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    WILL THE NEW RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER BE APPOINTED TODAY?

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    MOSCOW, MARCH 5, 2004 - RIA Novosti. The State Duma is to hold its plenary session here today, endorsing the candidacy of prospective prime minister Mikhail Fradkov. This issue tops the house agenda today.

    On March 1 President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation submitted his proposal to the State Duma, which is the lower parliament house, that Mikhail Fradkov to be appointed to this post. The Russian Constitution states expressly that the deputies must either approve or turn down the prime minister's candidacy over a seven-day period.

    The procedure for discussing the prime minister's candidacy has already been coordinated, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov noted.

    Mikhail Fradkov's candidacy will be presented by Alexander Kotenkov, who serves as the Russian President's State Duma representative, Gryzlov added. The candidate himself will then take the floor. House regulations imply that Fradkov must unveil the future government's action program stipulating various guidelines of its work.

    Fradkov will then be asked nine questions, with each house faction asking two questions; meanwhile independent deputies are entitled to one question, Gryzlov went on to say. Each faction will then have ten minutes to either approve or reject his candidacy. House regulations say that house members shall vote for or against the prospective prime minister either by secret ballot or with the help of electronic vote-counting systems. An open vote also seems possible, in case most deputies okay this option.

    Fradkov should receive 226 votes, thus becoming prime minister.

    According to house regulations, the President of Russia shall submit his new candidacy seven days later, in case the State Duma rejects the first candidate.

    Fradkov met house-faction representatives March 2, negotiating with all four deputy groups during four consecutive hours.

    Fradkov didn't negotiate with the Communists; as a matter of fact, that incipient dialogue never got underway. Nonetheless, Fradkov said he was quite satisfied with his parliamentary consultations.

    Consequently, United Russia, which boasts an overwhelming house majority (305 seats) decided to support Fradkov.

    The KPRF (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) faction still has a negative opinion of Fradkov; for its own part, the Rodina (Homeland) faction plans to abstain during the vote.

    The Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) decided that behind-the-scenes discussions with Fradkov were not enough. Consequently, LDPR-faction members intend to clarify their attitude toward Fradkov after his house speech, faction leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said.

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