DECEMBER 12, ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY OF THE RUSSIAN CONSTITUTION,
IS GOING TO BE ANYTHING BUT BORING, COURTESY OF NEW FEDERATION
COUNCIL CHAIRMAN SERGEI MIRONOV. FOUR YEARS IN OFFICE FOR THE
PRESIDENT "IS TOO SMALL A TERM UNDER THE PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES",
HE SAID. MIRONOV ALSO SAID THAT HE WOULD COME UP WITH "NEW
IDEAS" THAT MIGHT BE IMPLEMENTED "THROUGH AN AMENDMENT
TO SOME ARTICLES OF THE CONSTITUTION".
Sergei Mironov was prudent enough to put forth the initiative
when President Vladimir Putin was safely away in Greece. The latter's
press service declined to comment too.
Moreover, Mironov's speech was really something. "I do not
think that radical changes in the Constitution will happen soon,
but cannot say yet what timeframe we are talking about",
Mironov said, adding that this was his "personal opinion".
Mironov opened the official debate on the length of Putin's presidency.
Perhaps, the political establishment is not used yet to listening
to the new Federation Council chairman. In any case, the Union
of Right-Wing Forces leader Boris Nemtsov was the only one to
dispute Mironov's opinion. "I believe that Putin is not the
Turkmenbashi. I have faith that the Constitution will not be amended
in the next few years", Nemtsov said. The politician holds
that the election "of Mironov somebody nobody knows"
was a "grave political mistake" that was bound to have
an impact on both the country and president. Meanwhile, Irina
Khakamada (Duma Deputy Chairman and Nemtsov's ally) does not rule
out an amendment of the Constitution at the initiative of the
Before Mironov, the issue of the president’s term in office was
only raised during debates on granting three terms in office for
governors. There was another episode as well a year ago when Novgorod
Governor Mikhail Prusak suddenly
proposed extending the presidency from four to seven years. Prusak
madethis statement in Putin's native St. Petersburg.
Prusak and Mironov say that the existing constitutional capacities
are too limited for the implementation of unpopular economic reforms.
If we add together Prusak's and Mironov's proposals, Putin's
rule may be compared to eighteen years under Leonid Brezhnev.
We add three years to
two times seven.
Liliya Shevtsova, an expert with the Moscow Carnegie Center,
noted: "I'm convinced that the idea of extending the presidential
term in office is a trap for the president. Only a weak regime
unsure of itself will consider extending its rule.
Besides, Mironov could not have chosen a worse moment to voice
his initiative. Putin wants to be accepted in Europe as a modern
democratic leader, and here we have an idea in Russia that makes
it absolutely clear that this is yet another monarchy that we
are building. “I hope the president understands what he stands
to lose if he allows his followers to make a monarch of him",
stressed Sergei Ivanenko, First Deputy Head of the Yabloko faction:
"Yabloko has always objected to a third term in office for
governors and will object to it with regard to presidents as well.
Trying to prove the necessity of seven years in office, some politicians
will refer to France, where presidents are elected for seven years
and where there are no problems with democracy. It will truly
apply to Russia only when a civil society has been built here.
Under the circumstances, however, the so-called stability of rule
is all too easily transformed into tyranny and into the inability
of the population to change something at least once every four
Communist Sergei Glaziev, Chairman of the Duma Committee for
Economic Policy and Entrepreneurship: "If the people feel
the results of the reforms, they are bound to elect the president
again. As things stand now, however, (the next year’s budget was
adopted recently, another increase in tariffs for services of
the natural monopolies, a relaxation of hard currency controls)
- this merely indicates that the economic policy is pursuing the
interests of the oligarchs formed under Yeltsin
and not in the interests of the people. The oligarchs probably
need more than four years to take over the national wealth. Hence
the idea to extend presidency by three years".
Boris Nadezhdin, Union of Right-Wing Forces: "All civilized
countries are gradually coming to a four-year presidency, but
in this country some forces are trying to extend the term in office
for presidents. This holds true for the governors as well - the
Duma failed to overcome the veto of the Federation Council on
legislation concerning a third term in office for regional leaders.
We will eventually return to the system of the Central Committee
of the CPSU whose members vacated their posts only when they died.
I consider Mironov's statement dangerous and I hope the president
will withstand these provocations. This is the height of stupidity
by Mironov. I do not think the President is behind the idea. It
was probably voiced by someone from the inner circle. By the way,
the Duma has already received a draft law to that effect, authored
by Vitaly Lednik of Unity. The idea is furthermore dangerous because
governors will want 7-10 years in office too, and this will mark
the death of democracy in Russia. Lifetime presidency and eventually
monarchy is a logical continuation of the idea. Besides, there
can be no guarantees that the innovation will benefit Putin. It
will prove difficult to push the idea through the Duma in any
case, as a two-thirds majority is needed to make an amendment
to the Constitution. Yabloko, the Union of Right-Wing Forces,
and communists will never go for it".
Gennadi Raikov, People's Deputy group leader: "Somebody
needs these games at precisely this point. Believe me, the president
will be elected again on the day specified by the Constitution.
The plans to extend the presidency do not stand a chance over
the next two years. Perhaps later, but only perhaps because the
Constitution will have to be amended and this is a complicated
process. When the president was asked this question, he said,
"I do not have any problems with elections. I do not consider
possible the transition to a seven-year presidency as in
France. Neither do I consider it expedient, by the way".