Russian parliament approves new PM

Russia's overwhelmingly pro-Kremlin parliament has easily approved Vladimir Putin's nominee for prime minister.

    Mikhail Fradkov has been approved by Russia's Duma

    Friday's decision sets the stage for a new Cabinet to take over as the president heads into a virtually assured second term later this month.

    Lawmakers in the State Duma, the lower parliament house, voted 352 to 58 in favour of confirming Fradkov, with 24 legislators abstaining. Fradkov needed a simple majority of 226 votes to win approval from the 450-seat chamber, and he does not need approval from the upper house.

    Fradkov's approval had been assured after leaders of United Russia, the loyal party that swept parliamentary elections in December and holds 306 of the Duma's 450 seats, said earlier this week that the party would support him - a fact that was clear before it was stated.

    Putin nominated Fradkov, 53, on Monday, a week after he stunned the nation by firing long-time Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov less than a month before the 14 March presidential election. He has been expected to dismiss Kasyanov some time after the vote.

    Putin said that he wanted to give the nation a glimpse of the new team responsible for running the country in his second term and indicated he would count on Fradkov to implement long-awaited administrative reforms to streamline the government.

    Putin (L) said he wanted to give
    Russia a glimpse of his new team

    Steady growth

    Russia's economy has grown steadily during Putin's first term, in large part thanks to high world oil prices, but about a fifth of the country's 144 million citizens live below the poverty line – a figure Putin has called shameful.

    Fradkov has focused most of his statements to structural reforms and reorganising government by cutting the number of ministries.

    However, previous efforts to reform Russia's post-Soviet government structure have resulted in few tangible changes.

    Fradkov, a little-known administrator who spent most of his years in the foreign trade sector, has given few hints of his concrete plans since returning from Brussels, where he was serving as envoy to the European Union when Putin plucked him out of obscurity.

    Russia's prime minister is responsible for shaping economic policy and coordinating the work of other ministries. However, the defence and interior ministers answer directly to the president, who holds far more power than any other figure in the ruling hierarchy.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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