Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 113

The State Duma’s Fatherland-All Russia faction, headed by former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, announced yesterday that it had prepared a paper calling on President Vladimir Putin to amend Russia’s constitution. The faction’s proposed amendments would redistribute power so that the Duma, the parliament’s lower house, would have more authority than the Federation Council, the upper chamber. Primakov said that the Duma, rather than the Federation Council, should have the power to approve such executive actions as imposing a state of emergency, declaring war and sending Russia’s armed forces abroad, among others. Primakov said that Putin’s proposal to change the way the Federation Council is formed will mean that it will no longer be enough of a representative body to make decisions on such issues. Putin has introduced legislation mandating that governors and the heads of regional legislative assemblies no longer automatically win seats in the Federation Council, and that the Council instead be made up of representatives appointed by the regional heads. Primakov said the proposed constitutional amendments should be introduced in parallel with Putin’s proposed changes in federative relations.

Primakov’s proposals would appear to correspond broadly with the Kremlin’s overall attempt to reduce the power of the regional leaders. Some observers speculated yesterday that his suggested amendments might be followed by other similar ones, such as transferring from the Federation Council to the Duma the right to confirm the prosecutor general and members of the Supreme Court. Such measures would particularly suit the Kremlin because of the generally pro-Kremlin composition of the current Duma (Russian agencies, June 8).

The Kremlin, meanwhile, was maintaining a hard line in the face of growing protest among the regional leaders about Putin’s proposals to limit their power and prerogatives. Aleksandr Kotenkov, Putin’s representative in the State Duma, said that the Kremlin was prepared to agree only to small corrections in the proposed law on changing how the Federation Council is formed and may act. Kotenkov said that the Kremlin was ready to agree to the regional leaders’ suggestion that the terms in office for the future Federation Council members correspond to the terms in office of the regional leaders who appoint them. He also said that the Kremlin was willing to “discuss” the idea of phasing in the new Federation Council members gradually. As some observers noted, Kotenkov made no mention of more significant concessions the regional leaders demanded, such as letting them retain their immunity from criminal prosecution and giving them the right to recall the Federation Council members they appoint. On the other hand, during parliamentary hearings yesterday on Putin’s proposed measures, the various interested parties agreed to create a working group to discuss the contentious proposals further. The working group is to be made up of Duma deputies, Federation Council members and officials of the presidential administration. An anonymous top Kremlin official, however, was quoted as saying that the regional leaders’ main counterproposals were “unacceptable, inasmuch as they do not at all correspond to the president’s conception” (Russian agencies, May 8).

At the same time, the federal authorities have begun putting teeth into their clampdown on the regions. Putin yesterday nullified a number of decrees issued by the president of the Adygan Republic, Aslan Dzharirov, saying that they violated Russia’s constitution. Among the canceled measures was a decree giving the republic’s cabinet of ministers the power to appoint and remove officials working in various state organs and extra-budgetary funds on the republic’s territory. On May 7, the Constitutional Court declared null and void a number of laws promulgated by the authorities in the Altai republic, including a statute on the region’s sovereignty.