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The State Duma elects new speaker, registers four factions
Boris Gryzlov - leader of United Russia, the pro-Kremlin party which won a landslide victory at the Dec. 7 election - was elected new speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, at its first plenary session on Dec. 29. He received 352 votes, with 15 against and four abstentions, to beat other aspirants to the most prestigious and fourth most important post in Russia. Other constestants included Communist Party (KPRF) member Ivan Melnikov, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Rodina Bloc representative Sergei Baburin. Gryzlov resigned from the post of internal-affairs minister last week, a position he had held concurrently with the party chairmanship for almost the past two years. The Duma also formally registered four factions which received five or more percent of the total votes cast on Dec. 7 - the United Russia, KPRF, LDPR and the Rodina. Based on the Dec. 7 election's results, the United Russia, along with its 102 candidates from single-mandate electoral districts and several indpendent candidates, who had already declared their allegiance to the pro-Putin party, now controls 300 seats of the 450-member parliament. The LDPR and Rodina, most likely allies to the United Russia, won 36 seats each, while the KPRF, the only main opposition party to the Kremlin, has just 52 seats, which will not significantly influence the new Duma's key activities. Also, the United Russia's two-third majority in the new Duma has placed it in a unique position to control most of the Duma's key committees, influence which bills - and, in what order - will be on the Duma's agenda - and if necessary, inititate amendments to the Constitution.
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