Sunday, June 24, 2018
Staunton, April 24 – There is a minor boomlet in the Russian media for reforming and expanding the role of the Russian Sate Council Vladimir Putin created earlier so as to create a kind of “Central Committee of the ruling party like the CPSU Central Committee,” and thus create a position in which the current Kremlin leader could rule for life.
That is the judgment of the editors of the Censoru.net portal which notes that all of a sudden, “several Russian outlets report that the administration for supporting the State Council may be headed by Aleksandr Kharichev, a figure close to the Presidential Administration’s Sergey Kiriyenko (censoru.net/27711-v-rossii-pridumali-kak-putinu-carstvovat-vechno.html).
The portal notes that Kiriyenko’s authority was broadened in the wake of the March elections, and many say that “now one of his main tasks is the preparation go decisions that will allow Putin to remain in power after 2024.” According to some, “the State Council could play a significant role in this process.”
“The creation of the State Council was one of the first administrative reforms of Vladimir Putin in the position of president of Russia,” the result of a compromise with heads of the regions after he ousted them from the Federation Council. Instead, as of September 1, all of them were to become members of a State Council.
The body had its first meeting on November 22, 2000, at which time Putin said that the State Council should become ‘the single space’ for the discussion of the political strategy of the country.” But the meeting was held in the Kremlin underscoring that it was a presidential body, not one the governors had formed on their own.
In 2008, the portal continues, then incoming President Dmitry Medvedev created within his administration a separate body to support the State Council. But both under him and under Putin, it has been “only an advisory body which does not have any real powers,” as Putin himself made clear from the beginning.
The State Council isn’t mentioned in the Constitution, and its role became further diminished in 2005 when Putin abolished elections for heads of the federal subjects. Initially, it met four times a year; but since 2015, it has assembled only twice annually. Over time, it has come to include many who aren’t governors.
In 2007, Putin added scholars and administrators to the body; and in 2012, he included representatives of each of the party factions in the State Duma as well as the presidential plenipotentiaries in the regions. Some analysts have suggested, the portal continues, that this expansion reduced the influence of the State Council on the Kremlin even more.
Many have suggested that the body could be disbanded without any loss, but others have promoted the idea that it could serve as a place from which Putin could continue to exercise power even if he left the presidency.
“Because Putin has many times promised not to change the constitution, the State Council seems a possible and suitable variant” toward that end. Two years ago, MGIMO professor and commentator Vlaery Solovey suggested that Putin could cease to be president but run the country as head of the State Council.
If that happened, he and others have suggested, the office of Russian president would have “exclusively representational functions. Solovey initially suggested this could happen in 2018. But when Putin ran and won again, he said that it could happen after 2024 because Putin can’t run again without changing or violating the constitution.
Should Putin elect to go in this direction, the portal argues, he would be following the Chinese example, a country whose system has often provided ideas to Moscow. Or he might pick up on the way in which Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev has, getting himself named national leader and lifetime president of his country’s National Security Council.
“Putin could be guided by the Chinese and Kazakhstan experience and become a lifetime head of the Russian State Council and informal head of the government,” Censoru.net says. But there might be problems because the role of the president which is defined by the constitution would have to be much reduced. That could be a problem.