Thousands of Vladimir Putin supporters have gathered in the Russian capital Moscow to back their president’s proposed reforms.
A bill, to be debated in parliament today, would give Putin greater control over Russia’s regions. Regional governors would be appointed by the president and endorsed by local assemblies instead of being elected by voters. Most regional governors, whose position already depends largely on the Kremlin’s approval, back the bill. Putin argues that Russia would be better managed if its regions were ruled by appointed heads, rather than by governors often elected in fraudulent local polls. But a clause which would allow Putin to disband local legislatures if they twice fail to approve his choice of governor has been frowned upon by some. Among them is Mentimer Shaimiyev, president of the Republic of Tartastan, who, in the 1990s, led a powerful lobby that forced former president Yeltsin to grant strong autonomy to Russia’s provinces. Keeping local assemblies beyond the Kremlin’s control is vital for governors if they want to have the power to oppose unwanted decisions. Putin’s liberal opponents, some of whom gathered in front of the Duma in protest at the bill, argue that depriving people of the right to elect their own governors would be taking another step away from democracy.