reins Parliament's Tugs of War Expected to Be More Complex Than Before

Article excerpt

The new Russian parliament is expected to be a swirling mass of shifting alliances, with dozens of independent deputies holding the power to decide vote by vote who wins and loses.

Communists, extreme nationalists and other opponents of President Boris Yeltsin's reforms will hold the largest bloc of seats when the Duma convenes Jan. 11, final election figures released Tuesday showed. But they will need the unpredictable independents to muster a majority.

The old days of the party line died with the Soviet Union, and the emergence of multiparty politics in Russia will produce confusion - as well as such novelties as pork-barrel politics, horse-trading and single-issue alliances.

December's election killed reformers' hopes that two years of deadlock with hard-liners had been swept away with the old parliament. Yeltsin dissolved that parliamentSept. 21, and tanks and troops evicted the hard-liners from the Parliament Building two weeks later. Instead, reformers are faced with Deadlock Part 2: Zhirinovsky's Revenge.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, once written off as a political buffoon, stunned his opponents with the strong showing of his ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party. Capitalizing on voters' anger over rising crime, falling living standards and losing the Soviet empire, Zhirinovsky's party won 65 of the 450 seats in the Duma, the powerful lower house of parliament.

Russia's Choice, the main pro-Yeltsin party, had expected to control the parliament and push ahead with political and economic revisions. But it has been reduced to plotting strategy for blocking the extremists.

The party even proposed an "anti-fascist" alliance with the Communists to stop Zhirinovsky - an offer flatly rejected Tuesday by Communist leaders, whose party won 50 seats.

Russia's Choice actually will be the strongest individual party in the Duma, with 94 seats. But it has few natural allies with which to form a coalition. The Interfax news agency quoted one analyst Tuesday as saying that Russia's Choice could perhaps put together 174 votes on some issues, substantially fewer than the 195 believed to be lined up in the Communist-Zhirinovsky camp. …

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