Staunton, June 18 – Three days ago, Vladimir Putin did something unusual for him: he vetoed a measure passed by the Federal Assembly where parties backing and controlled by him enjoy super majorities. While Boris Yeltsin used his veto power relatively often, the current Kremlin leader has used his less and less. He simply doesn’t need to.
Putin vetoed a measure that would have held the editors of any publication responsible for publications of materials deemed outside the law and without any time limits. That could mean that some future editor could be held responsible for actions of his predecessors even if he had nothing to do with them.
Some may be inclined to credit Putin with a certain liberalism in this case, but the more probable explanation is that he wants to protect his loyalists he may impose on media outlets from prosecution because of what their predecessors may have done. If that is the case, his move is far from liberal (svoboda.org/a/31314220.html).
But Putin’s action, however rare, raises the issue of his veto powers; and Anastasya Melnikova of the Znak news agency provides a useful description of what those powers look like as well as a guide to how often they have been used by Putin and his predecessor (znak.com/2021-06-8/na_kakie_zakony_putin_nakladyval_veto_i_kak_rabotaet_eta_procedura).
According to Article 107 of the Russian Constitution, the president has the right to veto a law within 14 days of its passage by the Federal Assembly. If he does, the two chambers can reconsider it and override his veto if at least two-thirds of their members so decide.
If they vote to override, however, the Russian president has an additional way to block their actions. Within seven days of such an action, he can appeal to the Constitutional Court for a ruling on the constitutionality of the measure he has vetoed. If the court rules in his favor, the bill goes back to the Federal Assembly; if it doesn’t, he is compelled to sign it.
Melnikova continues: “The president can reject only a federal law; but he cannot do so in the case of a federal constitutional law. Such laws are considered to have been adopted if a majority of the senators (no fewer than three-quarters of their number) and deputies (no fewer than two-thirds of theirs) have voted for them.”
In those cases, the president must sign them within 14 days; but again, he has the option to ask for a review by the Constitutional Court.
During Yeltsin’s tenure and in the early years of Putin’s, vetoes were relatively frequent. There were 257 such actions in the cases of measure adopted by the first through the seventh Dumas. But in recent years, they have become so rare as to be almost irrelevant as a consideration. Before the current action, Putin vetoed measures only in 2016 and 2018.