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On Monday, the deadline for the amendments in the bill on direct gubernatorial elections expired. The bill was approved by the State Duma in the first reading in late February. The second reading of the bill is expected to be debated on April 24. For six weeks the bill was drastically amended. The specific committee of the State Duma presented the preliminary list of the amendments to the document on Monday. The planned changes will not only put up additional barriers and filters to the candidates for governorship, but they also will delay the date of the gubernatorial elections to the far future.
The bill on the introduction of direct gubernatorial elections was drafted after the winter standoff in the society, the Novye Izvestia daily recalled. The initial bill was drafted hastily and was debated in the State Duma just several days before the presidential elections on March 4. This bill was declared to be one of the cornerstones, on which a new configuration of the political reform in the country will be built. The bill also should appease the dissenterism raging in the country.
It should be acknowledged that the bill approved in the first reading in the State Duma played some role, the newspaper noted. The bill was taken by the opposition as a signal that the authorities heed the voice of the protesters and are ready to modernize the incumbent political rule in the country not in words, but really. After six weeks the enthusiasm of the optimists began fading away. One of the reasons for this tendency became the news report that after the initiatives from regional legislative assemblies and the wishes of ordinary workers passed in the State Duma, the bill on gubernatorial elections will envisage additional restrictive filters and new bans.
Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Constitutional Legislation and State Construction Vladimir Pligin stated that the bill will include the move of the deputies in the Ulyanovsk Region that for nomination any deputy is to get support from five to ten percent of municipal deputies in three fourths of municipal entities in the region. The experts immediately called this provision as the major obstacle on the way of opposition candidates.
The bill, which was drafted for the second reading in the parliament, also toughened “the presidential filter”, which influences directly on the selection of candidates for governorship. In the new reading of the bill the initiative to hold consultations with the parties and the candidates for governorship was given to the president. This provision will change the previous ‘liberal’ reading, which holds that “the parties can turn for consultations to the president”.
Vladimir Pligin also offered a new restriction in the bill, the Kommersant daily noted. He intends to introduce several amendments in the article of the law on the main guarantees of suffrage and the rights to participate in referenda for Russian citizens, The law lists the reasons, under which a citizen can be deprived of the right to run as a candidate in the elections of all levels.
People, who are imprisoned for grave or heinous crimes and “who have an unexpunged conviction for the foresaid crimes”, are deprived of the passive suffrage, the newspaper noted. Vladimir Pligin offers to lift the last conditions, banning to run in the elections for those, who had any convictions for grave or heinous crimes some time ago, except for the cases, when the degree of graveness of these crimes was lowered at the legislative level. The newspaper recalled that Prime Minister and President Elect Vladimir Putin warned more than once that direct elections posed a danger of the criminals coming in the authorities.
Lawyer Vadim Prokhorov called the amendment as “an unviable deprivation of civil rights”. “This is an additional punishment not envisaged in the Criminal Code,” lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky noted. “In the current law enforcement system the conviction can be framed up for any opponent of the incumbent authorities,” he said.
The Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily believes that the gubernatorial elections are not envisaged in the new law as the elections. The mechanism to appoint the chief executives in the regions by the decisions of some kind of electors is being created. Municipal deputies and the chiefs of municipalities will act in their role. The dismissal procedure of governors was also toughened under the principle of referendum.
A member of the scientific board of the Moscow Carnegie Centre Nikolai Petrov, who is cited by the newspaper, believes that the bill does not contradict President Dmitry Medvedev’s policy for modernization, because this policy does not exist at all, “Medvedev’s statements in December for the political reform were mainly explained, as we witness today, by the response to the protests and Kremlin’s concerns over the spread of the protests.” Therefore, now when the protests are subsiding and the elections passed the Kremlin believes that it is possible to back away now, the expert noted. “But the Kremlin does not want to back up. Therefore, Medvedev’s bills in the State Duma are overgrowing with more and more complications,” he said.
The political reform, which the Kremlin launched in the heat of the winter protests, is gradually overgrowing with remarks and complications, the Vedomosti daily noted. This looks like a tricking advertising, for instance, that of banks, as there is the inscription “gubernatorial elections” in capital letters. Under the inscription more and more conditions are added in small print.
The pledges were given, when Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev were strongly frightened with public protests, the newspaper noted. The control over the elections was decided to loosen sharply in order to take into account the moods of the society. But the concerns passed away and the real reasons for the political reform were forgotten. The previous system, which was a simple system of control over the elections in combination with a free feeding trough for public servants, almost did not have any instruments of feedback and failed finally.
The appointed governors showed that they can benefit from a feeding trough, but cannot ensure the high results at the elections with due account of a massive administrative resource. At the moment of the reforming pledges the Russian leadership assumed that a new political system will be more flexible and will get some instruments of feedback. But it is already obvious now that the Russian authorities decided to abandon a complicated process to consider the public moods. Thus, they decided to get back to an easy procedure of control over the elections.
The current curtailment of democratic achievements will result in the political system to become closed and inflexible, the Vedomosti daily believed. The political system does not take into account the interests of the business elites again, but the most important thing is that it does not bear in mind the level of public moods.