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Recentralizing the State

 

Local governorsí autonomy was further significantly cut by the presidentís regional reform package passed by the Duma in June 2000. The laws stripped the regional governors and the heads of the regional parliaments of their ex officio mandate in the Federation Council and replaced them with regional representatives elected or confirmed by the regional legislatures. As a result, the regional bosses were transformed from serious players on the national political stage to purely local politicians.

V. Putin. Photo: kremlin.ru

The loss of direct control over Russiaís legislative agenda also meant the loss of bargaining power in negotiations with the different centers of power especially the federal agencies located in Moscow. What is more, deprived of their seats in the upper house, the governors lost their parliamentary immunity and could now be liable for criminal prosecution. The new laws also gave the president the power to recall regional governors or dissolve regional parliaments that do not observe federal laws.

In the first term of Putinís presidency, his all-out campaign to rebuild the central state has been largely successful and has produced a much more centralized structure, in which once-independent regional governors have been significantly undermined. The new system of vertical power, more tightly controlled by Moscow, is now in force. Legislative changes in the status of governors have led to a clearer delineation of duties between authorities of different levels and curbed the willful and arbitrary rule of certain of the regional bosses.

However, given the long and often unsuccessful history of attempts by Moscow to centralize, it is too early to say whether the reform to control the Russian leviathan will work in the long run and will be effective against corrupt governors and in cutting through local vested groups.

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