Credit crunch stalls President’s plan

The financial crisis has hit Dmitry Medvedev’s plans as outlined in the Presidential address to the Federal Assembly. The downturn has turned out to be much deeper than first thought and the consequences are already being felt in the real economy.

The Kremlin had given assurances that all the laws outlined in the speech would be put before parliament within two weeks. However, three weeks have passed and there is still no sign of the new legislation in the State Duma.  

Russian newspaper, the Nezavisimaya Daily, writes that the country’s political problems have been put on the back burner while government officials try to solve the financial crisis.  

In is address, Medvedev had suggested reforming the Upper Chamber and strengthening the role of political parties, including small ones.

He had also put forward measures to strengthen federalism in Russia and improve the country’s judicial system.

The second reading of a new law “providing access to information on the courts activities in the Russian Federation”, brought by the Supreme court in the summer of 2006, was due to go ahead on November 12. 

However this has been put back. Deputies say they are having problems drafting complex articles, which need to be agreed by all those involved in the legislative process.

It is hoped the second reading will be held some time in December.

Deputies have also postponed the second reading of a new law on local elections. The bill on a new mixed system of local elections was approved in the first reading.  The law allows people to vote for a party rather than individual candidates. The party would then decide who takes seats in the Duma.

The newspaper says the ideas outlined in Medvedev’s address were concrete enough to be put into legislation.  The fact remains, however, that it hasn’t happened. 

Deputies say a shift in the authorities’ priorities is the reason for the delay. The government’s focus is directed towards alleviating the effects of the financial crisis. 

The Presidential Administration is now discussing small amendments to the existing electoral system. Among the changes it is planning is a reduction in the number of signatures needed to register a party for elections from 200,000 to 150,000.

One deputy from “United Russia” told the newspaper that these problems have nothing to do with the crisis. Two different groups of people work with political bills and anti-recessionary measures and it is difficult for them to co-ordinate with each other.

Meanwhile, most Russians support the outline of the President’s Address. According to polls, 72 per cent of citizens approve the proposal to strengthen the Duma powers, obliging the government to report annually to deputies.

Sixty-eight per cent of respondents support legislative support which would guarantee media coverage of work done by the parties in the State Duma.

Sixty-two per cent back the right of local councils to dismiss mayors from their posts.

Sixty-one per cent favour the right of the State Duma to involve representatives of NGOs and the Public chamber into discussions of legislative bills.

Forty-eight per cent of Russians supported the President’s plan to allow parties that win between 5 – 7 per cent of the votes in an election one or two deputies in the Duma.

Forty-eight per cent do not object to plans to change party leaders on a regular basis.

However, 30 per cent of Russians are against the idea of decreasing the number of signatures needed before a party can stand for Duma elections.

Twenty-nine per cent are against the appointment of governors only from among the candidates suggested by the winning party in regional elections.

Also, 28 per cent of those asked did not support the idea of decreasing the minimum number of party members demanded for its registration.

Spotlight : Medvedev’s address to nation