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
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
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...
Yabloko and SPS