Russian Federal Assembly. Powers and Procedures


Fed.Council: Composition|Powers|Procedures| Duma: Elections|Powers|Procedures

Powers of the State Duma

The main powers of the Duma are laid out in Article 103 of the Constitution:
  • Consenting to the President of the Russian Federation's appointment of the chairman of the government (Prime Minister) of the Russian Federation;
    - this occurs after the government resigns following presidential elections or if it is dissolved by the President.
  • motions of confidence in the government of the Russian Federation;
    - motions of confidence or no-confidence in the government are adopted by a simple majority (226 votes). However, the final say on this matter belongs to the President. Even after resignation the government continues to work until the Duma confirms the appointment of a new prime minister nominated by the President.
  • appointment and dismissal of the Chairman of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation;
    - appointment of Central Bank Chairman Sergei Konstantinovich Dubinin was approved by the first State Duma on November 22, 1995, for a period of four years.
  • appointment and dismissal of the Chairman of the Accounting Chamber and one-half of its staff of auditors (the rest are appointed by the Federation Council);
    - Chairman of the Accounting Chamber Khachim Mukhamedovich KARMOKOV was appointed on January 17, 1994, for a term of six years. All the six auditors of the Accounting Chamber - A.G. Andreyev, A.L. Kushnar, E.V. Mitrofanova, A.G. Nozhnikov, S.P. Openyshev and Yu.N. Rodionov - were appointed on April 7, 1995, for a period of six years.
  • appointment and dismissal of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, acting in accordance with federal constitutional law;
    - the position is vacant. Sergei Adamovich KOVALYOV held this position from January 17, 1994, to March 10, 1995.
  • granting amnesties;
    - amnesty resolutions are adopted by a simple majority (226 votes). The first Duma passed several such resolutions, the most notable ones being resolutions granting amnesty to the participants in the August 1991 failed coup, and to those who took part in the May 1993 and September-October 1993 events, as well as the resolution granting amnesty to the participants in the Chechen conflict.
  • bringing charges against the President of the Russian Federation for purposes of impeachment;
    - a decision has to be adopted by two-thirds (300 votes) of the Duma. The President can be removed from office by the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, by two-thirds (119 votes) of its deputies, provided there is a Supreme Court ruling on the indicia of a crime on the part of the President and a ruling of the Constitutional Court confirming that the procedure of bringing charges has been observed.

    Other powers with regard to personnel policy are granted to the State Duma by federal laws:
  • 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 on December 23, 1994, for a period of four years (A.A. Veshnyakov, O.K. Zastrozhnaya, A.V. Ivanchenko, Ye.P. Ishchenko and Ye.I. Kolyushin);
  • appointment of the members of the Central Bank Board of Directors (12 persons for a period of four years); two representatives of the State Duma to the National Banking Council (NBC) and other NBC members (up to six persons to be submitted by the Central Bank chairman);
    - the representatives of the State Duma to the NBC were appointed on October 27, 1995. They are V.V. Semago and M.M. Zadornov. The candidatures of the members of the Board of Directors and the six members of the NBC were submitted to the Duma by Central Bank Chairman Dubinin in December 1995, but confirmation hearings have not yet been held.
  • appointment of representatives of the State Duma to the Council for Public Service presided over by the President of the Russian Federation;
    - Duma representatives (six persons) have yet been appointed at going to press.

    Law Making Powers
  • In accordance with Article 105 of the Constitution, the State Duma adopts federal laws and federal constitutional laws into law, which become effective after they have been endorsed by the Federation Council, signed by the President and published. Federal laws are adopted by a simple majority.
  • The Duma needs the support of two-thirds of the house, 300 votes, to overrule a veto imposed by the Federation Council or the President (for a law rejected by either side to become effective, the Duma needs the consent of both sides: two-thirds of the Duma plus two-thirds of the Federation Council, or two-thirds of the Duma plus the President).
  • Federal constitutional laws are passed by two-thirds (300 votes) of the Duma and three-fourths (134 votes) of the Federation Council.

    Procedures in the State Duma

    For a session to be valid, it has to be attended by a simple majority of deputies (226).
    The adoption of decisions on major issues (laws and resolutions) as well as motions of confidence or no-confidence in the government require a simple majority of deputies (226).
    For a law rejected by the Federation Council or the President to be adopted, the Duma needs the approval of two-thirds (300 votes) of the house.
    As many votes are required for passing federal constitutional laws and bringing charges against the President.
    The Duma needs the support of three-fifths (270 votes) of deputies to convene the Constitutional Assembly, which has the power to review the text of the basic provisions of the Constitution.
    Procedural issues are resolved by a simple majority of deputies present.

    Procedures for dissolving the State Duma:
    The reasons for which the State Duma can be dissolved are laid out in Articles 111 and 117. Article 109 of the Constitution defines the conditions of and procedure for dissolution.
    Article 117 allows the President either to dismiss the government or dissolve the Duma if the latter passes, twice within three months, a motion of no-confidence in the government. Article 111 obliges the President to dissolve the Duma if it has rejected the President's nominees for Prime Minister three times in succession.
    Article 109 specifies the circumstances under which the State Duma cannot be dissolved.
    The Duma cannot be dissolved six months before the end of the President's term in office (this period has already begun - from December 12, 1995 to June 12, 1996).
    In the first year after election (for the current Duma it is until December 17, 1996), the Duma cannot be dissolved on the grounds of passing a motion of no-confidence in the government (under Article 117). However, it can be dissolved if it has rejected the President's nominees for Prime Minister three times (under Article 111).
    Apart from the above, the Duma cannot be dissolved after it has brought charges against the President of the Russian Federation and until the Federation Council votes on the matter. The Duma cannot be dissolved during a period of martial law or a state of emergency imposed on the entire territory of the Russian Federation.
    In the event the State Duma has been dissolved, the President has to announce the date of elections so that a new State Duma is convened not later than four months after the dissolution of the previous one.

    Procedure for Passing a motion of No-Confidence in the Government:
    At the end of its term, the previous Duma passed amendments to its Regulations enabling it to avoid explicit decisions of confidence or no-confidence in the government.
    Before November 1995, the Duma Regulations provided for two ways of counting votes on a motion of no-confidence in the government, depending on who initiates the motion:
    A group of 90 deputies (at least 1/5 of the total number of deputies) could bring a motion of No-Confidence. To pass a motion of no-confidence, the Duma needed a simple majority vote.
    The motion of Confidence in the government was put to vote at the request of the chairman or acting chairman of the Government. In that case the Duma needed a majority to pass a motion of Confidence. If there was no majority vote, the Duma was considered to have had no Confidence in the government.
    This mechanism led to the June-July 1995 crisis, when the Duma was nearly faced with the alternative of passing a motion of confidence in the government by a majority vote and being dissolved. The conflict was resolved by a compromise decision, and later the Duma insured itself against such situations in future by amending its Regulations: from now on a no-confidence vote can only be passed by a majority of deputies.
    If a motion of Confidence is submitted on the government's initiative and fails to gain a majority vote in the Duma, a vote is taken on a motion of no-confidence . If the Duma fails to pass a no-confidence vote as well, the matter is ruled unresolved and postponed indefinitely.
    Procedure for Holding the First Session of a New Duma. The Duma Regulations lay out the details of the procedure for holding the first session of a new State Duma. They also specify, however, that the first session of the State Duma elects a Provisional Commission for Regulations in order to be able to amend the Regulations.
    The first session is opened by the oldest deputy. Pending the election of the chairman or his deputy, representatives of the election blocs take turns to chair the sessions.
    At its first session the Duma elects the Credentials Commission, the Interim Secretariat, the Provisional Commission for Regulations and other working bodies. After that deputies form and register their factions and groups.
    After the registration of factions and deputy groups, the Duma elects the chairman, his deputies and the leaders of the committees.

    Procedure for establishing and registering factions and groups:
    There are two types of associations of deputies subject to official registration in the Duma: factions and deputies' groups.
    Factions are associations of deputies made up of members of the election blocs elected to the State Duma in the federal electoral district (on party tickets). The principle of imperative mandate is not in effect in the Russian Duma: deputies elected on party tickets are not automatically considered members of the respective faction. To become a faction member, they have to file an application. They also retain the right to quit at any moment. Factions are registered regardless of their size.
    Deputies who are not members of factions can form deputies' groups. A deputies' group has to have at least 35 members in order to be registered.
    Factions and deputy groups have equal rights. A deputy can be a member of only one association. By setting up a faction or a group, the deputies cannot change the voting balance at the house plenary sessions, of course, but they gain some advantage over independent deputies, including:
    - the right to nominate candidates for chairmen and deputy chairmen of the State Duma committees;
    - priority in getting the floor;
    - one vote in the State Duma Council, a consultative body which drafts agendas for sessions and
    - their own staff paid from the federal budget.

    Procedure for Electing the Chairman:
    The State Duma Chairman is elected by secret ballot. He/she may be elected by a show of hands at the Duma's choice.
    The Duma Regulations provide for several mechanisms of voting. When the first Duma was electing its chairman in January 1994, the first round envisaged a "soft" (rating) voting, that is, every deputy could vote for several candidates. As a result, the left-wing deputies of the Duma, who had a relative majority, got two candidates - I.P. Rybkin and Yu.P. Vlasov - through to the second round of voting.
    In the second round, only "hard" (alternative) voting is allowed: every deputy can only vote for one candidate. The one who has received the support of the largest number of deputies in the second round is considered the winner.
    The 'Reglament' (Standing Rules) of State Duma stated: If neither of the two candidates collects the required majority of votes, the Duma goes over to electing deputy chairmen. After at least one deputy has been elected, the Duma returns to the election of the chairman, repeating the whole procedure from the very beginning, starting with the nomination of candidates.
    On January, 17, 1996, Duma failed to elect its speaker in 2 rounds. The next day Duma changed its Reglament to allow third round of speaker election immediately after second round.

    State Duma Council:
    The Council of the State Duma has limited powers and consists of the chairman of the State Duma and the chairmen (or representatives) of the registered factions and groups. The functions of the Duma Council are as follows:
    - to prepare draft agendas for plenary sessions and extraordinary sessions;
    - to distribute draft laws among Duma committees;
    - to call parliamentary hearings;
    - to distribute duties among the deputy chairmen of the State Duma.

    Procedure for Electing Deputy Chairmen of the State Duma:
    The number of deputy chairmen is not specified either in the Regulations or elsewhere and has to be determined by the Duma before the elections. There were five deputies in the first Duma, including one first deputy chairman.
    The Regulations provide for two ways to elect the deputy chairmen:
    - nomination of candidates at a plenary session by deputies' associations or by individual deputies. In this case, the names of all candidates, except those who have withdrawn their candidatures, are included in the ballot papers;
    - preliminary consideration by the State Duma Council of a single list of candidates consisting of the leaders of registered factions and groups. In that case, the Duma votes for the list as a whole.
    Under the Regulations, representatives of the same faction (group) may not be elected to the positions of the chairman and his/her deputies.

    Procedure for Forming Committees:
    The State Duma has 23 standing committees and the Credentials Commission with the committee status. The list of committees is laid out in the Regulations, but it can be amended by the Duma at any moment.
    Each deputy of the State Duma except the Duma Chairman, his/her deputies and the leaders of deputy associations is to be a member of only one committee of the State Duma.
    Committee chairmen and their deputies are elected by the Duma on submission by factions and deputy groups. A deputy who is not a member of any faction or group may be elected to a governing position in the committee only if he/she is nominated by some faction or group.
    The Regulations require deputies to observe the principle of proportional representation of factions and groups while forming Duma committees. Voting can be held both on a single list of candidates agreed by the leaders of factions and groups and on each candidate individually.
    The list of committees has to be endorsed by a resolution of the State Duma in accordance with the list previously agreed by factions and deputy groups. Basically, the previous Duma used the principle of self-nomination. Under the Regulations, a committee should have at least 12 deputies, but not more than 35. In the previous Duma, the number of committee members ranged from 10 (the Committees for Health Care, for Natural Resources and Nature Conservation and for Nationalities) to 43 (the Committee for the Budget, Taxes, Banks and Finances). A deputy was free to apply for transfer to another committee at any moment, and the Duma virtually never objected to such transfers.
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