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By Olga Tropkina

The Right-Wing and the Left-Wing Find Common Interests. Duma deputies want the Federation Council to be elected.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, January 29, 2002

Several factions of the Duma are holding consultations. The idea is to initiate amendments to the Constitution. The centrists are steering clear of the consultations for the time being. As always, they are waiting for a nod from the president.


The idea of amendment to the Constitution has united political opponents like the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) and the Communist Party. Representatives of Liberal Russia announced that similar consultations with Yabloko and the Communists had taken place last Friday.


The procedures for formation of the upper house -the Federation Council - are the reason behind all this activity in the Duma. Many deputies call the upper house "a sorry sight nowadays." Liberal Russia co-leader Viktor Pokhmelkin says, "The Federation Council is a presidential appendage which does not fulfil its proper functions."

The SPS thinks  that the upper house is not a body capable of defending the interests of the regions. At  present  the Federation Council promotes the interests of large industrial groups, rather than of the regions. This is demonstrated by the emergence in the Federation Council  of such individuals as Sergei Pugachev and Leonid Nevzlin.


The success or failure of plans to change the Constitution depends entirely on the ability of Duma factions to reach an agreement. Each of them has its own idea on how these changes should be made. What the Union of Right-Wing Forces proposes is the most devious scheme. Together with the Communists, the SPS intends to appeal to regional legislatures to make the initiative come from the regions. Under existing law, amendments to Articles 3-8 of the Constitution come into effect only when endorsed by at least two- thirds of regional legislatures. In other words, if both houses of parliament endorse the amendments initially approved by regional legislatures, these amendments will almost certainly be adopted.


Some sources say, however, that although the Communist Party was very cooperative in December, it is now clearly stalling for time. If the Communists decide not to cooperate, the SPS intends to collect at least 90 signatures in the Duma in order to approach regional legislatures on behalf of the lower house.


As for Liberal Russia, it also plans to collect signatures for a petition demanding amendments to the Constitution directly on behalf of the Duma.

 Yabloko is cautious about the idea. It does not plan any decisive action for the time being. A Yabloko member says that the problem of the Federation Council may be resolved by passing an ordinary law on the formation of the upper house; as "any tampering with the Constitution is dangerous."

 Specialists do not rule out the possibility that these consultations are merely a PR campaign. Everyone would like to be remembered as the initiator of such significant legislative changes...


Seen also:

Yabloko and SPS

Nezavisymaya Gazeta, January 29, 2002

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