Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 112

If a compromise is not reached, the Federation Council can veto Putin’s initiatives, but the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, widely supports Putin on this and can override the Council’s veto. This, however, requires 300 or more votes in the Duma, and not everyone in the lower house is uncritically supportive of Putin’s regional reforms. For example, Boris Nemtsov, who heads the Union of Right-Forces (SPS) faction in the Duma, said yesterday that while he agreed that governors should not have immunity from prosecution, it would be impermissible to allow the federal authorities to dismiss a governor simply because a criminal case has been launched against that governor. Like Luzhkov, Nemtsov spoke out against replacing court decisions with political decisions, saying this would amount to a “political slaughterhouse.” He also spoke out against a provision in Putin’s initiatives that would give regional leaders he right to appoint the mayors of cities with populations larger than 50,000 (Komsomolskaya pravda, June 7). Last week, Nemtsov warned that Putin’s centralization drive smacked of “political adventurism” (see the Monitor, June 2).

It is clear that resistance to Putin’s initiatives is growing among regional leaders, but it remains unclear how far some or all of them might be willing to go to resist these measures, should they be passed into law. At least one of them, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, suggested yesterday that he would not recognize the center’s right to remove regional leaders from office. He had, he said, enough power in his region, and Federation Council membership didn’t matter much to him. As for the right of the president to remove regional leaders from power, Rakhimov stated categorically that “the president of a republic is elected by the people and only they have the right to remove him from office.” Given that Aleksandr Kotenkov, Putin’s representative in the Duma, said late last month that “no fewer than sixteen governors” will be subject to criminal prosecution as soon as Putin’s initiatives are passed into law, the possibility of a showdown between the federal authorities and some regional leaders cannot be ruled out.