Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 224

Russia’s Federation Council yesterday elected Sergei Mironov to replace Yegor Stroev as its new speaker. The vote took place during a special plenary session, and Mironov was approved overwhelmingly, 150 to 2. Stroev, who served as Federation Council speaker for six years, decided to step down after winning a third term as governor of Orel Oblast in October.

Mironov’s accession to the number-three position in Russia’s constitutional pecking order appears to be part of the new overall pattern in Russian politics, by which natives of President Vladimir Putin’s hometown, St. Petersburg, and/or close associates of the president, are occupying major centers of power. Mironov is the speaker of St. Petersburg’s legislative assembly and an associate of Putin going back to December 1994, when Mironov was first elected to the assembly. There Mironov began working closely with the president-to-be, who was first deputy to then St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak and therefore in charge of relations between the city council and City Hall. Mironov headed the “Zakonnost” faction in the legislative assembly, which formed a bloc with the liberal Yabloko party and worked closely with the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS). Addressing yesterday’s special Federation Council session, Putin called Mironov a “decent, young, energetic politician with whom you’re sure to find a common language” (Moscow Times, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, December 6).

For his part, Mironov said in his acceptance speech yesterday that Federation Council members should be popularly elected rather than appointed. Kremlin-backed reforms pushed through the parliament last year required the regional governors and legislature heads that made up the Federation Council to give up their seats and appoint representatives as replacements. In an interview published today, Mironov was asked to comment on the widely held view that these changes in the procedure for forming the Federation Council had meant that the parliament’s upper house now included “many people who simply bought their positions from governors or regional deputies.” Mironov responded: “Maybe I’m a little naive or romantic, but I’d like to believe that this was not so. Although crazy figures with many zeros are mentioned. I’d like to believe it’s not like that.”

Putin also had strong words of praise for the outgoing Federation Council speaker. The Russian president yesterday praised Stroev for having performed “brilliantly.” “To say that he did much for Russian parliamentarianism doesn’t begin to describe it,” Putin said (Kommersant, December 6).