Russian Federal Assembly. Powers and Procedures


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The Federation Council composition and appointment of members

According to the Constitution of Russian Federation, "two deputies from each region ('subject') of the Federation shall be members of the Federation Council: one from the legislative and one from the executive body of government." The procedure for the formation of the Federation Council shall be established by federal law.
Throughout 1995, the parties to the legislative process: the State Duma, the Federation Council and the President, argued about the interpretation of this provision. The issues were whether the Federation Council should be formed through direct elections, through delegation of officials from government bodies or automatically, that is, ex-officio. The debate ended with the adoption of a laconic law consisting of four articles that stipulated the "automatic" mechanism for the formation of the Upper House.
The head of the legislative (representative) branch and that of the executive branch of government of each region of the Federation are ex officio members of the Federation Council. If a region of the Federation has a two-chamber parliament, it is up to the chambers to decide jointly which of the two speakers will represent that Legislature in the Federation Council.
The upper chamber of the Russian parliament is formed, therefore, without elections and for an unlimited period of time. The composition of the Federation Council is changed gradually, along with changes of leadership in the regions of the Federation.
Many aspects of the law on the formation of the Federation Council have come under severe criticism. First, the 47 Heads of Administration in the territories (krai) and regions (oblasti) were not elected by their populations but appointed by presidential decrees. Critics of the law view this as a merger of the two branches of government which contradicts the principle of the separation of powers. Secondly, the government structure in some of the Federation's republics is complex - there is a president and a prime minister - while other regions have a collective head of state, but the law is unclear on which of them should represent their Local Authority in the Federation Council. In addition, all members of the Federation Council are to work in parliament whilst retaining their posts in the regions. As a result, the organization of the work of the House and its committees, or the preparation of draft legislation for discussion has to compete for members' attention with their existing onerous local responsibilities.

Powers of The Federation Council

The powers of the Federation Council are laid out in Article 102 of the Constitution:
  • approval of changes of borders between the members of the Russian Federation;
  • approval of the decree of the President of the Russian Federation on the introduction of martial law;
  • approval of the decree of the President of the Russian Federation on the introduction of a state of emergency;
    - if the Federation Council does not approve the decree, a state of emergency is lifted: this occurred in 1995, when the Federation Council refused to extend the state of emergency in Ingushetia and North Ossetia.
  • decisions on the use of the armed forces of the Russian Federation outside the territory of the Russian Federation;
  • calling elections for the President of the Russian Federation;
    - Presidential elections have been scheduled for June 16, 1996.
  • impeachment of the President of the Russian Federation;
    - a decision requires approval by at least two-thirds (119) of the deputies and should be initiated by at least two-thirds (300) of the State Duma with the consent of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court.
  • appointment of judges to the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court of Arbitration, of the Russian Federation;
    - all the Constitutional Court appointments were made by the previous Federation Council, although vacancies remain in both the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Arbitration.
  • appointment to and removal from office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation;
    - Prosecutor General Yuri Ilyich Skuratov was appointed on October 24, 1995, for a period of five years.
  • appointment to and removal from office of the deputy Chairman of the Accounting Chamber and one half of its staff of auditors;
    - Deputy Chairman of the Accounting Chamber Yuri Yuryevich Boldyrev was appointed on January 18, 1995, for a period of six years. All six auditors of the Accounting Chamber were appointed in 1995 for a term of six years (P.V.Chernomord on January 18, 1995; M.I.Beskhmelnitsyn, I.N.Lazarev, V.S.Sokolov and V.G.Ulyanov on April 11, 1995; and V.N.Lyubimov on May 23, 1995).

    Other powers regarding the personnel policy not mentioned in The Constitution, but granted to the Federation Council by federal laws include:
  • endorsement of the appointment of the members of the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation;
    - nomination of five members of the Presidium of the Supreme Court was endorsed by the Federation Council on January 18, 1995. The other eight members of the Presidium are ex-officio members.
  • appointment of five out of the 15 members of the Central Electoral Commission of the Russian Federation.
    - five members of the Central Electoral Commission were appointed in 1995 for a period of four years (R.T.Biktagirov, V.S.Karpunov, A.I.Tur, and I.P.Fomichev on March 2, 1995; and V.G.Sitnik on April 11, 1995).
  • appointment of two representatives of the Federation Council to the National Banking Council (NBC);
    - the representatives of the Federation Council to the NBC were appointed on November 15, 1995. They are N.N.Gonchar and A.A.Surikov.
  • appointment of representatives of the State Duma to the Council for Public Service resided over by the President of the Russian Federation;
    - the following deputies of the Federation Council were appointed representatives of the Federation Council on October 5, 1995: A.F.Kovlyagin, O.A. Bogomolov, R.G. Abdulatipov, L.A. Ivanova, M.Sh. Shaimiyev and O.P. Korolyov.
  • appointment of Deputy Prosecutors General (proposed by the Prosecutor General).
    - no candidates for these positions have so far been submitted.

    Law Making Powers
  • Articles 105 and 106 of the Constitution stipulate the role of the Federation Council in the law-making process. The Federation Council approves federal laws (adopted by the State Duma) by a simple majority vote (90). Laws which have not been considered by the Federation Council within 14 days are deemed approved automatically. However, automatic approval may not apply to any laws relating to the federal budget, federal taxes and charges; financial, currency, credit and customs regulations; money supply; ratification and denunciation of international treaties of the Russian Federation; the status and protection of the state border of the Russian Federation; and to matters of war and peace.
  • The laws, rejected by the President have to be approved by two-thirds (119 votes). after adopting by two-thirds of the State Duma
  • Federal constitutional laws have to be approved by three-quarters (134 votes).

    Procedures in The Federation Council

    The second Federation Council differs considerably from its predecessor in terms of its composition and method of formation. The first Federation Council was elected via national elections.
    The new Federation Council is formed automatically and consists of the heads of legislative and executive branches of government of the members of the Russian Federation.
    Forty deputies in the first Federation Council elected to governing positions in the house: (the chairman of the Federation Council, his deputies and the chairmen of the committees) moved to permanent jobs in the Federation Council. In the new Federation Council, all members will have to reconcile their legislative activities with administrative duties in their respective regions.
    At present, the Federation Council meets every third week. Plenary meetings are usually held from Tuesday through Thursday. This schedule does not always allow the Federation Council to review the laws passed by the Duma within the 14-day period stipulated by the Constitution. Occasionally, the Federation Council has to hold extraordinary sessions.
    The summer break in the work of the Federation Council is timed to coincide with the recess of the State Duma: the Federation Council meets for its last session before the break several days after the last sitting of the Duma in order to review the laws adopted by the Duma in the final days of its session.

    For a session to be valid, it has to be attended by a simple majority (90 deputies).
    The adoption of laws and resolutions requires a simple majority (90 votes).
    For a federal law rejected by the President to be endorsed, the Federation Council needs the approval of two-thirds (119 votes) of the house. As many votes are required to pass a decision on the impeachment of the President.
    Federal constitutional laws have to be approved by three-quarters (134 votes) of the house.
    The Federation Council needs the support of three-fifths (107 votes) of its deputies to convene the Constitutional Assembly, which has the power to review the text of the basic provisions of the Constitution.
    Procedural issues are solved by a simple majority vote of the deputies present.

    Election of the Chairman:
    First convocation of Federation Council (December 1993 - January 1995) used following procedure: Candidates for Chairman of the Federation Council are nominated by secret ballot, with each deputy entering only one name on the ballot paper. Then the names of all the nominees, except those who have withdrawn from the race, are entered on a single ballot paper for voting. For a nominee to be elected, an absolute majority (90 votes) is required. In the event none of the candidates collects the required number of votes, a second vote is held to elect the chairman from among the two candidates who received the largest number of votes in the first round. If the chairman is not elected in the second round, the whole procedure is repeated anew, beginning with the nomination of candidates.
    The new Federation Council started its session with adopting new Regulations. The procedure of election stayed the same, except for nomination procedure: secret ballots were replaced by usual open nomination procedure.

    Election of the Chairman's Deputies:
    The Federation Council elects three deputy chairmen. Candidates for deputy chairmen are nominated by the chairman of the Federation Council. The chairman and his deputies may not be from the same member region of the Federation.

    Formation of Committees:
    The Federation Council sets up 11 permanent committees and three permanent commissions, namely, the Commission for Regulations and Parliamentary Procedures, the Credentials Commission and the Accounting Commission. The list of committees is stipulated in the Regulations, but it can be subject to alteration by the house's decision.
    All members of the Federation Council, except the chairman and his/her deputies, are bound to serve on the committees. The composition of the committees is endorsed by a resolution of the Federation Council. Each committee should consist of at least seven members.
    The committee chairmen, their deputies and secretaries are elected at the committees' meetings. The committee chairmen have to be endorsed by the Federation Council.
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