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Duma could reverse bill on elections of governors

The State Duma, Russia's Parliament, in Moscow. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

One step forward, two steps back for democracy in Russia. Members of the State Duma majority party United Russia has submitted a bill that once again could abolish direct election of governors.

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Popular elections of governors were canceled in Russia in 2004, when President Vladimir Putin early in his second term introduced direct presidential appointments of governors in Russia’s 83 regions. During the following years, all elected governors in Barents Russia where sacked and replaced by governors chosen by the President. Then, by the end of his term as President, Dmitri Medvedev submitted a bill to the State Duma calling for re-introduction of direct governors’ elections. The bill was approved in late April this year and entered force from June 1st.

The first again direct election of governors took place two months ago.

On Tuesday, a group of deputies of the Parliament submitted a draft bill once again calling for abolishing popular elections of governors, reports Kommersant.  

The move is seen as another setback of democratic measures initiated when Dmitri Medvedev was President. The bill suggests that regions themselves should decide whether new governors should be elected or appointed. A Kremlin source says to Kommersant that the idea “makes common sense” since “it is based on the concern that in some regions the elections have not led to an explosion of social and political situation.” In other words; not all regions will need to cancel direct elections of governors, only those that might choose a governor not playing in line with Moscow. 

Others see the proposed bill only as a “test the waters” by Kremlin. 

Alexei Makarin, deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies, says to The Moscow Times that the absence of senior heavyweights among the deputies proposing the bill indicates that it is only a test to see the reactions. 

“If the public really oppose it, they could change it,” Makarin says adding the proposal is “dangerous enough.”

Deputy speaker of the State Duma, United Russia deputy Sergei Zheleznyak takes the bill seriously enough, saying to Kommersant that the request to discuss the matter came from Vladimir Putin himself at a meeting with the Board of Legislators last week.