Staunton, March 28 – A key problem with the Russian system is that the federal legislature can pass laws on almost anything, thus putting at risk the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens and a reminder that a Rechtsstaat is insufficient to protect the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens, Aleksandr Vvedensky says.
What is essential, the Moscow commentator says, is that the legislators at the center be restricted in the subjects on which they can pass laws so that they do not violate the constitution and be further restricted by federal arrangements that will give regional governments exclusive powers in certain areas (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5C9A7A21197F0).
Unless both things happen, Russia will be able to give the impression of being a state ruled by law but in fact be one in which the laws themselves will be so arbitrary and repressive that individuals will not be able to have any confidence that their rights and freedoms will be protected.
Vvedensky is blunt: “The cause of repressions in the USSR, the cause of the existence at preset of repressive legislation in Russia and the cause of the limitations on democracy lie in the expansive legislative powers of the federal center which seize all spheres of the life of society.” For progress, the center’s legislative powers must be restricted and divided with the regions.
Otherwise, no one will be able to count on laws being a guarantee of rights and freedoms because they can always be used against those rights and freedoms when the powers that be require it.
According to the commentator, that is the lesson of the American experience: The Congress is restricted to a specific list of functions on which it can pass laws and further restricted by powers that are explicitly reserved to the states and the people. Russia must adopt something similar if it hopes to be free.
Vvedensky says that the constitution must enumerate just what legislatures at various levels can and cannot do. He offers such a list but devotes most of his essay to the problems of federalization, convinced that it even more than constitutional restricts can rein in federal legislators intent on passing laws about anything the executive wants.
Federalization requires the breaking up of the power vertical of the federal center and the creation of “local centers of power in the states and municipalities independent of the federal center on the basis of elections.” Too often people think a Rechtsstaat is enough, but Russia’s recent experience shows that not to be the case.