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Russian Parliament gets back to business

During its first session, State Duma has re-elected Boris Gryzlov as Speaker. He's also the leader of the United Russia party, which holds the majority of seats in the lower house of Russia’s parliament. Thirty-two Duma Committees have been formed and all

At the opening the chamber was almost full, which is not always the case with routine sessions. The mood at the opening was festive.

The Head of the Central Election Commission, Vladimir Churov, and the Prime Minister, Viktor Zubkov, congratulated the deputies, who will see in the New Year with a sackful of new plans.

“First of all, we need to increase the welfare of citizens, to build an innovative economy and to create conditions for the development of human potential and in the end the strengthening of Russia as one of the key leaders in the global, economic and political process,” Zubkov said.

The deputies have elected Boris Gryzlov as Chairman of the House. He was voted in with more than 350 votes.

“I would like to assure all the deputies that although United Russia has gained the majority in the parliament – 315 seats – we will undoubtedly be very attentive to all proposals voiced by other factions. I believe this framework is positive and the fifth State Duma will only promote it during its term,” he said.

Mr Gryzlov keeps the post he occupied in the previous Duma, which was elected in December 2003.

Out of a total of nine deputy speakers, six will be United Russia members. The others will represent three different parties in the parliament.

The deputies have approved the formation of 32 committees.  Each committee deals with a certain aspect of the country's foreign and domestic policies. Twenty-six of them will be headed by the members of the United Russia party, whilst the opposition parties will head the remaining six committees.

Party leaders define priorities

This is the fifth convocation of Russia's parliament. Even though the State Duma has already officially celebrated its 100th anniversary, during Soviet times it was replaced by the Supreme Soviet, and has effectively been operating only since 1993.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, LDPR leader
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, LDPR leader

The newly-elected deputies were originally due to gather in January, 30 days after the election. However, at the President's request for hastier action, lawmakers fast-tracked the opening.

All the parties have precise plans of what they wish to push through. Social issues appear to be the main choice of Russia's decision-makers.

Yevgeny Fyodorov, Duma Deputy for United Russia, said the party holding a majority will continue the debate on whether to let foreign investors into the country's strategic sectors.

“We are talking about one of the most liberal bills in the world, but unfortunately, it hasn’t been ratified yet. But I am sure it will be – probably as soon as during the parliament's spring session,” said Fyodorov.

Vladimir Zhirinovksy, the leader of Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, stressed the LDPR’s four priorities, namely food, housing, transport and science.

“Food – so that the population is healthy. Housing – so that every single person has a room of their own. Their own ‘nest’, even if its 10 metres big. Roads – we need roads too, to develop our economy – mobility is integral. And science, information – it’s impossible to live in the 21st  century without that,” Zhirinovksy said.

Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist Party leader, will present a programme called ‘Seven steps to a worthy life,’ while protesting against the Duma election results, which his party says are flawed.

“Topping the list is the protection of motherhood and children. We have it ready, and it’s the most important of all. Pensions need to be increased, and food prices lowered,” Zyuganov emphasised.

The members of the lower house of the Russian parliament will gather again on January 11, 2008.

Faces of the fifth State Duma convocation  

Almost half of the deputies are newcomers, many of whom have not been involved in politics before – artists, businessmen, actors and sportsmen.   

Svetlana Zhurova, Deputy Speaker
Svetlana Zhurova, Deputy Speaker

Svetlana Zhurova, Olympic Champion in speed skating, has been approved as one of the deputy speakers of the State Duma.  

The youngest deputy is only 23 years old, whilst the oldest – the Communist party member Zhores Alferov – is 77. Alferov won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000.  

For the first time in history of the Russian parliament there are some deputies in wheelchairs.