The events happening in Ukraine have put the Russian domestic policy into the shade. The media also pays little attention to what is going on in this country now. However, some facts do deserve attention.
The Chechen war broke out these days ten years ago and has seriously changed Russia’s political landscape. Another fact is that last week the Duma gave the second and the third readings to the presidential legislation on changes to the system of gubernatorial election and adopted it.
According to the president's amendments to the laws “On general principles of forming law-making and executive authorities in Russian regions” and “On guarantees of the people's suffrage for participation in referendums”, legislative assemblies in the regions will elect governors among candidatures suggested by the president. In case a candidature is rejected twice, the president is authorized to appoint an acting governor and dissolve the regional parliament.
The president explained the importance of the new legislation: “The system that has been practiced in the previous years was rather convenient for me as for the president. I perfectly understand that now people are offered to give up the traditional system of electing governors and adopt the one suggested by the president; in other words, people will have to elect governors among candidatures offered by the president. Does it mean that governor election is no longer entrusted to people? This is not true. In fact, it is more important to make the system more effective. When I became chairman of the Russian Government I could see the system is not always effective.”
Vladimir Putin added that the whole of the country is watching the events in Karachayevo-Cherkessia, the republic experiencing a crisis of power. Local regional clans are fighting for the spheres of influence and try to use administrative leverage to solve economic problems and redistribute property. The president said that today various economic groups and clans are expanding their influence upon regional authorities.
In other words, the president means regional elites must no longer exert influence upon governors. Indeed, governors spend a great part of their official term paying debts to sponsors and stuffing their own pockets. On the contrary, the president believes that appointed governors will be more honest. Will they?
Regional elites seem to have reconciled to the idea of appointing governors from the federal center, but they strongly object to dissolving of regional legislative assemblies.
Tatarstan President Mentimer Shaimiyev pronounced the harshest criticism. He said, the Duma, where United Russia enjoys the majority, cannot take a decision on dissolving the regional parliament which in its turn consists mostly of United Russia members. Indeed, majority of Tatarstan parliamentarians belong to United Russia.
The Novye Izvestia newspaper reports that Mentimer Shaimiyev is not the only high-ranking member of United Russia that is now in opposition to the Kremlin. Parliamentarians of Bashkortostan, where the president is a member of the United Russia Supreme Council, also criticize some clauses of the legislation adopted by the Duma.
However, the Duma has not changed the legislation concerning dissolving regional legislative assemblies. The United Russia faction in the Duma has introduced an even tougher amendment to the presidential legislation. According to the amendment, governors elected before adoption of the new legislation are recommended to request the president of re-appointing them. In other words, if the president trusts a governor elected before adopting the legislation he will suggest his candidature as an appointed governor.
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