On Saturday Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree expanding the State Council – aside from 83 governors it will include eight presidential envoys and six parliamentarians – speakers of the lower and upper houses of Russian parliament as well as faction leaders.
The Vedomosti business daily recalled that the State Council was created at the president’s initiative in 2000 soon after the Federation Council’s reform – new consultative body was established for governors who left the parliament. Until recently the State Council should have held a full staff meeting every three months, while in reduced numbers (only the presidium) - every month, but these rules were often ignored. Soon after Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin, he established the new rules: the presidium should meet once in three months and the State Council – three times a year.
Initially, the State Council’s meetings served as a kind of a rating assessment platform for governors themselves – these meetings demonstrated who of the governors enjoyed authority and could influence this or that decision, one of the former region chiefs recollected. Influence was measured not by the seat in the presidium, but the floor given and reaction of the president, ministers and colleagues to the speech pronounced.
The State Council allows to demonstrate that governors work in unity and give an opportunity to convey a concrete region’s position to the president, as some solutions do not fit every region, ex-governor of the Tver region, Dmitry Zelenin, was quoted by the daily as saying. He expressed an opinion that the State Council’s influence will grow not only because it now includes envoys and parliamentary leaders, but also because governors will be elected again.
As a rule, the implementation of concrete measures is discussed at a meeting with a presidential envoy or at meetings with the president in a narrow format, a State Council member said. Taking this into account presidential envoys were included into the Council. To some extent this step equalizes governors with envoys.
Such changes highlight that presidential envoys still enjoy strong powers. Moreover, this increases the status of faction leaders, especially leaders of the parliamentary opposition, institutionalizing their periodical meetings with the president, political scientist Mikhail Vinogradov said. This attaches new importance to the State Council itself, which became a decorative body.