Three government bills to strengthen Moscow’s power over the regions are moving briskly through the legislative process.
The first bill removes the chief executives and legislative leaders of Russia’s eighty-nine sub-federal regions from the seats they hold ex officio in the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament. The lower house (the State Duma) passed the bill, but the Federation Council members whom the bill would oust unsurprisingly rejected it, 219-13. The Duma can override the Council’s rejection by approving the bill again with a two-thirds majority, at least 300 of the 450 deputies. There were 308 votes in favor when the Duma sent the bill to the Council, and most observers believe that majority will hold. The override vote is expected this week.
The second bill gives the president the power to dismiss elected regional chief executives and elected regional legislatures that act in violation of federal law, as determined by federal courts acting on complaints from federal prosecutors. That bill passed the Duma 399-9, indicating almost certain approval regardless of the vote in the Federation Council. Prosecutors are said to be ready to bring actions against sixty of Russia’s eighty-nine regions.
The third bill gives regional chief executives the power to dismiss local mayors and town councils, much as the second bill gives the president that power over regional executives and legislatures. That bill is still in the Duma.