Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 1

. President Yeltsin intends to set up a presidential commission to bring the constitutions and charters adopted by Russia’s republics and regions into line with the Russian constitution, said head of the presidential administration Sergei Filatov. (11) Filatov said the president is alarmed at the widening gap between federal law and the legislation being adopted in the provinces. For example, the constitution of the Republic of Tuva outlaws private land ownership, even though such ownership is explicitly permitted by the Russian Constitution, while the constitution of the Republic of Chuvashia contravenes federal law by stating that conscripts from Chuvashia will do military service only in their own republic. These are not isolated examples: legislation in no fewer than 75 of Russia’s 89 constituent provinces is said to be at odds with the federal constitution in one way or another. Filatov also raised the alarm about creeping "sovietisation" in the provinces, that is, the tendency in regions such as the Kuzbass to reinstitute the practice of appointing government leaders by elected officials rather than as a result of direct democratic elections.

The problem is by no means new. Only two years ago, Russian leaders were so afraid that the Russian Federation was about to fall apart that they gave the provinces carte blanche to write their own constitutions and charters. Some, such as Tatarstan, went so far as to define themselves as sovereign states. Now, Moscow is alarmed that the trend has gone so far that the Federation is in danger of being legislated out of existence. This could lead, Filatov warned, either to the Russian Federation evolving into a loose confederation or to "another Chechnya."

Filatov stressed that legislative inconsistency is not confined to center-periphery relations. Yeltsin has vetoed legislation passed by both the parliament and the government because it was inconsistent with the constitution. The Duma adopted 72 laws between December 5 and 8 last year, many of which are said to contradict one another. One problem is that Russia has not, until now, had a database of legislation that lawmakers can consult. Attempts are being made to fill this gap and the Justice Ministry has started to keep a register of norms and regulations issued by government ministries and departments. This is an important step forward for the rule of law, since it marks a sharp departure from the unwritten Soviet practice whereby unpublished ministerial instructions took precedence over published parliamentary legislation. As Filatov indicated, however, much remains to be done to bring order to Russia’s legislative tangle.

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