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Duma speaker against stating national idea in constitution

December 09, 2013, 23:24 UTC+3 MOSCOW
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MOSCOW, December 09, 22:57 /ITAR-TASS/. State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin did not support the call for stating the national idea in the Russian Constitution.

In an interview with the Russia 24 television channel on Monday, December 9, Naryshkin doubted that such alterations could be made. “This proposal will be at odds with other constitutional provisions that declare a diversity of ideologies and parties, which is a guarantee of democracy and democratic development,” he said.

“The parliament is a place where different opinions and different points of view are concentrated and expressed by different parties. Each party has its own programme and understanding of how the country should develop, that is, an ideology,” the speaker said.

He believes that “the national idea is stated in the Constitution very precisely” as follows: “we are building a democratic, federative rule-of-law state with the republican form of government.”

“I think this is a very accurate legal and political formula,” he added.

Russia’s national idea is already stated in the Constitution, Naryshkin said earlier.

He said suggestions that a national idea should be stated in Article 13 of the Constitution ran counter to the provisions of this article which proclaims ideological diversity in Russia, he said.

“The nearing 20th anniversary of the Constitution and the Federal Assembly has provided a good opportunity for discussing the Constitution’s value,” Naryshkin said, adding that “calls for making substantial changes to the text of the Constitution should be handled very carefully.”

“As for this proposal, it obviously comes into conflict with other provisions of the Constitution. If I am not mistaken, the same article says that there may be no one state ideology and that there is ideological diversity and multiplicity of parties as a guarantee of democracy,” the speaker said.

“The parliament itself is a body where different political parties are represented and they have differing visions for the future of the country, differing political programmes and differing ideologies,” he said.

Speaking of ideology or national idea, Naryshkin said the national idea “is stated very precisely in the Constitution, its Chapter 1 which says that we are building a democratic, federative rule-of-law state with the republican form of government.”

“I think this the best legal wording for the goal we should strive to achieve,” he added.

Naryshkin believes that “all constructive political forces have the possibility to pool their ranks on the basis of this idea and I think they should do so.”

He also spoke against stating a special role of Orthodoxy in the Constitution.

“I would not support such a proposal,” he said, referring to the fact that Russia is a multi-confessional state. “That’s the reason,” he noted.

On November 21, MP Yelena Mizulina, Chair of the Duma Committee on Women, the Family and Children, suggested amending the Constitution’s preamble to say that Orthodoxy was the foundation of Russia’s national and cultural identity.

Her press service said later that Mizulina had been referring to “the importance of Orthodoxy in the development of Russia,” not to “a state religion” or its “dominating role.”

“The committee chair did not make any proposals,” the press service said.

Mizulina later stressed that the suggestion had been “not my personal point of view, but a citizen’s initiative that has already collected more than 300,000 signatures.”

“I fully support this proposal and just announced people’s appeal … for the protection of Christian values,” Mizulina said.

The proposal was put forth by a group of public figures. “Throughout its thousand-year-long history Russia has developed as an Orthodox state. Orthodoxy was the force that bound different peoples and cultures into a unique state-civilisation - Russian empire; it saved our state many times from devastation and destruction… We call for stating Russia’s spiritual sovereignty in the same way its national sovereignty is stated legislatively by recognising the special role of Orthodoxy in the Constitution,” the authors of the initiative said in a letter to the Dume Committee on Women, the Family and Children.

They claim that “the special role of a certain religion is stated in the constitutions of modern European states such as Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Poland, Greece, and Finland.”

Federation Council (upper house of parliament) Chairperson Valentina Matviyenko suggested earlier that a national idea that would consolidate the country could be stated in the Constitution. The Federation Council’s representative to the Constitutional Court Alexei Alexandrov had come up with a similar proposal.

Matviyenko believes that the values stated in the Constitution are the main component of the national idea, which has sparked numerous disputes and quests among the best minds of Russia.

The Constitution’s preamble contains “a clearly and concisely stated fundamental system of moral and ethical values of our multinational country. These are a common historical fate and state unity, the freedom of man and civil peace, respect for the deeds of ancestors and love for the country, faith in justice and aspiration to the prosperity of Russia,” she said.

Matviyenko expressed confidence that the Constitution “contains all basic elements of the national idea” and gave “big credit” for this to its authors.

This document “sets a plain and clear goal to society and people: to ensure the well-being and prosperity of Russia, taking into account our responsibility to the present and future generations,” the Federation Council speaker said. “The aspiration to this goal may as well be called our national priority for the whole 21st century and beyond. There are timeless values and they should be at the centre of our historical development,” she said.

Matviyenko noted that jubilees “almost always bring on a desire to improve what has been done, raise it to a higher level or even lend a new quality to it. The 20th anniversary of the Constitution is not an exception.”

“If we look at our Constitution from this angle, we have every reason to say that we are only beginning to tap its potential which goes much further, and there is much to be done yet to translate the constitutional values into real life,” she said.

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