Marat Baglai was yesterday elected chairman of Russia’s Constitutional Court. (Interfax, February 20) Baglai, 65, replaces Vladimir Tumanov, who had to retire because he had reached the age of 70, legal retirement age for judges. Even so, Tumanov stayed on in the post several months after his 70th birthday; observers believe he was kept in the post on the Kremlin’s wishes in order in order to fend off any attempt by the Duma to change the constitution and force Yeltsin from office.
Interviewed after his appointment yesterday, Baglai said he would ensure that the Constitutional Court remains "above politics." (RTR, February 20) This will be difficult. Consensus is building in the Russian elite that constitutional reform is unavoidable: earlier this week, parliamentary leader Aleksandr Shokhin, whose remarks often reflect government thinking, said some change was necessary. The post of chairman of the Constitutional Court will therefore be pivotal in the coming months.
Baglai has never been identified as a member of the reform wing. He is a reliable functionary who crossed with apparent ease from the Soviet nomenklatura to Russia’s new legal establishment. He previously worked in the Institute of State and Law of the USSR Academy of Sciences and at Moscow’s elite Institute of International Relations. He attracted wide attention in 1980 when, as Pro-Rector of the Higher School of the Trade Union Movement, he contributed an article to Pravda that served as the theoretical basis for Moscow’s denunciation of Poland’s Solidarity trade union movement. Baglai argued that Solidarity’s resort to the strike weapon deprived it of the right to speak for Polish workers. Under capitalism, Baglai wrote, unions were "a weapon in the struggle against the bourgeoisie," but under socialism, there were no grounds for confrontation between workers and the state. (Pravda, December 26, 1980)
Russian Government Reviews Draft Tax Code.