On November 14, the State Duma voted again on an amendment to the law “On the general principles for organizing legislative and executive organs of state power of the subjects of the Russian Federation” that would have reduced the number of regional leaders having the right to run for a third term from sixty-nine to ten. The Duma passed the amendment once before, but it was vetoed by the Federation Council, the upper chamber of parliament made up of governors or their representatives. The Duma, however, was unable to overcome the Federation Council’s veto (Russian agencies, November 14).
Russian law previously banned governors from running for more than two terms, but in January of this year the Duma amended the law on regional governments so that only the period after the amendment went into effect would count as time in office in determining the number of terms served by a given governor. This gave most governors the opportunity to run for one extra term. In some cases, they even won the right to run for two extra terms. Later, however, the so-called “Nadezhdin amendment”–named after its sponsor, Boris Nadezhdin, deputy chairman of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) faction in the Duma–was introduced. It granted the right to run for more than two terms only to governors of regions lacking their own term-limits laws. The Federation Council, however, vetoed it (see the Monitor, July 11, 24).
Most observers assumed that the Duma’s attempt to overcome the Federation Council’s veto of the Nadezhdin amendment would fail after the pro-Kremlin Unity faction dropped its support for the amendment, effectively dooming any chance that supporters would be able to gather the 300 or more votes necessary to overcome the Federation Council’s veto. Some commentators read Unity’s change of heart as a sign that the Kremlin no longer wanted to quarrel with the governors (Kommersant, November 13). Supporters of the amendment tried to avoid defeat by arguing that the amendment’s fate should be decided in a secret vote (Russian agencies, November 14). One supporter, Vladimir Ryzhkov, a member of the Duma’s committee on Federation affairs and regional policy, noted that if the amendment again failed to pass, some governors would win the right to rule their regions until 2013. He also argued that the amendment would eliminate a number of contradictions between federal and regional law (Radio Ekho Moskvy, Polit.ru, November 14). But despite such efforts, only 285 deputies voted in favor, with members of the Unity faction and its allied People’s Deputy faction voting against (Radio Ekho Moskvy, NNS.ru, November 14). After this, supporters again tried to overcome the veto, this time in an open vote. The amendment again went down to defeat, with only 246 in favor (Polit.ru, November 14).
It is very difficult to see the Nadezhdin amendment’s defeat as anything other than a Kremlin retreat before the governors, who have closed ranks against the center’s attempts to limit their powers. The national media, much of which earlier had loudly heralded the twilight of the governors’ power, has played down the significance of the defeat. The Polit.ru website, for example, wrote that “for one reason or another the Kremlin today is not ready to overcome the veto, understanding that it has the opportunity to do so anytime” (Polit.ru, November 14). While the website did not venture a guess as to why the Kremlin had dropped its support for the Nadezhdin amendment, the answer is rather clear: A number of regional leaders–including Bryansk Oblast Governor Yury Lodkin, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev and Orel Oblast Governor Yegor Stroev, who is the Federation Council’s speaker–simply went ahead and ran successfully for third terms without waiting to see whether the amendment would win approval. Meanwhile, Mikhail Nikolaev, president of Yakutia, is stubbornly fighting for a third term despite resistance from both the Central Election Commission and his own regional legislature. President Vladimir Putin’s team simply does not have the resources to stop this process.
However, it does not follow from the Federation Council’s victory over the Duma in the battle over the Nadezhdin amendment that the fight over gubernatorial third terms is over. Vladimir Ryzhkov, for example, reported that Irina Khakamada, a deputy Duma speaker and member of the SPS faction, has drafted a new amendment that would limit the number of terms governors may serve. Boris Nadezhdin himself promised to continue his struggle by including a term-limits provision in the draft law on voting rights (Vremya Novostei, November 15).
LEBED TRIES TO GET CONTROL OF KRASNOYARSK LEGISLATURE.