Thursday, December 13, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Shaymiyev Calls for a Kind of Concurrent Majority System on Legislation Affecting Non-Russian Nationalities

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 13 – Mintimir Shaymiyev, the former president of Tatarstan and the most influential non-Russian leader in the Russian Federation, says that legislation affecting the non-Russians needs to be considered in a special way so that they will not always be outvoted by the ethnic Russian majority.

            According to the current state counselor of Tatarstan, “it is impossible by a simple vote in the State Duma to defend the interests of the national republics because there are always fewer [of them] and [they] cannot count even on a simple majority.” That is “an injustice,” he said, and must be remedied by “the participation of the representatives of the national republics” in Duma deliberations about legislation affecting the republics (

            Shaymiyev pointed out that there existed a chamber of nationalities in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and that that body was charged with considering “the interests affecting various peoples.”  Such an approach would be “appropriate now,” he said, in order to “exclude the possibility of the adoption of laws which could increase tensions in society.”

            While acknowledging that his proposal might spark “hot discussions,” Shaymiyev said that he had been encouraged by the reaction of President Vladimir Putin when the two met earlier this week.  But Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, denied that there had been any serious discussion of this proposal between the two officials.

             Duma deputies told “Kommersant” that they did not understand what Shaymiyev was suggesting about some kind of “special order of developing and adopting laws” affecting the non-Russian peoples.  Gadzhimet Safaraliyev, head of the Duma’s nationality policy committee, said that no such order was anticipated by the Constitution.

            The Daghestani deputy agreed that the views of nationalities and regions should always be taken into account when legislation is being discussed, but he insisted that Duma deputies already do that. Consequently, Safaraliyev said, there is no reason to accept Shaymiyev’s proposal.

            Mikhail Starshinov, the first deputy chairman of the Duma’s nationality policy committee, said that “the very idea of creating some kind of [officially recognized] nationality lobby contradicts good sense” (

            Aleksandr Kynyev, a political scientists, was even more dismissive of any suggestion that the national republics are not able to defend their interests in the Duma. “The present electoral system is extremely favorable” for them, he said, and they have more deputies relative to population than do other groups.

            He suggested that Shaymiyev’s proposal was simply another effort by the former Tatarstan leader to lobby Moscow, noting that last month, the Tatarstan counselor criticized the federal authorities for filing to observe the Constitution’s division of powers and the rights of the republics.

            Despite these comments, Shaymiyev’s proposal, even if it is unlikely to secure the backing of officials at the center, is certain to garner support in the non-Russian republics because the central Russian government has been riding roughshod over their interests over the last several years.

            And indeed, the former Tatarstan president’s proposal, the latest in many ideas he has put forward in the past, falls well within ideas about the creation of systems requiring concurrent majorities in order to protect the rights of those who would otherwise not be able to defend themselves except by withdrawing from the existing political system.

            Because that option is something that at least some in the republics once again think should be on the table, it is entirely possible that at least a few Moscow officials will be willing to consider Shaymiyev’s idea as the kind of compromise that could help hold the Russian Federation together.

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