Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 108

Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel was right when he predicted that the amendment cutting from sixty-nine to nine the number of incumbent governors allowed to run for a third term (the so-called “Nadezhdin amendment”) would not be the end of the story. On May 30, members of the “Federation” faction (President Putin’s supporters in the upper house of the Russian parliament) appealed to the propresidential Unity faction in the lower house to “use its influence” to ensure that the amendment was rejected by the State Duma (Russian agencies, May 30). Observers described this as the first “conflict of loyalty” to hit the faction, whose members are predominantly people who replaced governors in the upper chamber in accordance with Putin’s new law on the composition of the Federation Council (, May 30).

What came as even more of a surprise was the fact that on June 1 Unity agreed to do as it had been asked (Kommersant, June 2). Faction leader Vladimir Pekhtin said Unity’s presidium had recommended that the faction should reject the amendment when it was considered in a second reading (, June 1). But he hinted at a more mundane explanation. If the lower house did not vote in the way the upper house wanted, the upper house might retaliate by blocking several pieces of legislation even closer to the Kremlin’s heart: judicial reform, the labor code and the new land code (Izvestia, June 2). This means that what is going on is simple blackmail, and nullifies any suggestion that the Kremlin has scored a final victory over the governors.

The issue of third terms for governors first came up in January, when the Duma amended the law on regional government so as to ensure that governors’ terms would be counted from the date the law went into effect. This gave sixty-nine governors the right to run for third terms (Kommersant, May 17). Later, the “Nadezhdin amendment” was introduced, giving the right to run for third terms only to heads of regions where, at the moment the law was passed, no term limit was mandated by local legislation. On May 17, 370 deputies voted for the amendment in the first reading, guaranteeing that it would overcome a possible Federation Council veto (Russian agencies, May 17).

Even with the change in Unity’s position, the amendment may still win passage through the Duma, unless all the members of the propresidential coalition vote against it (, June 1). This scenario is possible, given that Gennady Raikov, leader of the People’s Deputy parliamentary group, said on June 1 that he thought the decision by centrist deputies to support the “Nadezhdin amendment” was wrong (, June 1). Whatever happens, however, the Duma will not be able to overcome a Federation Council veto.