Russian President Vladimir Putin submitted a bill to parliament on Wednesday bringing reform to the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament.
“A draft law on new principles for forming the Federation Council has been submitted to parliament,” he said.
The Federation Council “should become more democratic, and the upper house itself should become more ‘regional’ in terms of its structure, if we can say so,” Putin said in an address to the Federation Council.
The bill proposes that a candidate for governor will have to designate three candidates during his election campaign. The winner will be obliged to appoint one of the candidatures as his representative in the upper house. In addition, Federation Council members will be chosen from among the deputies of regional parliaments.
“The process of reforming the upper house will be gradual; it will take place simultaneously with the elections of governors and elections to regional legislative assemblies,” Putin said. “This is completely in accordance with the logic of our political system as a whole,” he added.
Russia needs to completely abandon the existing practice in the Federation Council where people who are not connected to a region can end up representing it, he said.
“A future Federation Council member should permanently reside in a constituent territory of the Federation for five years prior to his nomination, or should hold a public office or position in the civil service of a constituent territory of the Russian Federation,” Putin said.
The new bill will also reduce the age at which Russians can be elected to the upper house of parliament to 21 rather than 30.
Putin ruled out any direct election of regional governors however, saying it would contravene Russia’s constitution.
“It is written in the constitution that the Federation Council consists of representatives of the executive and legislative branches of authority, and there is nothing there about it being created by voters,” he said.
It would therefore be necessary to rewrite to constitution to introduce such a concept, he said.
‘I don’t think that at present we should do this, but generally, in future it could be possible,” he said.
Putin declined to lend his support to a proposal that upper house members be empowered to suspend federal laws that are in conflict with regional interests.
Putin said the bill on Federation Council elections did not preclude the possibility of “criminal structures” behind a winning governor getting into the upper house but that threat was “neutralized” by the transparency of the competitive process.
“That threat does exist,” he said, “and the State Duma should think about additional protective mechanisms.”