Elections to State Duma postponed to 2016
On June 15, Russian Government approved the draft law on postponement of Parliamentary Elections and now the draft is transferred to the State Duma. The next Election to the Russian Parliament could be held on the third Sunday of September - 18 September, not December 4, 2016, as it was planned.
Under the Constitution, the State Duma shall be elected for a term of five years; the powers of the acting Parliament shall terminate from the start of the new Parliament. However, the Constitution does not provision the mechanism of Duma self-dissolution. It stipulates only the procedure for the dissolution of the Lower Chamber of Parliament in case of its conflict with the government. It is impossible to shorten the MPs term of office without amending the Constitution.
The initiators of postponement of Election to the State Duma and disputes over the new Election date
The question of the postponement of Parliamentary Election date was raised in the middle of May 2015.
May 19 - As the leadership of the State Duma informed ‘Izvestia’, Vladimir Zhirinovsky initiated the postponement of Election the State Duma from December to September of 2016. This is due to the optimization of budget expenditures for the elections - to carry out all election campaigns in September, before the single day of voting is held. /’Izvestia’/
May 20 – V. Zhirinovsky: ‘We, the Members of Parliament, declare the self-dissolution in June 2016, and the next day the President will issue a decree on holding the Election to the State Duma on September 11’. / Rusnovosti /
June 1 - The postponement of Election to the State Duma from December to September of 2016 – ‘question is almost solved’. Three factions - ‘Just Russia’, LDPR and ‘United Russia’ - spoke in favor of the single voting day (the second Sunday of September). The Communist Party insisted on the last Sunday of September or the first Sunday in October. /’Izvestia’/
Offers considered. Chronology
May 19 – MPs were notified about the likely postponement of Election to the State Duma from December to September of 2016. Yuri Shuvalov (the head of Public Relations of the State Duma) stated that the discussions on Election postponement are indeed ongoing. The representative of the President Office in the State Duma Garry Minh affirmed ‘such rumors’. /RBC /
May 20 - The Committee of Constitutional Legislation and State Development of State Duma holds no ‘ready-to-adopt proposals’ for postponement the Election to State Duma. The Committee Chairman Vladimir Pligin announced that the term of office of State Duma is provisioned in the Constitution. /TASS/
The Kremlin has distanced itself from the discussions. The President's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov: ‘As long as we understand, a discussion is ongoing in the State Duma. We are not part of this discussion’. /’Vedomosti’/.
May 21 - The chairman of State Duma Sergei Naryshkin referred to the postponement of the Election Day to the first Sunday of September as reasonable and possible.
The head of RF CEC Vladimir Churov: ‘If it is another date (of Election to the State Duma), just the same elections will be held and the same amount of money will be spent. Under the current law, in December 2016 not only the Election to the State Duma should be held, but the other type of elections as well, that means the single day of voting shall be postponed to December’. /’Kommersant’/
May 29 – The Chairman of Federation Council Valentina Matvienko ‘supports the proposal that all the elections are held on a single day of voting’. ‘The postponement is legally justified’, - stated Matvienko, but the decision must be taken by ‘the State Duma’. /’Kommersant’/
Three factions of the State Duma, except the Communist Party, signed a draft law on postponement of the Election to the Duma from December to September of 2016. Gennady Zyuganov announced that the postponement of Election to the State Duma would not condition any savings and that he was against the postponement of Election to the first half of September.
The Constitutional Court is ready to issue a ruling, but there is no request submitted yet
May 29 – ‘We simply propose to postpone the date from December to September, as there are no provisions stipulating that the elections should be held strictly in December’, - said the vice-speaker representing the LDPR Igor Lebedev. /TASS/
The politician did not confirm to the news agency that the MPs submitted a request for clarification whether it was legitimate to postpone the Elections to the Constitutional Court. Neither the chairman of the Constitutional Court Valery Zorkin confirmed that.
Zorkin informed ‘Vedomosti’ that he knew nothing about it and that he spoke with two chairmen of comittees, but ‘no one said a word to him on this subject’. ‘If there is request, we will consider it’.
June 1 – The ‘United Russia’ source: there is no need for amendments to the Constitution. Constitutional provisions contain ‘a loophole’, while the Law on Elections to the State Duma can be amended by transferring the provisions of the Law on Single Day of Voting to it. As a result, the goal to postpone the Election to the State Duma to September would be achieved. /’Vedomosti’/
The postponement of Election, according to Vladimir Vasilyev (the leader of the faction ‘United Russia’ in the State Duma), is a technical question. Otherwise, almost half a year - from the summer of 2016 and, in fact, until January 2017 – ‘the ordinary parliamentary work would be disrupted’, the majority of parliamentarians would be running the election campaign, including the election in single-member constituencies, what would lead to the fact that they would simply not be engaged in their parliamentary work at the State Duma during the autumn session of the next year’. /’Kommersant’/
Sergei Naryshkin (Chairman of the State Duma) emphasized that there is a legal basis for the postponement of Election to the State Duma. The Parliament will discuss the budget for next year. ‘It is not contrary to the Constitution, but it should be legitimate’. /TASS/
June 2 - The vice-speaker representing the LDPR Igor Lebedev informed TASS that all the parliamentary factions ‘reached a compromise’ and ‘elections will be held on the third Sunday of September’.
An hour later, Gennady Zyuganov denied Lebedev’s statement.
June 9 – The State Duma MP Dmitry Gudkov (member of the faction ‘Just Russia’ but in fact suspended from work in it) addressed the request to Gennady Zyuganov to collect signatures supporting the Communists’ request to the Constitutional Court. Gudkov believes that this advance request will answer the question, whether it is legitimate to reduce the powers of the State Duma for the sake of Elections in September.
Nikolai Konkin (Secretary of CEC): ‘The only concern today that may cause some additional expenses, it is polling in the areas that are hardly accessible. The districts, where in winter you can drive a snowmobile, transport with wheels, cartage, in September you will have to take a helicopters or water transport’. /TASS/
June 10 - Igor Lebedev stated the bill will stipulate that the provisions apply only to the Election to the Lower Chamber ‘of the seventh convocation’. The draft law as well excludes a possibility of combining Regional Elections and Elections to the State Duma. According to the vice-speaker, in such a case there is no need for constitutional amendment. /’Kommersant’/
June 11 - Igor Lebedev announced that the draft law on postponement of the Parliamentary Election from December to September of 2016 is submitted to the State Duma. The draft law is transferred to the Cabinet for the review.
June 11, 21:26 - According to the data of electronic legislation system, the draft law ‘On Amendments to the Federal Law ‘On Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Right to participate in a Referendum of Citizens of the Russian Federation’ was registered and forwarded to the Chairman of the State Duma.
June 14 - Vladimir Pligin (UR, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Development) reported that the draft law on postponement of the Parliamentary Election indicates that 30 days after the election, the new State Duma must hold its first meeting, but the President is entitled to initiate the meeting of the Chamber earlier - in this case the powers of MPs would terminate earlier as well. /RBC/
June 15 - Dmitry Vyatkin (UR, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Development) explained that the Parliament is not dissolved, and nobody leaves office earlier. ‘The Elections will be held and the powers of the MPS will terminate from the start of the new Parliament. We do not mean any resignation’. Moreover no ‘golden parachutes’ will be used in order to postpone the Election.
The State Duma Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Development supported the Chamber draft request to the Constitutional Court regarding the postponement of the Parliamentary Elections. The Federation Council cannot approve the draft before the ruling of Constitutional Court is issued. /’Rossiyskaya Gazeta’/
The draft Law on the Elections scheduled for September 2016 is submitted to the State Duma. Respective amendments are made to the Federal Law on Elections to the State Duma. /’Interfax’/
The Federation Council will submit the request to postpone the Election to the State Duma to the Constitutional Court. /RBC/
June 16 - The State Duma removed from the agenda the request to the Constitutional Court in regard to postponement of the Election. MPs expect that the Federation Council will submit the request. /RIA Novosti/
The Committee on Constitutional Law has discussed the draft law on early Election to the State Duma and has approved it; morever the committee has recommended the Lower House of Parliament to support it in the first reading. /’Kommersant’/
In response to the decision of the Committee, the head of the legal service of the Communist Party Vadim Solovyov stated that the Communist Party would not support this draft law due to the following reasons: the Constitution is the supreme law, the laws should not contradict it and the term of office of State Duma is five years. According to the MP, the Constitution is subject to amendments, the rights and freedoms might be limited. Moroever Solovyov announced that he is ready to apply to the ECHR. /’Vedomosti’/
The Liberal Democratic Party has in advanced prepared an amendment abolishing ‘golden parachutes’ of MPs. /RBC/
June 16 - The head of the Russia’s President Office Sergei Ivanov: ‘It is not the business of the Kremlin; it is the subject of Duma, the Federation Council, as a neutral institution, should now send a request to the Constitutional Court’. /TASS/
The question of violation of the Rules of State Duma by the initiators of the proposal was included in the agenda of round table ‘Choosing the optimal date for Federal, Regional and Local elections in the interest of voters’.
19 June - in the first reading the State Duma approved a bill to postpone the elections. 339 deputies voted "for", 101 voted "against", 1 refrained. /RBC/
Opinions of experts and journalists
‘Can the government postpone the Election to the State Duma?’ /Kartoteka ‘Medusa’/
May 21 - Experts evaluated the plan to postpone the Elections to the State Duma: ‘it is not a violation of law, but the violation of common sense’. /MK/
May 24 - Why do the authorities want to postpone the election campaign? A game in decreasing the turnout, the election in single-member constituencies, uncertainty of government and other experts’ assumptions presented in the publications. /Andrey Vinokurov, ‘Gazeta.ru’/
May 25 - The political scientist Alexander Kanev published an article where he is sorting out who urge for the postponement of the Election to State Duma. ‘The fact of election postponement implies a scandal, despite any public justifications. It undermines the stability and credibility of political system’, - writes the expert. The text of the article ‘Postponement of the Election: diagnosis of the system or a way to earn’ posted on the website of Forbes.
May 28 – The Constitution still prevents from the postponement of Election to the State Duma. /Yakterina Dyatlovsky, ‘Novye Izvestiya’/
May 30 - The board co-chair of the movement ‘Golos’ Grigory Melkonyants: ‘It is surpirising, but the opposition can benefit from the postponement of Parliamentary Election’. /TV Channel ‘Dozhd’/
June 1 - How the election campaign and the composition of State Duma could change, if the upcoming election is postponed to September. /Elizabeta Surnacheva, ‘Kommersant-Vlast’/
June 2 – ‘It is all about slyness, five years – it means five calendar years, that is five times 365 days, and not less, not more’, - the ‘Vedomosti’ quotes the professor of the Higher School of Economics, the expert of Constitutional Law Elena Lukyanova. ‘Things that they came up with and made up’ over the postponement of Elections could be referred to as ‘if you are not allowed to but you want a lot - you are permitted’, though it disrespects the Constitution.
June 15 – ‘It is a rape of the Constitution’. MP Dmitry Gudkov on the postponement of Parliamentary Elections. /TV Channel ‘Dozhd’/
The Court ruling could be perceived as a planned foregone outcome based on the Kremlin scenario, according to the ‘Vedomosti’ experts.
June 17 - Arkady Lyubarev (PhD in Law, expert in Election Law, expert of Civil Initiatives Committee, board co-chairman of the movement ‘Golos’): ‘September is inconvenient month from all points of view for the work of election commissions as well as for the election campaign ... If we consider that mainly teachers compose the election commissions and in the first half of September the school year begins, they are the least interested in the election ... Moreover the election campaign would be held in the summer months, when the voters are not at home, meaningless campaing. Those who exercized administrative resources would enjoy obvious advantage ... Budget Code provisions that the State Duma should start hearings on the Budget since 1 October. If the Election is held on the third week of September, the State Duma will not meet before October...’. /Committee of Civil Initiatives/
June 17 – ‘The draft law on postponement of Election to the State Duma from December to September of 2016 violates the Constitution of the Russian Federation. Legal arguments in favor of such a postponement were perceived as unjustified ... actually our country has long time ago undermined the political expediency ... the postponement of Election to the State Duma to September wil not lead to any budgetary savings, but it will result in an increase of budgetary expenditures, in particular on ‘golden parachutes’ for MPs, who will not be elected to the next Election to the State Duma. According to another opinion, the Election held in September would cost more, in particular, due to the high transport costs ... Replacing two days of voting with one leads to deprofessionalization of elections ... ‘. /Discussions at the round table ‘Choosing the optimal date for Federal, Regional and Local Elections in the interest of the voters’/