CIVIC REPUBLICAN NEWSLETTER
“Constructing a Humanist Politics”
Issue No 12 Friday 21 November 2008
Highlighting news stories important to the Civic Republican view, particularly those that are overlooked or little covered in the main media.
On Thursday, 6th November 2008, it was announced that Russia's constitution will be amended by the year's end to extend the presidential term to six years, Work on the amendments has already begun in the State Duma, parliament's lower house, said speaker Boris Gryzlov
It would be the first change to the Russian constitution since its adoption in 1993
It is inevitable that this change should be linked to the possibility of a return to the office of President of Prime Minister Putin who served out the full two four-year terms currently permitted under the Russian constitution.
As stated in The Constitution of the Russian Federation, Section One, Chapter 4, President of the Russian Federation, Article 81.
• Paragraph 1. The President of the Russian Federation shall be elected for a term of four years by the citizens of the Russian Federation on the basis of general, equal and direct vote by secret ballot.
And Article 81 states
• Paragraph 3 No one person shall hold the office of President of the Russian Federation for more than two terms in succession.
Vedomosti, Russian business daily, reported that Putin's spokesman denied that the term extension was linked to Putin's return.
It is a weakness in the Russian constitution that it is possible to change the constitution within the offices of the legislature without recourse to the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court.
The constitution states under Chapter 9. Constitutional Amendments and Revisions Article 135,
• Paragraph 4: In the event a proposal to revise any provisions of the Constitution of the Russian Federation shall be supported by three-fifths of the total number of deputies of the Federation Council and the State Duma.
There IS a Constitutional Court but its powers are limited to compliance, jurisdiction, and interpretation.
The constitution states under Chapter 7. Judiciary, Article 125.
• Paragragh 2. The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation shall resolve cases about compliance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation
• Paragraph 3 …shall resolve disputes over jurisdiction
• Paragraph 5 …shall interpret the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
There IS a Supreme Court but its role is restricted to non-constitutional matters (UNLIKE the United States Supreme Court, but LIKE the Supreme Court to be introduced in the Kingdom in 2009 under Blair’s initiative)
Article 126.of Chapter 7 states:
• The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation shall be the highest judiciary body on civil, criminal, administrative and other matters triable by general jurisdiction courts, and shall effect judiciary supervision over their activity in line with federal procedural forms and shall offer explanations on judicial practice issues.
Whilst the Constitution of the Russian Federation has many virtues and is admirably clear, the ability of the legislature to take charge of constitutional changes (albeit with more stringent majorities than necessary to pass statutes) is a weakness.
With the writing of the British Republican Constitution the idea of a Supreme Court with more powerful authority over changes to the constitution should be carefully considered. The whole principle of a Republic in which the Constitution is the ultimate authority is something the American Founding Fathers were supremely aware of which is why they gave such emphasis to the Supreme Court
Meanwhile, in Russia, aside from the question of Putin returning to the office of President, we may judge that a six year presidential term is altogether more practical that the American four year term and so the change is justified.
In considering the length of presidential term it is fundamental that it should not be of the same length as that of the Legislature, which is, in the Russian case, the Duma
As stated in The Constitution of the Russian Federation, Chapter 5. The Federal Assembly, Article 96.
• Paragraph 1. The State Duma shall be elected for a term of four years.
This fact alone argues for a six year term for the Presidency, as the staggering of the election for the two state institutions leads to a greater Separation of Powers.
The Russian Duma has said there was nothing undemocratic about a six-year presidential term, but opposition leader Boris Nemtsov called the plan "extremely dangerous."
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…….Until next week