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Fradkov Confirmed as Russia's Prime Minister - 2004-05-12

Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, has confirmed Mikhail Fradkov as prime minister. The head of President Vladimir Putin's cabinet told the parliament there will be no major changes in the government's agenda to promote economic growth and advance political and social reforms.

The vote for Mr. Fradkov in the parliament that is controlled by pro-Kremlin delegates was overwhelming - 356 for and 72 against.

Speaking to the Duma before the vote, Mr. Fradkov said the government's policy will remain largely intact, concentrating on economic issues and raising living standards for ordinary Russians. One out of five Russians lives below the poverty line.

Mr. Fradkov says the government also needs to come up with proposals to improve social services in the country, including housing, education, and health care. He says the government will not make promises it cannot fulfill.

He echoed President Putin's inaugural statement that Russia has an economic potential it has yet to unleash.

The post of prime minister is viewed by many analysts in Russia as a stepping-stone to the presidency. But they see Mr. Fradkov as serving only as an interim prime minister.

Political observers in Moscow say they expect Mr. Fradkov's government to make only limited progress on political reforms to create a participatory democracy that would allow for free press and broad public debate of issues.