President Vladimir Putin formally submitted a draft law on proposed amendments to Russia’s Constitution to the State Duma on Monday, with the document expected to be discussed by the lower house of parliament later this week. Among the proposals are a series of measures aimed at improving governance, changes to social guarantees and other domestic affairs. But some of the amendments are also expected to affect Russia’s international standing. Here’s how:
- The proposed constitutional changes include a heavy focus on social and organisational/governance issues, including a guarantee that the minimum wage is equal to or greater than the basic living wage for the able-bodied population and the guaranteed timely indexation of pensions to account for inflation.
- The proposed amendments also call for the inclusion of the State Council, a powerful presidential advisory body to the head of state first established in 2000, into the constitution. Its goals will include ensuring the coordinated functioning and interaction of state authorities, as well as determining the main directions of domestic and foreign policy.
Sputnik / Ilya Pitalev
- One of the amendments also proposes changes to the rules by which the prime minister and government are selected, making their appointment by the president contingent on approval by the Duma first. The country’s prosecutor general and his deputies, meanwhile, are to be appointed or dismissed by the Federation Council (i.e. the upper house of parliament) based on the proposal of the president. It is proposed that the powers of the Constitutional Court be expanded, including the power to check the constitutionality of laws before they are signed into law, as per the president’s request.
- Importantly, particularly for observers of Russian politics, one of the amendments proscribes a person from serving more than two consecutive terms as president. That means that Putin, reelected for his second consecutive term in 2018, will leave the presidency in 2024.
Sputnik / Alexey Nikolsky
- Very significantly, the package of amendments proposes a ban on persons with dual citizenship or foreign residency permits from serving as senior officials, including members of the Duma and Federation Council, as governors, as prime minister, or as president. While their exact numbers aren’t known, it’s thought that dozens of senior Russian officials, from lawmakers to directors of federal agencies to governors and others have citizenship or permanent residency cards in countries ranging from the sunny climes of Spain, Greece and Bulgaria to Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, the UK, France and even the United States. Effectively, what this amendment does is forces these officials to make up their minds as to whom they serve and compels them to choose their loyalties accordingly.
- Perhaps the most significant of the changes proposed by the president is the proposed alteration to Article 15, Clause 4 of the Constitution, a keystone of the current basic law which prioritises the supremacy of international law over Russian law. In his address last week, Putin stressed that international laws should be applied in Russia only in those cases where they don’t contradict Russian laws, including the constitution itself.
Sputnik / Strelnikov
- The constitution of 1993 was adopted in a tumultuous time, in the aftermath of a deadly constitutional crisis known as the October Crisis which saw supporters of President Boris Yeltsin and the army engaging in literal street fighting with supporters of the parliament in the streets of the Russian capital. For decades after its adoption, the constitution, written with the assistance of advisors from USAID and other foreign specialists, was seen by critics as a document which restricts Russia’s sovereignty. Now, over two and a half decades after the constitution’s adoption, Moscow seems to have finally made up its mind on changing this state of affairs.
Sputnik / Alexey Druzginin/Anton Denisov/Russian Presidential Press Office
Sputnik / Maksim Blinov
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