Duma speaker surrenders deputy's mandate

Boris Gryzlov (RIA Novosti / Vladimir Fedorenko)
The Speaker of the State Duma of the fifth convocation, Boris Gryzlov, who was recently elected to the lower house again, has surrendered his seat in the parliament.

“Today, I have made a decision to give up my mandate as a deputy. I believe that having worked in the State Duma for eight consecutive years I managed to fulfill a lot of what had been planned with my colleagues,” Gryzlov was quoted as saying by the Duma office for public relations and liaisons with mass media.

"And even though the law does not impose any restrictions, at the moment I am not going to the State Duma, considering it wrong to hold the post of the house chairman for more than two terms in a row,” he said.

Gryzlov said that he would still head the Supreme Council of the United Russia party “and is ready to work in a post that would be defined by the president.”

In the December 4 poll he topped the United Russia election list for the Tula Region.

Gryzlov thanked the voters for their support and assured that all the promises made during the election campaign would be fulfilled.

Earlier this week, following a meeting between President Dmitry Medvedev and the leaders of the four parties represented in the parliament, Gryzlov voiced confidence that a new Duma Speaker would be a member of the United Russia party, saying “there is no other option”.

“The speaker candidacy – is an intrigue that will be kept till the last moment,” the politician noted. “Each political faction has a right to nominate its candidate for this post.”

Gryzlov, who will turn 61 on Thursday, was first elected the Duma speaker in 2003. In 2007, he was re-elected for the second time. He also headed United Russia in the lower house.

United Russia – chaired by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin – got almost 50 per cent of the votes in the recent elections. However, it lost its constitutional majority in the parliament.

Aleksey Makarkin, first vice-president of the Moscow-based Center for Political Technologies, believes that Gryzlov’s decision to surrender his mandate means that the Duma is searching for a speaker who would be capable of having a dialogue with the opposition – which strengthened its representation in the parliament.

“[Gryzlov] isn’t suited to this role,” the analyst told Interfax. “Gryzlov was chairing the Duma in a predictable and comfortable situation when the United Russia party had the constitutional majority. Now the situation is a bit more complicated.”

Meanwhile, Oksana Dmitrieva, the leader of the St. Petersburg branch of the Fair Russia party, believes that a representative of an opposition party should become the new Duma speaker. She told RIA Novosti that the best candidacy would be Sergey Mironov – the leader of her party. Dmitrieva also linked Gryzlov’s decision to the United Russia’s failure at the elections.

Later in the day, Mironov confirmed to Interfax that Fair Russia would suggest his candidacy for the post. At the same time, he noted, his party are realists and understand that United Russia would not allow the opposition to assume the speaker’s chair. In any case, Fair Russia will vote against the majority party’s candidate.

“Since [United Russia] will take the speaker’s post and not give it to anyone else, generally speaking we don’t care who would chair the State Duma,” Mironov added.

Commenting on the news, the Communist party said that Oleg Morozov, a senior member of United Russia and the previous Duma’s deputy-speaker, and Sergey Naryshkin, the head of the Kremlin administration, are the most likely candidates for the now-vacant post.

“But time will tell,” Vladimir Kashin, a KPRF member, told Itar-Tass. He noted that Gryzlov’s decision to surrender his mandate was “a predictable reshuffle.”

The MP characterized the former Duma chairman rather positively. Kashin also pointed out that Gryzlov never lost his temper, and showed the self-control of “a true speaker”. He refused, however, to comment on the political aspect of the move and only noted that Gryzlov was acting in the interests of the United Russia party.

The Liberal-Democratic party, LDPR, has no doubts the new speaker would be a representative of Putin’s party. Even if all the three opposition parties voted against, the United Russia members would still have enough votes to elect their own candidate, the head of the LDPR faction in the lower house, Igor Lebedev, told Interfax.

Gryzlov was not the first high-placed United Russia member to quit parliamentary career right after the elections. Russian President’s press-secretary, Natalya Timakova, said late on Wednesday evening that Dmitry Medvedev, who ran as number one on United Russia’s elections list, filed in an official refusal three days ago.

Earlier in the week Gryzlov said that the president would decide himself who to pass his mandate to.

Radio Echo of Moscow, citing experts, reports that another possible scenario is that Medvedev could leave office before the end of the year. That, they say, would allow Vladimir Putin to stay in power as acting president instead of resigning as prime minister during the presidential campaign.

However, the premier’s press-secretary Dmitry Peskov pointed out that Putin has the right to continue being the head of the government and a presidential candidate at the same time. As for a possible re-shuffle, no comments have followed so far from both Medvedev’s and Putin’s representatives.

The presidential election will be held on March 4, 2012.