The State Duma is set to take up President Vladimir Putin’s three draft laws limiting the powers of Russia’s regional leaders. The Duma is expected to approve two of the bills–one giving the president the right to remove regional leaders or dissolve a regional legislature if a court determines their laws or decrees violated federal law, the other giving such rights to both the president and the governors in relation to local governments. It is unclear, however, whether the Duma would vote again today on the most controversial of the three laws, which would deprive the governors and regional legislature heads of their seats in the Federation Council, the upper chamber of parliament. The Duma already passed that bill by an overwhelming 308 votes, but the Federation Council vetoed it on June 28. In order to override the veto, 300 or more Duma deputies will have to vote in favor of the bill (Moscow Times, Russian agencies, June 30; see the Monitor, June 29). As of late yesterday, the Federation Council had not sent the Duma its official statement on why it had vetoed the bill–a necessary step before the lower house can vote to override the veto. The document was likely to be signed by Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev and sent to the lower chamber of parliament today, but Boris Gryzlov, who heads the pro-Putin Unity faction in the Duma, said that the lower house would probably consider the bill again on July 5. Stroev, meanwhile, said yesterday that Duma deputies had urged him to agree to a compromise version of the bill, and the Duma will today discuss the possibility of creating a conciliation commission to discuss the disputed bill. It is unclear whether the Federation Council will agree to a conciliation commission (Russian agencies, June 29-30).
It remains an open question whether the Duma’s earlier overwhelming support can be maintained in its next vote, that is, whether the veto will be overturned. The Kremlin, however, has been making headway in shoring up support for the bill. Putin met yesterday with Nikolai Kharitonov, head of the Agro-Industrial faction, who had originally opposed overriding the veto, and won his support for an override. Putin has sweetened the deal for potential supporters of the bill, promising that if they support it, he will, first, make sure that Federation Council members are replaced gradually and, second, support the establishment of a State Council, in which regional leaders will advise the Kremlin on key issues (Moscow Times, June 30).
RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION: POLITICAL WILL NOT MATCHED BY RESOURCES.