Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Putin proposes parliamentary reform

Vladimir Putin has submitted a bill to reform the upper house of the Russian parliament (AP)

President Vladimir Putin has submitted a bill that would change how the upper house of the Russian parliament is formed, a move he said would make it more democratic but which critics said would not change the body's role as an obedient tool of the Kremlin.

Under the current system, the Federation Council is made up of randomly chosen former officials or rich businessmen with government links, with two representatives for each of Russia's 87 regions.

Mr Putin's bill will have candidates for provincial governors publicly name their choice for an upper house member from the region ahead of local elections.

The second candidate for each province should be a member of its legislature, Mr Putin said.

The bill requires approval from the lower house of parliament as well as the Federation Council itself. Given both bodies' genuflection to Mr Putin, it is all but certain to quickly pass.

Mr Putin won a third presidential term in March's election despite a wave of massive protests in Moscow against his rule.

He has approved a series of political reforms supposedly aimed at making Russia's tightly controlled political system more democratic. The opposition has dismissed the changes as window dressing that would not weaken Mr Putin's steely grip on power.

Alexander Kynev, an independent political expert, was quoted by the online Gazeta.ru as saying that the upper house's make-up would continue to depend on political manipulations and not the people's will.

"As before, the house will be formed not by the voters but through some strange procedures," he said.

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