By Paul Goble
The 1993 Constitution made Russia a presidential republic, but the addition of 469 new powers to that office in the 17 years since has transformed it into a “super-presidential” with negative consequences for all other political institutions in the country, according to a senior specialist on constitutional law at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics.
Mikhail Krasnov conclusions on this point add weight to the arguments of politicians like KPRF head Gennady Zyuganov who has repeatedly said that the Russian president has more power than “did the tsar, the general secretary of the CPSU Central Committee and Chingiz Khan taken together” (www.nr2.ru/rus/325959.html and www.kommersant.ru/doc-y/1610440).
According to Krasnov’s calculations, the Russian president has been given 469 new powers as a result of the adoption of 115 laws concerning that office. But what is important, the constitutional law scholar suggests, “is not the quantity but the character of the powers thathave been thus acquired.”
The Russian constitution, the scholar argues, specifies that “the president can act but he cannot define the rules.” But subsequent legislation has changed that by handing over to the president the power to do just that, thus opening the way to almost unlimited power in many spheres and undermining the authority of all other government centers and bodies.
This expansion of presidential powers, Krasnov finds, has occurredunder all three Russian presidents. “Boris Yeltsin received 168 such authorities between 1993 and 1999.” Vladimir Putin got 234 between 2000 and 2008, and Dmitry Medvedev has obtained “only 67” between 2008 and 2010.
But if the per year numbers have been relatively similar, the areas in which the Russian president has been given additional powers have changed over time, Krasnov says. Yeltsin’s expanded powers dealt with the areas of his constitutional competence, although such expansion began “the degradation” of “all remaining institutions.”
Under Putin, in contrast, the president was given and in fact seized powers which “directly violate the meaning of the constitution,” such as the appointment of governors, the naming of the chairman of the highest courts, and of the accounting chamber. As a result, Putin and his successor have “the chance to influence all branches of power.”