MINISTERS ARE ALLOWED TO BE POLITICAL LEADERS

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MOSCOW, October 14 (RIA Novosti) - On Wednesday, the State Duma passed, in three readings at once, amendments to Article 11 of the federal constitutional law "On the Russian Federation Government." The amendments allow ministers and other senior officials to take leading positions in political parties.

The United Russia faction proposed the amendments after discussions with the presidential administration, writes Vremya Novostei. A Duma vice speaker, Vladimir Pekhtin, believes the State Duma's approval of the amendments is "a logical link in the chain of building an advanced party system in the country."

However, the Communists said the adopted amendments should be seen as part of a package of changes to the country's political system, which "is being imposed on our society."

Vladimir Ryzhkov, an independent State Duma member, supported the amendments with a reservation. "There is an ideal model under which a party government is the only appropriate option," Mr. Ryzhkov told the newspaper. "However, I suggested going further, amending the law on the government to allow the winning party at the next Duma elections to form a government and a political course. In that event, we will clearly see who is in power and who is in opposition. Otherwise, the current amendments are only half-measures, and every minister will be admitted to United Russia and the Duma's administrative resources will merge with the government's. We will thereby get a new Communist Party of the Soviet Union."

However, Sergei Mironov, the speaker of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of parliament, believes it is too early to form a party-based government in Russia, as political parties do not yet have "professionals to work in all areas of government activity." Forming a government on the principle of professionalism is a better approach, according to Mr. Mironov.

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