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    RUSSIAN CABINET FALLS, POLITICAL ACTIVISTS COMMENTING

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    MOSCOW, FEBRUARY 24, RIA NOVOSTI - President Vladimir Putin was right to dismiss the Cabinet. "High time, too," says Vice-Speaker Vladimir Pekhtin of the State Duma, parliament's lower house. "A government must have sufficient professional qualities to cope with the national development programme and Russian progress after March 14, [presidential election day]", Mr. Pekhtin, prominent on the pro-Kremlin political party, United Russia, emphatically remarked to Novosti.

    "Governmental legislative initiatives left ample room for progress, and the United Russia pointed it out on many occasions while addressing the Cabinet." The party had also highlighted rampant parochialism, the red tape that badly hampered management and was breeding graft, and administrative reforms that had come to a standstill, added our interviewee.

    "As I see it, the President has made a powerful political move to give more elbowroom to decision-making in personnel placement," said Oleg Morozov, another Duma Vice-Speaker, of the same party affiliation. Shortly before a presidential poll, the incumbent has every reason to introduce to the nation a crew with which he intends to work for another four-year presidential term. President Putin was perfectly complying with the Constitution as he sent the Cabinet down, Mr. Morozov stressed to Novosti.

    "For a first time throughout Russian history, a Cabinet did not owe its dismissal to a political or economic crisis. The Cabinet was sent down today as the President means to introduce his future team to his country long beforehand. He wants the voters to have a chance to evaluate an upcoming Cabinet," says Alexander Zhukov, State Duma First Deputy Speaker.

    More than that, the previous Cabinet was in a very vague situation before the presidential poll. The prime-ministerial nominee President Putin will now offer to the Duma will be certainly the one the incumbent will nominate if he wins another presidential term, added Mr. Zhukov. He said President Putin had made a "reasonable decision, even though it came as something of a thunderbolt".

    Boris Gryzlov has ample chances to make Russia's next Prime Minister, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Liberal Democratic leader and another Duma Vice-Speaker, said to newsmen.

    "The State Duma may approve a prime-ministerial nomination even at its nearest session, of March 3. I cannot rule out the prospect." If Boris Gryzlov, now Duma Speaker, is nominated, the house will have to elect its new Speaker at the same session. To all appearances, the new Cabinet will be made on the basis of a parliamentary majority, expects Mr. Zhirinovsky.

    "The government was helpless. That became evident to all-and it was dismissed," said Communist leader Gennadi Zyuganov. Not that he is glad to see the Cabinet fired. Even though he did not approve the previous government's policies, Mr. Zyuganov is, on the contrary, alarmed as no new developmental line was offered to Russia as the Cabinet went.

    "Nothing new has happened. This was only a make-believe dismissal," he snapped. "The Communist Party called the government to step down even a year ago. If the Duma had backed Communists, this country could now come to the presidential poll with a new programme."

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