Putin proposes longtime ally as new Duma speaker, calls for urgent session

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and First Deputy of the Presidential Executive Office during a meeting in the Kremlin with newly elected heads of the regions, September 23, 2016. © Sergey Guneev
Vladimir Putin has asked Russian lawmakers to elect Vyacheslav Volodin – the first deputy head of the presidential administration – as the new State Duma speaker. Putin told officials to gather for the first session of the new parliament before October 5.

At the Friday meeting between the president, parliamentary party leaders and election officials, Putin reminded those present that a day earlier he had appointed former State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin as the new head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR.

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Putin said that he, together with the leader of the United Russia party, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, intended to recommend that the parliamentary majority party elect Volodin to the post vacated by Naryshkin.

Putin emphasized however that the final decision had to be made by lawmakers themselves.

Volodin, 52, has served as first deputy head of the presidential administration since December 2011. His responsibilities include organizing the head of state’s interaction with his staff and various other Russian political parties, forces and personalities. In 2010-2011 Volodin worked as the head of staff for Putin, who at that time was PM. Between 1999 and 2010 Volodin held a seat in the State Duma on the ticket of the centrist-conservative pro-Putin United Russia (Volodin occupied top posts in the party and was deputy speaker in the State Duma after the 2003 and 2007 polls).

Vyacheslav Volodin, First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office, seen here prior to Russian President Vladimir Putin's meeting in the Kremlin with leaders of the parties elected to the State Duma. © Sergey Guneev

The head of the United Russia caucus in the newly-elected State Duma, Vladimir Vasilyev, said that the party would support Putin’s proposal.

The president also asked lower house MPs to start work in the new parliamentary body no later than October 5. According to Russian law, the State Duma must start holding sessions no later than 30 days after the election date, but the law also allows the head of the state to call an urgent parliamentary session before this period expires.

The current urgency is most likely caused by the necessity for the newly-elected Duma to pass the 2017 state budget as soon as possible – the previous composition of the lower house was dissolved early for technical reasons and had no time to complete the task.

At the same meeting, the head of Russian Central Elections Committee, Ella Pamfilova, called the latest polls “the most complicated in modern Russian history” due to their sheer size, and told reporters that the violations uncovered were too few and insignificant to challenge the results of the elections.

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This was the most large-scale and complicated campaign in the whole electoral history of Russia because it combined over 5,300 campaigns of various levels,” Pamfilova said. “In general, the number and nature of the complaints cannot affect the legitimacy of the elections. Of course, we started working at full swing and held this unprecedentedly complicated campaign in just five months and two weeks. We had our blunders and mistakes, I can see them. We will work to correct them and we must mind every single one,” she added.

At the same time, the official admitted that some of the reported violations appeared to be serious, and that all materials about them had been submitted to the Prosecutor General’s Office. She added that all those involved would be punished.

Pamfilova also said that she personally considered the very low turnout at Sunday’s polls to be the result of a poor information campaign in the Russian regions.

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According to the recently released results of the ballot count, United Russia will get 343 seats in the 450-seat lower house, the Communists got 42 seats, the Liberal-Democratic Party got 39 and 23 went for center-left party Fair Russia. Representatives of the Motherland and the Civil Platform parties received one place each through elections in independent constituencies and one seat went to an independent candidate.