Staunton, March 17 – The Russian Federation has become a meaningless vestigial body the country could easily do without, Andrey Kamakin says. It no longer plays the role the 1993 Constitution envisaged for it and that it played until the early years of Putin’s rule, and it costs taxpayers seven billion rubles (100 million US dollars) a year.
Few Russians pay any attention to what goes on at its meetings or to changes in its leadership, the Moskovsky komsomolets commentator says; and they have increasingly good reasons to ignore it (mk.ru/politics/2021/03/17/zachem-nam-kuznec-nuzhna-li-rossii-verkhnyaya-palata-parlamenta.html).
There is “a simple reason” for their lack of interest: the Federation Council has long ago ceased to influence the fate of the Motherland.
Set up by the Yeltsin constitution of 1993 as an echo of the bicameral legislature of the USSR and as “an additional legislative filter” against potentially rash actions by the Duma, it initially performed as expected but hasn’t for many years.
Between 1996 and 1999, the Duma adopted 1045 laws and the Federation Council rejected 254 or 24.3 percent, “practically every fourth. But then things began to change. Between 2000 and 2003, the Duma passed 781 bills, and the upper chamber rejected only 71 (9.1 percent). And since October 2020, the Duma has passed 2372 measures, but the upper chamber has rejected only seven – or 0.295 percent.
Of course, the Federation Council has additional duties: It confirms members of the Constitutional and Supreme Court as well as the head of the Accounting Chamber as well as half of his deputies and sanctions their removal. But it has never rejected any candidate proposed by the Kremlin.
What does the country need with such a rubber stamp body? “The question is rhetorical,” Kamakin says. Russia could easily get along without it and save money in the process. But the Moscow commentator does not address two factors that likely will play a larger role in any Kremlin decision to do away with the Federation Council.
On the one hand, Vladimir Putin almost certainly views the Federation Council as a useful sinecure for officials he has forced out of other positions. If it did not exist, something like that would have to be invented. But on the other, he might welcome disbanding a body that symbolizes at least for some the idea that Russia is a federation.
But getting rid of the Federation Council would require a constitutional amendment, and the difficulties inherent in such a process are probably the most likely reason that despite the compelling nature of Kamakin’s arguments, few at the top of the Russian power vertical will have any stomach for that anytime soon.