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Abstract

This chapter analyses constitutional amendments in the Russian Federation (19932014). We show that in the phase of constitution-making a problematic path was adopted when the El’cin administration promoted a basic law advantaging the executive. The praxis of constitutional amendment in the Russian Federation is discussed in three dimensions: First, concerning amendments to Art. 65, which regulates the structure of the federal republic; second, concerning changes to the structure or principles of the constitutional system; third, concerning de facto constitutional amendments through ordinary laws. In particular, a combination of amendments of the second and third dimensions substantially centralized the constitutional regime over the past 20 years, moving it toward an authoritarian state order. The Russian praxis of constitutional amendment is here classified as authoritarian constitutionalism.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    To describe the two succeeding regimes following the collapse of the Soviet Union in Russia, scholars distinguish between the First Russian Republic (1991–1993) and the Second Russian Republic (1993 to present) (see Sharlet 1996, 495).

  2. 2.

    Indeed, Yeltsin had ensured that the draft charter favored a strong executive, and the turnout numbers required for a legally certified referendum were apparently fudged, but contrary to dire predictions in Russia and abroad, there was no return to authoritarianism (Sharlet 2003, 123).

  3. 3.

    The Constitutional Commission employed foreigners, but they did not have any significant impact. Through Perestroika, the impact of western ideas such as democracy, rule of law, and constitutionalism was exceptional. Russian scholars were, at least to some extent, familiar with these concepts. Furthermore, Soviet academia had been researching western constitutionalism for many years.

  4. 4.

    These amend Art. 81 (term of office of the Presidency from 5 to 6 years), Art. 96 (term of office of Duma members from 4 to 5 years), Art. 103 (hearing of government reports by State Duma), Art. 114 (government now obliged to report to the State Duma annually).

  5. 5.

    This model (the higher, the harder) implies the coherence between form—that is, the hierarchical level, and substance—that is, the significance of the rule.

  6. 6.

    The idea of “Verfassungspatriotismus” (constitutional patriotism) should be understood as an example of the latter. See Sternberger (1990), Habermas (1996, 2012), Müller (2007), Kumm (2008).

  7. 7.

    For a detailed discussion of constitution-making processes, see Ginsburg et al. (2009), Brown (2008), Widner (2007).

  8. 8.

    John Rawls (1997, 773) described this vision as citizens deliberating in a framework “(…) that expresses political values that others, as free and equal citizens might also reasonably be expected reasonably to endorse”.

  9. 9.

    For an intriguing study of bargaining in constitutional assemblies, see Elster (2000).

  10. 10.

    However, some define constitution-making as a process of rising above self-interest for the sake of public good, see Ackermann (1991). For criticism of this approach, see Brown (2008, 678).

  11. 11.

    There is “an inherent paradox in the constitution-making process. On the one hand, because they are written for the indefinite future, constitutions ought to be adopted in maximally calm and undisturbed conditions. On the other hand, the call for a new constitution usually arises in turbulent circumstances. The task of constitution making demands procedures based on rational argument, but the external circumstances of constitution making generate passion and invite resorts to force” (Elster 1998, 117).

  12. 12.

    In the turbulent transformation period, the falling apart of the old order was also reflected in the party system. The Communist Party of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (KPRSFSR) was founded in 1990, so to speak as a Russian successor of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (KPSS), which also existed until 1991. Both parties were banned by President El’cin after the 1991 ʻAugust Putsch’. In 1993, a new Communist party was formed, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), which is today still the second biggest political party in Russia.

  13. 13.

    For the praxis of constitution-making in Russia before the Revolution of 1917, see Weber (1906, 165–401); for constitution-making in the Soviet Union, see Müller (2011) and Medushevsky (2006, 141ff.).

  14. 14.

    The executive authority has been modified in autumn 1993, introducing the institution of the prime minister and his proposal right with regard to ministers (Art. 83a, 83 g, and 83d).

  15. 15.

    Some authors argue that it is not entirely clear whether or not the voter turnout was below 50 % of the electorate quorum required (see White et al. 2010, 158).

  16. 16.

    There are 108 existing federal constitutional laws; 86 of them are amendment laws for existing federal constitutional laws.

  17. 17.

    For unconstitutional constitutional amendments, see Barak (2011, 321–341), Roznai (2013, 657–719).

  18. 18.

    Levada Poll estimated the public support for President Putin in April 2015 around 82 % (Gorbačev and Garmonenko 2015).

  19. 19.

    Approximately 450 cases have been reviewed by the SAC every year.

  20. 20.

    Ekaterina Mišina, a Russian lawyer and a visiting professor at the University of Michigan, is quoted in The New York Times saying: “The approach of the Supreme Court will prevail, which is much more conservative, much more Soviet.” (Reevell 2014).

  21. 21.

    The appointment was legalized by a decree (or resolution) of the higher official of the subject. This should be presented to the legislative (representative) body of the state authority of the subject of Federation within 3 days. The decree (resolution) will come into force in case two-thirds of the total number of deputies of the subject’s legislative body vote for the appointment of that particular representative to the Federation Council in the following or extraordinary session.

  22. 22.

    The Duma approved the proposal on November 20, 2012; the Federation Council approved it on November 28, 2012. The law came into effect December 3, 2012.

  23. 23.

    Authors’ translation of a quote from Valentina Matvienko; translated from the Russian original as quoted by Jurij Politov (2014).

  24. 24.

    E.g. Gennadij Andrejevič Zjuganov, the Chairman of the Communist Party, and Vladimir Volfovič Žirinovskij, founder and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, who are both considered to be loyal Duma leaders, were offered a post as presidential senators in the Federation Council, according to media rumors (see Izvestija 2014).

  25. 25.

    For the influence of the state over civil society, see Tailor (2011, 204–250).

  26. 26.

    In 2013, the Duma already unanimously approved the Federal Law “For the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values” (2013, № 135-FZ), drafted by Jelena Mizulina of Just Russia.

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Appendix: Constitutional Politics in Russia 1993–2015

Appendix: Constitutional Politics in Russia 1993–2015

Dates of amendment and implementation

Article(s)/paragraph(s)

Constitutional subfields

Short analysis of the reform process

01/09/1996a

Art. 65

• Federalism

• Name alteration pursuant to Art. 65

• Initiative coming from these subjects of the Federation.

02/10/1996

Art. 65

• Federalism

• Name alteration pursuant to Art. 65

• Initiative coming from these subjects of the Federation.

06/09/2001

Art. 65

• Federalism

• Name alteration pursuant to Art. 65

• Initiative coming from these subjects of the Federation.

07/25/2003

Art. 65

• Federalism

• Name alteration pursuant to Art. 65

• Initiative coming from these subjects of the Federation.

03/25/2004

Art. 65

• Federalism

• Name alteration due to merger of subjects of the federation pursuant to Art. 65

• Initiative coming from regional parliaments of these subjects of the Federation

10/14/2005

Art. 65

• Federalism

• Name alteration due to merger of subjects of the federation pursuant to Art. 65

• Initiative coming from regional parliaments of these subjects of the Federation.

07/12/2006

Art. 65

• Federalism

• Name alteration due to merger of subjects of the federation pursuant to Art. 65

• Initiative coming from regional parliaments of these subjects of the Federation

12/30/2006

Art. 65

• Federalism

• Name alteration due to merger of subjects of the federation pursuant to Art. 65

• Initiative coming from regional parliaments of these subjects of the Federation

07/21/2007

Art. 65

• Federalism

• Name alteration due to merger of subjects of the federation pursuant to Art. 65

• Initiative coming from regional parliaments of these subjects of the Federation

03/21/2014

Art. 65

• Federalism

• Crimea (as subject of Federation) and Sevastopol (as a city with federal statusb) joined the Russian Federation as the result of referendum held

• State Duma (final vote: 445-to-1 majority)

• Federation Council (155-to-0 majority)

12/30/2008

Art. 81, 96

• President and State Duma

• Extension of the presidential term to 6 years and the legislative term of the State Duma to 5 years

• Codification of the government’s obligation to annually report to the Duma

• State Duma (final vote: 392-to-57 majority)

• Federation Council (final vote 114-to-1 majority)

02/05/2014

Art. 71, 83, 102, 104, 125–129

• Judicial system

• Reform of highest courts and State Prokuratura

• State Duma (final vote: 346-to-95 majority)

• Federation Council (final vote: 148-to-7 majority)

07/21/2014

Art. 83, 95

• Federation Council

• The new group of Federation Council’s members—Representatives of the Federation—is introduced.

• Results have not been obtained yet.

  1. aThe alterations in Art. 65 only require an ukaz of the President of the Russian Federation according to Art. 137, Sec. 2 if the name of the federal subject is changed according to the regional procedures
  2. bA city of federal status is a separate category in the Russian Constitution that can be compared with the status of Washington D.C. From the legal perspective the city is considered to be subject of the federation

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Petersen, F., Levin, I. (2016). The Russian Federation. In: Fruhstorfer, A., Hein, M. (eds) Constitutional Politics in Central and Eastern Europe. Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft. Springer VS, Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-13762-5_21

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