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On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin presented a bill on a new procedure to form the Federation Council that the president submitted in the State Duma before. The reform is based on a variant of the bill drafted in the Federation Council, but the president modified it. The bill links the appointment of senators with gubernatorial elections: a candidate for governor should name three candidates for a senator of the Federation Council during his election campaign. He is to appoint one of these candidates as his representative in the upper house of Russian parliament in case of his victory. It will be more difficult to terminate the powers of senators ahead of time, as neither the governor nor the local parliament will be able to recall them.
Noting that this is already the fourth Putin’s reform of the upper house of parliament, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily noted that the president insisted on Wednesday that his initiative envisages actually direct elections. The elections will be restricted only with the Constitution, as each federal constituent should be represented by one official from executive and legislative authorities in the Federation Council.
The president rejected the critical remarks that this is not direct elections after all. Noting that the realization of the idea of direct elections will require the amending of the Constitution. “I do not believe that this should be done now, probably in the future,” Putin stated.
The president has made an evasive statement, as the way to keep the fundamental law inviolable, but to hold truly direct elections of senators is known for a long time, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily believes. This procedure is simple, as each region is turned in a two-mandate constituency. The constituency holds ordinary elections, and two winners in the elections are declared: one as a senator of the Federation Council from the governor and another one as a senator from the Legislative Assembly. But this procedure does not easily allow promoting in the upper house of parliament in Bolshaya Dmitrovka Street money bags, necessary lobbyists, just good people or relatives.
Now the senators can feel at ease over their possible unexpected dismissal, the Novye Izvestia daily reported. The new bill rules out an option for the early termination of their powers at the initiative of the governor or the legislature of the federal constituent. Now the same rules will be in effect for senators as well as for the deputies of the State Duma. So, they can be stripped of their mandates only on their own volition or if the upper house decides on the early termination of their powers.
This is not the elections of the Federation Council about which the Russian authorities stated in public and which have been discussed already for ten years, but the so-called surrogate elections, in which the voters act only in the role of preliminary filter, the Vedomosti daily cited Vice-Speaker of the State Duma from A Just Russia Nikolai Levichev, who last February together with the former Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov moved in his variant of the reform, which envisages a rating voting on all candidates for senators, including from the Legislative Assemblies. “The corridor of opportunities has got narrow since December,” Levichev said, noting that other political reforms, which were pledged before the presidential elections, are launched in the curtailed way.