Law of no importance


New law which changes the way the upper house of Russian parliament is formed created a lot of agitation. The law, we are told, is an assault on democracy. It gives senators the right to hold office for life. This is not true. The bill, proposed by those who run the Parliament (by Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the low house, and Valentina Matvienko, the speaker of the upper house) and passed in just one week, an unprecedented speed for a federal law, is not essential nor is it transformational.

The Federation Council is the upper house of the Russian parliament. It consists of two representatives from each region, one from a local legislative body and another from a governor. The original idea was that Russian senators would be the voice Russian provinces.

The powers of the Federation Council are wide: it calls the presidential elections and removes him from office in case of impeachment; it appoints judges of supreme courts and the Attorney General. Laws adopted by the State Duma must be approved by senators.

Yet today the Federation Council is, in essence, a rubber stamp. It silently observes other political actors playing and never raises its voice.

In eighteen years since Russian Parliament was created for the first time, the procedure of formation of its upper house has changed several times. In 1993 Russia's first senators were elected directly by the people. From 1996 and until 2000, a governor and the chairman of a