Prudent puppies come when called. The same cannot be said of the deputies in the Russian parliament, who, despite being chided as Vladimir Putin’s lapdogs, appear to have a truancy problem. As a Russian television report has revealed, a recent Duma vote, in which new drunk-driving legislation passed 449 to zero, was not as well-attended as the result suggests. According to the report, a mere 88 deputies showed up to the May 19 session. That, however, didn’t stop those in attendance from carrying on: during the 20 seconds allotted to vote, members rushed around pushing the buttons reserved for their absent colleagues. As Ren TV observed, “One physically fit deputy has time to press nine buttons.”
Absenteeism among deputies, many of whom are Russian celebrities, is nothing new. In April, President Dmitry Medvedev issued a public chastisement: “For those who don’t go,” he said, “let’s change the legislation and let them go somewhere else.” After the TV report surfaced, top-ranking United Russia party official Sergei Neverov echoed the threat. “The Duma needs to get rid of the truant deputies,” he said. A video clip of the vote, meanwhile, spread like wildfire: it attracted 180,000 views on YouTube alone. This is one dog-and-pony show, it seems, that the Russian public doesn’t want to miss.