sets clear terms of reference for the branches of power and endows
the president with enormous prerogatives. Russia’s president is the
country’s head of state, elected for four years by direct,
universal, and secret ballot and is limited to two terms of service.
Any Russian citizen aged 35 and over may run for president. The
elections are considered valid if more than half of the registered
voters take part. The candidate who receives more than half of the
votes is considered the president-elect. If no single candidate
receives a simple majority, then a runoff election is held between
the two candidates who received the most votes.
The president is vested with broad prerogatives and determines the main
directions of domestic and foreign policy. The president does not belong
to any of the three main branches of power: his principal role is to
ensure a coordinated and smooth functioning of the executive, judicial
and legislative arms of government.
With the consent of the State Duma,
he appoints the head of the government (prime minister) and, on
request by the prime minister, appoints and dismisses federal
ministers. The president has the right to chair the government
meetings, make the decision to dismiss the government, and to cancel
government resolutions and directives if they contradict the
Constitution, federal laws or his decrees. In the cases stipulated
by the Constitution, the president may suspend the acts of the
executive bodies in the constituent units of the Russian Federation
until the matter is resolved in a court of law. He is also
authorized to issue mandatory administrative directives.
In relation to
the legislative arm of government, the president has the right to
call the election to the State Duma and to dissolve the State Duma
in the instances and according to the procedures stipulated by the
Constitution. For example, when the president nominates a new prime
minister, the Duma must give its approval of the candidate. If the
candidate is rejected three times by the Duma deputies, the
president may appoint the prime minister himself, dissolve the lower
house of parliament, and call new elections. The president also has
the right to veto a law, which then will have to be reconsidered by
the houses of the Federal Assembly. The president can initiate bills
for the consideration of the State Duma, and may submit proposals
for constitutional amendments.
In relation to
the judiciary, the president nominates candidates to serve as judges
in the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, and the Higher
Arbitration Court to be approved by the upper house of parliament,
the Federation Council. He appoints judges of other federal courts
in accordance with the procedure established by federal law. The
president also appoints the prosecutor general upon the consent of
the Federation Council.
As the head of
state, the president plays a key role in the country’s external
relations. He defines the main directions of foreign policy, holds
negotiations, signs international treaties, and receives the
credentials and letters of recall of accredited representatives of
foreign states and international organizations.
According to the
Russian constitution, the president is the commander-in-chief of the
Russian armed forces. He appoints and dismisses top military
personnel and approves the military doctrine of the Russian
Federation. In the case of aggression or a direct threat of
aggression against Russia, the president has the right to declare an
emergency situation with the immediate notification of the houses of
the Federal Assembly. He can personally assume direct command of the
army during war or emergency situations.
As the head of
state, the president enjoys immunity and is only liable to one form
of legal action against him: impeachment. He may be impeached on the
grounds of grave crime, such as high treason. An accusation has to
be made by the State Duma on the initiative of no less than
one-third of its members. The Supreme and Constitutional Courts must
then support the accusation. The president is impeached when no less
than a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament votes to
support the charges brought against him. The Constitution stipulates
other grounds for the early termination of the president’s office:
in the event of his voluntary resignation and when he is unable to
carry out his duties for health reasons.