Staunton, February 1 – A new law, pushed by United Russia, allows deputies in regional parliaments to operate their own businesses even while serving in the legislatures, distances them even further from the population and makes them even less representative of the population and more part of the power vertical than before.
Olga Slabada of Svobodnaya pressa spoke with people in three Russian oblasts (Vladimir, Voronezh, and Ryazan), all of whom suggested that this law by itself will have “significant negative consequences” for the way in which local parliaments will operate (svpressa.ru/politic/article/255996/).
Many regional politicians are concerned about how the law will be applied with most convinced that new legislation will be necessary to ensure that no deputy is working full time for a business. And some are worried that such activities will be used to dissolve the parliaments because so many deputies will take advantage of that.
But cooler heads say, Slabada reports, that since most regional parliaments are elected on a party list basis, if one representative is ousted, he or she will simply be replaced by the next person down on the list. More seriously, however, if deputies have yet more outside income, they will be even less responsive to the voters.
Instead of seeing the voters as the source of their income and thus listening to them, the journalist suggests, the deputies will see businesses as being the primary basis of their wealth – and will defer to higher level authorities who have powers over businesses than ordinary citizens typically do not.
While Slabada does not say so, her report indicates that the leverage the Kremlin already exercises over deputies in the State Duma is being extended in this way to the regional parliaments, creating a separate caste of deputies dependent on the approval of the powers that be rather than on the people who nominally elected them.