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Parliament Takes on Smirnov Over Pension Reform

By Karen Ryan, Tiraspol Times


October 10, 2006


PMR's opposition-controlled parliament clashed with president Igor Smirnov over a proposal to increase pensions. Ahead of his re-election bid in December, Smirnov wants to raise pensions nearly 3 times as much as planned. Parliament says: "Show us the money".

"Populist electioneering" and "irresponsible" were some of the milder words by members of parliament in PMR, commenting on a proposal by president Igor Smirnov to increase pensions nearly three times as much as planned. The proposal was turned down by parliament who made it clear to the country's leader that the money simply wasn't there.

According to the already approved state budget, the approximately 75,000 recipients of public aid and pensions in Pridnestrovie will be receiving a permanent increase in their pensions of 7 PM R Rubles in November. But, says president Igor Smirnov, "that is not enough ". Smirnov, who is running for re-election in the country's 10 December presidential election, wants the increase to be 20 Rubles, nearly three times the budgeted amount. And that has the opposition-controlled parliament up in arms.

" - We are not against a higher increase in pensions," says parliamentarian Sergey Cheban, "but only if the money is there. Cheban, as head of the parliamentary committee on social policy, notes that for the 2007 budget, an increase of 7 Rubles is planned - but not an increase of 20.

" - We asked from which sources this budget deficit will be be covered, but the state tax service has not answered this question," noted an statement issued by the press service of the PMR Parliament.

In round numbers, the added increase amounts to an extra $150,000 in unbudgeted spending each month. The statement notes that this may lead to a repeat of a situation faced in 2002, when pensions were late because of a lack of funds to cover an unbudgeted increase.

"Populist actions from the executive power"

In a population of just over 550,000, the 75,000 pension recipients could be the decisive voting block to guarantee Smirnov another five years in the presidential chair, says one analyst. Parliament sees the presidential move as a clear campaign gimmick too: The parliamentary committee on social policy, in a joint statement issued with the parliamentary committee on economic policy, asked for more information from the executive branch and gave their reasons why: "This will make it possible to resist populist actions from the side of executive power", said the committees. One leading member, when asked to clarify, summed it up with just four words: "A cheap election stunt."

Sergey Cheban, 37, was born in Slobodzya, just south of Tiraspol , the capital of Pridnestrovie. He is a medical doctor and a native-born Pridnestrovian. He is a member of the opposition party Renewal and has been a member of PMR's parliament since December 2000.

In parliamentary elections in December 2005, Renewal and its allies won 29 out of the total of 43 seats, and its leader, 38 year old Yevgeny Shevchuk, is Speaker and chairman of parliament. The party has consistently been critical of the rule of president Igor Smirnov, with Shevchuk leading a reform effort in 2005 to amend the constitution and reduce the president's powers over policy.

Pridnestrovie, also known as Transnistria or Transdniester, has a presidential system of government. Incumbent Igor Smirnov is seeking re-election on 10 December, and three opposition candidates have so far announced their intentions to run against him; including the first-ever female presidential candidate, Nadesha Bondarenko of the local Communist Party, staunch opponents of Smirnov's leadership.

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