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Russian Government Survives No-Confidence Vote - 2003-06-18

The Russian government has survived a vote of no-confidence in the lower house of parliament, or Duma. Initiated by an unusual alliance of Communists and liberal opposition deputies, the vote was widely seen as pre-election posturing ahead of parliamentary elections later this year.

To unseat the government of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, backers of the no-confidence measure had to gain 226 votes in the 450-seat Duma.

But the alliance, made up of Communists and the pro-market reform deputies of the Yabloko party, were able to muster only 172 votes. But they did succeed in generating the kind of debate that is likely to be heard during the campaigns for parliament later this year.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov accused the government of large-scale lapses in economic reform. Mr. Zyuganov said that while his party had hoped the government would consider a policy of preserving Russia, it had engaged in an economic course that could only be characterized as deadly to the interests of the Russian people.

Mr. Zyuganov said the current cabinet is, a government of oil and gas pipelines and forest felling, rather than a government of the Russian people, who are faced with falling living standards and rising crime.

Critics of the motion dismiss it as nothing more than pre-election posturing ahead of the December elections. All the same, such votes are watched closely by international financial strategists, like Roland Nash of Renaissance Capital in Moscow.

Mr. Nash said a yes vote to abolish the government would have been problematic. But he said the no vote means Russia's rare phase of brisk growth will most likely continue, attracting more investors to the Russian market.

"Russia is the third best performing market in the world to date this year - it's been in the top three for three out of the last four years. And not since 1997 have I seen such enthusiasm for Russia among the international investment community. And I don't think that this vote will have any impact on that whatsoever," Mr. Nash said.

But other analysts caution that many of Russia's positive economic indicators can be attributed to external factors, such as global energy prices, and not to what the Kasyanov government is doing.

Speaking at an economic conference in St. Petersburg hours before the vote, Prime Minister Kasyanov defended his government's performance and said the good economic statistics prove Russia is moving in the right direction. At the same time, he acknowledged that the country's small and large business sectors need to develop, if Russia's economy is to continue to grow.