Alongside these gubernatorial races, voters in the Udmurt Republic took part on March 26 in a referendum on whether local law should be brought into line with federal law by introducing a presidency like those in Russia’s other ethnically based republics (Dagestan excepted). Until now, Udmurtia has been ruled by a State Council. Inform-Panorama, the local newspaper, explained that reform of the existing system was necessary because the republic’s chief executive (the chairman of the State Council) was under the thumb of parliament, whose members represent the local elite and were allegedly more concerned with clan politics than with pursuing the common good. The switch to a presidential system was approved by an overwhelming 63.8 percent of Udmurtia’s voters, with 27.3 percent voting against, and an election for the new leader will be held later in the year.
Udmurtia’s leaders seem to have decided to bring their laws into line with those of the center before the Putin leadership carries out its threat to pass new measures to ensure that regional legislation accords with the federal Constitution–just one example of the defensive measures being taken by regional leaders in reaction to the change of leadership in the Kremlin.
Regardless of their declarations of loyalty, however, the governors clearly plan to resist. On March 29, the Federation Council, upper house of the Russian parliament, in which the country’s governors are strongly represented, voted to amend the federal law “On the general principles for organizing legislative and executive organs of state power of federal subjects.” The amendments call for top regional officials to be elected for five years, with limits on how many terms regional officials may serve being determined by the regions’ own constitutions. This means, in effect, that the question of term limits will be left to the discretion of the governors rather than being limited to two, as has been the case up until now. The issue will become important, of course, when, in a few years’ time, those regional governors have recently been re-elected see the end of their second term approaching (Inform-Panorama [Izhevsk], March 27).
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