Pursuant to the data of recent opinion polls, over half of the Russian people still do not know what the point of the Federation Council is. Over 60% of Russian citizens have never heard anything about the current reform of the upper house of the parliament. However, some 30% of the respondents (that’s a comfort) agreed that the Federation Council played an important role in the life of the country. Such an outrageous ignorance of the Russian population about the activity of the supreme legislative power body has rather simple reasons. The major reason is as follows: the Federation Council has never been in public eye, it was working peacefully and calmly. In addition, they really hurried to bury the upper house of the parliament after the beginning of the reform.
Let us leave this rhetorical question aside. Who put forward the idea about the political death of the Federation Council in the very beginning of the reform. The new Federation Council is a lot different from the old one: there are currently 64 senators working in the council; they all have academic degrees, and 28 of them are the Doctors of Science. Seventy-one senators have the practical experience in the work of the parliament, and 49 of them were the supervisors of the enterprises and organizations.
In other words, the majority of senators in the new Federation Council are the people who prefer specific actions to the broad, diffused speeches and statements. A lot of the senators have turned out to be surprisingly indifferent to politics, which allowed the speaker of the Federation Council Sergey Mironov to issue a decree that prohibited the establishment of associations for political reasons. Professionalism without politics: Russia’s supreme power did not even dream about this before. It is not surprising that the new senators became in demand in the governmental structures and started cooperating with them actively.
The governmental officials were one of the first who estimated the perspective of the work with the new members of the Federation Council. The officials started attracting senators to the elaboration of the most important bills long before the new activity regulations of the upper house had been approved. There was a certain logic in it. It was possible to talk to the senators in the language of numbers and facts, in contrast to the State Duma, which turned the law-making process into the political haggle. This allowed to considerably decrease the further approval of the bills by the Upper house, to observe the balance of interests of the Federal Center and the regions. The observation of such a balance will apparently become the basic function of the new senate.
The State Duma is unable to perform these functions for the time being: the majority of the deputies represent the interests of their party leaders, not of the electorate. The new structure of the Federation Council is totally under the control of the legislative assembly, of the regional administrations. The council is also rather professional, which does not only refer to the relations between the center and the regions. A part of the senators of the new convocation took part in the discussion and elaboration of the bills on the power engineering in the fall of the past year, and the representative of the Legislative assembly of the Irkutsk region Valentin Mezhevich was included in the staff of the interim workgroup, set up with the participation of the Ministry for Economic Development and Trade, the Ministry for the Nuclear Power and RAO UES of Russia. There was similar work conducted on other directions as well, in particular, in military and legal reforms and in the social field. As the practice showed, the senators’ level of work on the issues was rather high.
The establishment of the qualitatively new regional lobby around the Federation Council was the main and the most unexpected result of the work of the senators over their first months. It is strange, but when the governors left, it became a lot easier for the Federation Council to communicate with the governmental officials. The position of a governor is a political position, taking into consideration the fact that the majority of them were included in the party structures.
Therefore, practical contacts with the government have always been complicated with a lot of factors as well as the personal ambitions and the political sympathies of the both sides. This created a situation ub which governmental officials preferred to sneak away from rendezvous with the governors.
At the present moment, the situation has changed fundamentally. Close cooperation with the governmental officials allowed the senators to make the decisions that are vital for their regions; it also extended the lobbying opportunities of the heads of the legislative power in the regions.
To all appearance, the renewed Federation Council is meant to become the accelerator in cooperation between the legislative and executive powers in the regions. At the same time, the formation of the Senate on the ground of the lobbying principle reduces the possible opposition degree of the Upper house. The main thing for a lobbyist is to maintain the normal relations with the government; otherwise, the potential will go down.
The governors may soon face a difficult choice: either to go on with the witch hunting, or to set to the professional lobby in Moscow. The Federation Council will become the guide in the solution of the paramount issues of the regions.
Oleg Artykov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/02/04/36530.html