MINISTERS DISLIKE PARLIAMENTARY CONTROL

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ATTEMPTS ARE MADE TO TORPEDO DRAFT LAW ON PARLIAMENTARY CONTROL OVER THE CABINET

The thought of parliamentary control is like anathema to the government.


Draft law on parliamentary control is in the epicenter of some definitely odd developments. What information is available to Nezavisimaya Gazeta indicates that the government is going out of its way to kill the document. Approached by the Duma, the Presidential Administration replied that Dmitry Medvedev was not going to assume authorship and suggest the draft law to the lower house of the parliament in his own name. Once absolutely noncommittal on the subject of the draft law on parliamentary control, the executive branch of the government is frantic to torpedo the document now.

Quite an interesting document was to be submitted to Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov for signature, yesterday. His subordinates had summed up opinions of five ministries and structures on the draft law “On parliamentary control in the Russian Federation” prepared by a team of prominent lawyers.

It is this summary that Konovalov was supposed to sign. In a word, opinion of the government was strongly negative, based as it was on the assumption that the future parliamentary control commissions would interfere with everyday activities of law enforcement agencies. That was quaint since the draft law made it a point that parliamentary control commissions would be allowed no such interference.

A source in the Duma explained that negative opinions on the document had come from the Finance Ministry, Economic Development Ministry, Regional Development Ministry, Interior Ministry, and the Federal Security Service. He suggested that civilian structures had merely copied the premise on interference with criminal investigation initially invented by security structures.

What makes this whole situation definitely bizarre is that the government went to the trouble of formulating a thoroughly negative opinion of a draft law that had not even been submitted to the Duma yet. Also importantly, the draft law as such did not require any formal reaction from the government since it stipulated no additional strain on the federal budget. On the contrary, the draft law emphasized that the parliamentary control commissions were to be financed from the budgets of the houses of the parliament themselves.

Collection of parliamentarians’ signatures on the draft law is currently under way. According to what information this newspaper has compiled, CPRF leader Gennadi Zyuganov and Fair Russia faction leader Nikolai Levichev put their signatures on the document. LDPR faction leader Igor Lebedev planned to follow suit as well, yesterday. In a word, all of the parliamentary opposition is prepared to back the document. The idea was to approach United Russia today and ask lawmakers from its faction to sign the draft law too. Last week, Constitutional Legislation Committee Chairman Vladimir Pligin (United Russia) spoke in favor of the draft law in public.

Speaking at the roundtable conference organized by the Defense Committee on December 16 (parliamentary control abroad was discussed there), Pligin complimented the draft law in question which he said had been composed by “the country’s best lawyers”. On the other hand, Pligin plainly announced that he was not going to discuss it right there and then. United Russia functionary implied that adoption of the law at this time was politically inexpedient.

Sources in the Duma bore it out and said that the government rushed things with the negative opinion for political reasons. Formulation of its stand on this or that draft law, even significant ones drawn by United Russia, usually takes the executive branch of the government months. The draft law on parliamentary control became an exception.

Gennadi Gudkov of the Fair Russia faction sent an informal memo to Premier Vladimir Putin on November 21. Reminding the premier how almost six months ago he had seemed to have no objections to a law on parliamentary control, Pligin stated that the law had been drafted and enclosed. On November 25, the Cabinet instructed the five ministries and structures mentioned above to study the document and say what they thought. On December 9, Deputy Justice Minister Dmitry Kostennikov formally asked the Duma to take its time with the document because the Finance Ministry, Regional Development Ministry, and Interior Ministry had not had studied it yet, much less formulated an opinion. Lawmakers were surprised because they had never asked the government for its opinion but obliged. The latest reports now indicate that opinion of the government will be strongly negative. Sources in the Duma suggest that the government went to these length (and at such speed) in order to signal to United Russia lawmakers not to sign the document.

Authors of the document had once toyed with the idea of asking Medvedev to submit the document to the Duma in his own name. The Presidential Administration informed the Duma this Monday that Medvedev was not going to do it. Lawmakers will probably have to formally register the draft law as drawn by the Duma itself.

The Presidential Administration in the meantime is trying to stop the process of collection of signatures in order to kill the initiative in utero. Its officials say that it is necessary to develop the existing institutions first and design and introduce new ones only when it is clear that the existing ones cannot cope.

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