In January, the Russian State Duma amended the law on regional government in such a way as to give the leaders of sixty-nine of Russia’s eighty-nine regions the right to run for a third term of office, even though the law had originally restricted governors to a maximum of two terms. Indeed, seventeen governors won the right to run for a fourth. According to one interpretation, however, the law was amended primarily, if not exclusively, to appease two of Russia’s most powerful regional overlords, Tatarstan’s President Mintimer Shaimiev and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.
On May 17, the Duma changed its mind. It adopted in the first reading a further amendment to the law, according to which the only governors who would enjoy the right to run for an additional term would be those in regions where local law had placed no limit on the number of terms at the time that the law on regional government first entered into effect. Only nine regions fall into this category. They are the republics of Kabardino-Balkaria, Kalmykia, Komi and Tatarstan; Leningrad, Novgorod, Sakhalin and Tver Oblasts; and the city of Moscow (Russian agencies, May 17).
Despite the toughening of the legislation in relation to the regional leaders, the amendment as adopted can be described as a compromise. A number of powerful leaders are absent from the list of regional leaders getting the chance to run for third terms. They include Bashkortostan Republic President Murtaza Rakhimov and Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel. It is hard to predict what countermeasures the excluded governors will take, but their position was unequivocal. Rakhimov argued that the regions ought to have the right to decide whether an individual regional leader deserved to be elected for “two, three or more consecutive terms” (Russian agencies, May 18). Rossel was forthright, saying that he believed the amendments were not the last: “It is not easy to foresee what will happen in two or three months, [but] I think new amendments are ahead” (Polit.ru, May 18).
Rossel’s position looks justified, in light of the fact that Bryansk Oblast Governor Yury Lodkin, who was elected to a third term without waiting for legal sanction, continues to serve in office unhindered. Given that the Kremlin does not yet control the situation in the regions, concessions to the governors may soon become not only possible, but necessary.
ELECTION ENTERS FINAL PHASE.