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    Matviyenko takes Russian upper house speaker post

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    Senators voted to accept former St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko as the Russian parliament's upper house speaker on Wednesday, the first time in Russian history a woman has held the country's third-highest elected office.

    Senators voted to accept former St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko as the Russian parliament's upper house speaker on Wednesday, the first time in Russian history a woman has held the country's third-highest elected office.

    One senator abstained, but 140 senators voted for the approval of Matvienko as speaker, and there were no votes against.

    On taking up her post, the new speaker called for a look at whether the Federation Council needs the "numerous boards, commissions, and working groups in the Russian upper house" and a possible rationalization of them.

    "I believe it is necessary to look at the multitude of committees, commissions, working groups under the upper house, to assess their efficiency, effectiveness, relevance and also to optimize them," Matviyenko said.

    She also promised that the work of the upper house will be more open to the media, which had subjected her to sometimes scathing criticism in her previous post as governor of St Petersburg.

    The Federation Council speaker post became vacant in May, when longtime speaker Sergei Mironov, A Just Russia party leader, was ousted by the governing United Russia party after criticizing Matviyenko.

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