Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 118

On June 14, the State Duma passed in a third reading a law forbidding regional governors and city mayors who step down from their posts before the end of their terms from running in the next elections for their former posts. The measure was passed 302 to one, with five abstentions. A measure requires at least 226 votes for passage (Lenta.ru, June 14). The new law, which was in fact an amendment to existing law, was drafted by the Central Electoral Commission and submitted to the Duma over President Vladimir Putin’s signature. It closes the “technological move” much beloved by governors: relinquishing their posts in order to win pre-term elections held at a time advantageous for them (Vremya Novostei, June 14). Samara Governor Konstantin Titov and Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev played this method successfully, even as the preparations for Primorsky Krai’s pre-term elections took place amid constant warnings that former Governor Nazdratenko would run again. Nazdratenko’s decision not to do so was a magnanimous gesture on the part of a regional leader whom the Kremlin had with great difficulty persuaded to step down before his term was over and who had been compensated by the post of head of the State Fisheries Committee.

The new law is part of a package of legislative initiatives aimed at limiting the arbitrary power governors have in preparing and conducting their election campaigns. Also included in the package are draft amendments to the law on the formation of bodies of state power in the regions, which would restrict the number of governors having the right to run for third terms. Other initiatives would require all gubernatorial elections to be held in two rounds, and that elections for regional legislative organs be held according to a mixed proportional-majoritarian scheme.

These initiatives are unlikely, however, to have an easy passage. Indeed, the law forbidding governors and mayors from stepping down early and running immediately for their former posts is widely expected to become bogged down in the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council (Parliamentskaya Gazeta, March 14). Even if the law is somehow pushed through the Federation Council, it will probably not be signed into law by the president. That, at least, is what Aleksandr Kotenkov, the presidential representative in the Duma, stated after the bill received its second reading. The fact is that, during the examination of the law, Boris Nadezhdin of the Union of Right-Wing Forces added an amendment to extend the ban from the governors to the president himself (Russian agencies, June 13).

Pointing out that the procedure for electing the head of state is established by the constitution and cannot be changed by a federal law (NNS.ru, June 14) Kotenkov confirmed that the Kremlin would seek the draft law’s return in the first reading (NNS.ru, June 13). These attempts, however, were apparently unsuccessful. The law has now gone to the Federation Council. The current state of affairs gives the advantage to the governors who do not, of course, want such limits. Thus it is that Putin risks turning into the guarantor of the interests of those against whom he has been waging a war for more than a year, attempting to limit the Russian state’s centrifugal tendencies.