Russian people to be deprived of the right to vote

Forthcoming political reforms stipulate that the Kremlin will appoint both governors and mayors

Only 30 of 89 federation units will remain in Russia soon. The number of Russian governors will be reduced three times too – Russian regions' heads will be appointed directly from Moscow, without any coordination with local parliaments.

The political reform, which President Putin announced several days ago, has already made elections to local parliaments highly dramatic. Russia held parliamentary elections in three regions yesterday – in Irkutsk, in the Mary-El republic and in Sakhalin. The elections in those three regions became as important as gubernatorial or even presidential elections: the role of legislative assemblies in appointing regional heads would be considerably increased in Russia.

Dmitry Rogozin, the leader of the pro-presidential Rodina Party, told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper that the event would not last long: a voting right will be granted to local parliaments on a temporary to elect regional or republican heads. After the transition period ends, the parliaments will return to their usual role. “It may eventually result in direct appointments, which will probably be correct. Kremlin officials are now trying to use regional parliaments as a cover up for their own decisions, which creates an awkward situation. That is why I think that the president should be responsible,” Dmitry Rogozin said.

Therefore, it is not ruled out that PR activists and spin doctors, who found their places in provincial parliamentary elections, might be disappointed too. Political parties will have to reorganize themselves too.

Until recently, the need for president's proteges to coordinate their actions with local parliaments has been explained with the fact that Russia is too large as a state and that it has too many governors. That is why it was considered difficult to fill in so many vacancies without the assistance from the regional elite. The reason, however, will become no longer relevant, in the event the second measure announced by Putin is executed. If the number of governors is cut to 30, the president will be able to handle the problem alone, without the regional authorities.

The question pertaining to the reduction of the number of regions and the elimination of all national autonomies is not new. Aside from Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Russia's respectable politicians have not released any statements on the issue, though. Several years ago Zhirinovsky presented his own version of the map of Russia to the press. The map depicted only ten enlarged regions. Yet, the idea to enlarge regions by means of liquidating small national institutions has been considered the official politics of the Kremlin for several years already. The plan stipulates the creation of the Perm region, the unification of the Krasnoyarsk region with Evenkia and Taymyr; the Irkutsk region is said to merge with Ust-Ordinsky autonomous region, and so on and so forth. However, no one thought that the project would be developing as fast as Dmitry Rogozin described it: “I believe that we will end up with 30 federation units. The reform will start soon after all governors are reappointed. In my opinion, the reform to enlarge Russian regions will take place in the beginning of January 2006,” Rogozin said.

The deputy head of the presidential administration, Vladislav Surkov, proved in a recent interview with the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper that Rogozin's words were not ungrounded: “I think that the US administration would understand us better, if there were an Afro-American Republic, or a Spanish-Jewish autonomous region included in the States.” It can be clear from this statement that the current territorial division of the nation evokes nothing but sarcasm from the Kremlin officials.

Dmitry Rogozin pointed out another reform, which Vladislav Surkov also mentioned. The Kremlin will start appointing both governors and mayors – adequate draft laws have already been submitted to the Duma. Dmitry Rogozin said that it would be necessary to do so in order to avoid traditional conflicts between mayors and governors, “to logically bring the power vertical to the level of city mayors.” If Rogozin's forecasts are true, Russian citizens will be able to elect only heads of district administrations.

Maksim Glikin

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Author`s name Olga Savka