The intrigue of the constitutional reform: what will the State Council be like?

The intrigue of the constitutional reform: what will the State Council be like?
News

10 September , 08:57
Politics
Photo: kremlin.ru
After seven days of voting on amendments to the Constitution this summer, experts are wondering what will become of the amendments, for which 78% of voters voted. One of the amendments was the introduction to the Constitution of the State Council. What will be his future fate, Novye Izvestia examined.

Yelena Ivanova, Natalia Seibil

On July 4, 2020, the State Council of the Russian Federation finally acquired constitutional status. Created by a presidential decree in 2000 as a "strategic political body", according to President Putin's definition, it never received any higher consulting functions. Following the suppression of governors in 2004, the State Council was offered as a consolation prize to regional chiefs to maintain their status at the federal level.

- His idea, when it appeared, was that the heads of regions would no longer be included in the Federation Council, and they were given a kind of substitute institution - an advisory body under the president, consisting of governors. Such a little candy. He existed in this regime. When the Constitution was changed, many things that actually existed were brought to the constitutional level, - says Professor, Doctor of Political Science Yuliy Nisnevich.

The State Council has always had only advisory functions. At the beginning of this year, political maneuvers began around him.

- In the beginning, it was about the fact that it was necessary to resolve the issue of the transit scenario. One of the options was the State Council. The incumbent president had to go somewhere, to some government body. Various options were considered: the Security Council, the State Council. The problem immediately arose that the State Council was too large a body. It cannot be turned into a "politburo", a body that sits at one table. Then the idea of an analogue of the Politburo - the Presidium of the State Council, arose, including additional figures, - says political scientist, vice-president of the Center for Political Technologies Foundation Alexey Makarkin.

At the beginning of the year, experts were arguing over which body Vladimir Putin will head after 2024, when his powers expire - the State Council or the Security Council. The dispute is gone, because under the new amendments, the current president can remain in power even until 2036, even longer. But the theme of the State Council remained. An amendment to the Constitution has been adopted on it, which means that a constitutional law must be adopted.

- We are really waiting for the introduction of this bill during the autumn session of the State Duma, and so far it is an absolute pig in a poke. The phrase that entered the Constitution can mean anything you want. We can see a framework law that will leave the State Council with the symbolic body that it is now, and we can see a new "Politburo" that will exercise part of the powers that now belong to the president, as well as any option between the two, ”said the political scientist, associate professor Yekaterina Shulman, Chair of the Department of Public Administration and Public Policy, Institute of Social Sciences, RANEPA.

The intrigue is in what functions the State Council will be given. While rumors are leaking from behind the Kremlin wall that nothing supernatural will happen, the steam locomotive will remain "on the side track". In other words, the State Council will remain in its advisory duties. After all, functions cannot be taken out of thin air, they can only be taken from someone. If additional powers were transferred to the State Council, they could only be taken away from the president, says Yekaterina Shulman, and only in preparation for the transit of power.

- This can be done so that the next president does not have the same power capabilities as the current one. This, I repeat, is one of the possible tools that will make the transfer of power less frightening and safer for the political system. Simply put, it will not be so scary to choose a successor if he does not have the same opportunities as the current head of state.

The main limitation is that it is extremely difficult to endow the State Council with administrative functions, says Aleksey Makarkin.

- Not for that twenty years ago, the governors were removed from the Federation Council, where they could vote according to laws, in order to then expand their powers through the State Council. I think that the point at issue is that the State Council may receive additional consultative opportunities related to the development of strategic directions for the development of Russia for some future. But these will not be administrative or legislative functions.

The State Council is not a useless structure, experts say, since high-ranking officials enter it and get together, and this is also important. Yekaterina Shulman recalls that the State Council has working groups. In some situations, they become instruments of power, as was the case during the pandemic. The group, led by Moscow Mayor Sobyanin, has become one of the headquarters to fight the pandemic.

Nobody has yet seen the text of the new bill on the State Council. Observers remind that the introduction of the bill to the Duma, and especially the introduction of amendments in the second reading, takes place in the Russian Federation according to the laws of a special operation, so it is possible that we will still be very surprised. But if the State Council is really strengthened, political competition with the Security Council will inevitably increase. Alexey Makarkin puts on the Security Council:

- The Security Council is clearly more influential for the reason that its members gather from time to time to meet with each other. The President periodically gathers permanent members, discusses with them issues of domestic and foreign policy. And this is significant. And who will be a member of the Presidium of the State Council is, of course, interesting, but more important is how often this presidium will meet, what attention will be paid to it, what issues will be discussed there. If the issues of strategic development of the country, then the impact will not be very large. If current issues, then perhaps the impact will increase.

When the State Council had the status of an advisory body, they advised, and the president made a decision. The new functionality says that the president forms the State Council, it becomes not quite an advisory, but an advisory body, like the Security Council under the president. Apparently, now they are trying to separate the functions of the Security Council and the State Council so that they do not compete, says Yuliy Nisnevich.

- I think, as in the case of the Security Council, all decisions of the State Council will be formalized by presidential decrees. It may turn out to be quite an influential body, but they themselves did not fully understand when this idea arose. They created a body endowed with a high level of authority, what they wanted to invest there is not yet clear. There were different views and approaches. Apparently, it has now been decided to keep it in the form of an influential body that does not compete with the Security Council.

Experts point out that there was an idea to make the State Council a new Politburo. Therefore, the idea of including officials of control structures, the Prosecutor General was considered. The importance of such bodies depends on the composition of the participants. If all the top officials of the Security Council, the State Duma, and the Federation Council are included, this is one story. If some governors remain there, plus Matvienko, then another, says Yuliy Nisnevich:

- Please note that the wording about the State Council is recorded in the powers of the president. Moreover, directly. One of the old controversial discussions about the Constitution in the last edition is the main directions of foreign policy. Are these directions developed by the team or not by the team? It is very characteristic that in the new version of the Constitution, the powers of the president are not only transferred, but a body is created that will prepare the president's decisions on these issues. Then the State Council can turn out to be a very influential body.

More meaningful conclusions can be drawn when the text of the law appears. It is not yet there, which means that internal processes are still underway, and the final decision on what to do with this body has not been made. All the experts we interviewed agree on this.

- We will follow with special attention the stage of the second reading of the draft law, because, according to many years of experience in the Duma legislative activity, we know that it is by the second reading that significant amendments appear that can significantly change the meaning of the draft, as was the case with the amendments to the Constitution themselves, - says Yekaterina Shulman.

Alexey Makarkin agrees with her. Anything can happen between the first and second reading. In a high degree of probability, the State Council will be headed by a president. But otherwise, the intrigue will persist until the very end. The only question is how significant this intrigue is.

The first meeting took place on November 22, 2000. The agenda of the meeting was “On the strategy of state development for the period up to 2010 ”. Opening the meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the State Council should become a strategic political body, and this is the fundamental difference between this structure and other state bodies.

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