Executive Branch of Russian Government
The first competitive and free elections which were held in March 1990 to elect the Congress of People’s Deputies led to the birth of the executive arm of the Russian government. The office of the president, who is the leader of the government, was created although the office had existed for a year after Gorbachev had created the same on his own in 1990 (Fish 56). When elections were held in June 1991, Boris Yeltsin became the first legitimate president (Sakwa 33).
Yeltsin guided the country throughout the four year period despite the coup attempts by Gorbachev Soviet government. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian government had controlled the military while the Soviet government had control over the country’s budget as well as that of the Soviet Union. After the failed coup attempts in 1991, Yeltsin appointed a new government in which he also became the first prime minister in an acting capacity.
Under this arrangement the president, Yeltsin, had the power to appoint ministers, administrators in the localities, presidential representatives, the prime minister, issue decrees among others (Eckert 33). However, a referendum that was held December 1993 led to clear separation of legislative, executive as well as judicial braches as independent arms of the government.
The purpose of the study is to provide understanding of the current executive arm of the Russian government by defining the elements of the executive branch of the government, their roles and responsibilities, and how they are coordinated.
The executive branch of the government is normally mandated to run the government and country and ensure the growth of democratic institutions. It is the executive arm of the government that manages the economy of the country. Russia has one of the best government structures particularly the executive arm and this has been the reason behind its stability and economic growth of above 7%. BTI 2010 rates the level of democracy in Russia at 5.25 within 1-10 status index (Bertelsmann Stiftung 1).
The statistics presented above are of real significance considering that Russia had been under the autocratic Soviet government and had no well defined constitution of their own. Initially, the powers which were bestowed to the president could not give him the opportunity to steer economic growth. However, such situations changed and Russia is now among the most democratic states in the Asian continent as well as globally.
It has also maintained a stable economic growth. It is these reasons that motivate me to study the executive arm of the Russian government so as to be able to understand how other countries, especially in the Asian, South American and African continents, can restructure their governance structure so as to expand their democracies, and institute effective systems for checks and balances, and as a result, improve their economic growths.
The reasoning behind the continuing revolution in the Arab world that began in Tunisia means that there is need for improvement in the governance structure particularly in the executive arm of such government as well as constitutional reform so as to guarantee citizens democracy, better leadership and economic growth.
Russia is a federal presidential state with a dual executive and a vertical power structure where executive power is shared between the President and the Prime Minister, although the president s the principal figure in the executive wing of the government.
The executive arm of the Russian government is headed by the president who exercises executive power in the Russian Federation. The other members of the executive wing of the Russian government include the prime minister, two first deputy prime minister, seven deputy prime ministers and seventeen ministers.
The president of the Russian Federation appoints the prime minister, who again has to be approved by the State Duma, which is the lower house. The current president is Dmitry Medvedev who came into power in 2008, while the prime minister is Vladimir Putin who had been the president for two consecutive terms beginning 2000 to early 2008. The prime minister is the Chairman of the government deputized by the deputy prime minister, who is also an appointee of the president.
The president is the Russian Chief of State and stays in office for six years as per the 2008 amendment that was done to the president’s term in office, which used to be four years. However, the current president will be in office for four years as per the initial provisions in the constitution.
The president has no vice president meaning that it is the prime minister who gets into office should the office remain vacant due to impeachment, resignation, poor health or death of the president in an acting capacity till the next elections are held, normally within 3 months (Caraway 1).
The president wields more executive powers as compared to the prime minister, who is his appointee ((Treisman 42). He or she determines the direction of country’s domestic as well as foreign policy ((Treisman 42). The president also represents the state in foreign affairs as well as within the state.
As such, he or she conducts international talks and is mandated to sign international treaties. He or she is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces as well as the leader of the Security Council. The Russian Security Council ensures individual as well as state security. The Russian president also has the power to appoint the prime minister and the deputy prime minister with the approval of the State Duma. However, the constitution also permits the president to pass decrees without the approval of the lower house, State Duma.
Again, the president has the authority to dissolve the State Duma if repeatedly frustrates his efforts to appoint the prime minister and the deputy prime minister ((Treisman 42). The president also has the powers to appoint and dismiss the members of the cabinet which includes the deputy prime minister. In addition, he or she chairs cabinet (government) meetings. He or she appoints Russia’s ambassadors after consultations with the legislature and may also recall the country’s foreign representatives.
Again, the president forwards the names of those proposed for the post of Chairman of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation to the State of Duma and may also ask the State of Duma to sack the chairman (Treisman 42). Besides, he or she forwards the names of the proposed candidates to be appointed as justices in Supreme Court, Prosecutor General, the Constitutional Court, as well as, the Superior Court of Arbitration to the Federation Council. The president is also empowered to appoint justices to work in the federal district courts.
As the Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces, the president consents to defense doctrines. He or she has the power to appoint or dismiss commanders of the armed forces. In addition, the president has the authority to declare state of emergency as well as regional states or national martial law although the Federation Council can reject or confirm the decree (Troxel 102).
Another important issue as regards the executive branch of the Russian government is presidential elections. After the 2008 amendment on the term of office of the president, the president’s term in office is now six years, beginning in the next government which comes into office in 2012, and serves for a maximum of two consecutive terms (US Library of Congress 4). The minimum age for a presidential candidate is set at 35 years and must be a Russian citizen who has stayed in the country for the last ten years.
One unique feature of the elections of the president is the Law on Presidential Elections which requires a presidential candidate to acquire 1 million signatures from the electorates. A presidential candidate is not supposed to obtain more than 7% of the 1 million signatures from one federal jurisdiction. This rule is created to ensure that each presidential candidate proves that he or she is supported across territorial regions (US Library of Congress 4).
For presidential elections to be considered valid, a minimum of 50% of eligible voters must participate in the elections (US Library of Congress 4). Again, the Law on Presidential Elections states that for one to be declared the president of Russia, he or she must have garnered over 50% of all the votes casts.
However, should no presidential candidate receive the required more than 50% of the votes, the winner in the elections plus the runners up face off in a runoff election to determine the winner (US Library of Congress 4). The runoff must be conducted within fifteen days after the general elections. In that case, whoever wins between the two regardless of the percentage becomes the president.
The Central Election Commission of Russia (CEC) reserves the right to ask the Supreme Court to ban a presidential candidate who proposes violent transformation of the constitutional order (US Library of Congress 4). The CEC may also ask the Supreme Court to ban a presidential candidate who proposes a violent transformation of the Russian Federation.
Since the president is the appointing authority of the prime minister, the activities of the prime minister are highly influenced by the president. As the chairman of the government, the prime minister performs more of an administrative role. Since the position is significantly influenced by president, the prime minister performs his/her administrative roles in line with the presidential decrees as well as constitutional laws (US Library of Congress 5).
The prime minister nominates members to be appointed to the cabinet and also chairs the implementation of domestic policy. The prime minister is expected to forward the list of nominations of all the subordinate cabinet positions which includes the deputy prime ministers as well as the federal ministers within one week of his or her approval by the State Duma as prime minister.
Thus, he or she distributes duties in the cabinet, decides on the operating priorities of the cabinet, organizes its work following the provisions of the law and presidential decrees, and informs the president on cabinet activities. The prime minister signs acts of the cabinet and suggests rewards as well as punishment for the cabinet to the president. Finally, the prime minister represents the cabinet in foreign relation issues within the country.
As the chairman of the cabinet, the prime minister chairs the cabinet commission charged with the responsibility of monitoring foreign investment in the country, state border commission, as well as governmental commission on budget.
The cabinet, also known as the government, is a major arm of the executive branch of the Russian government. It is made up of the prime minister who is also its chairman, first deputy prime ministers, deputy prime minister as well as federal ministers.
The cabinet’s roles include executing monetary and crediting policies as well as defense and foreign policies. It also performs state security functions and guarantees the rule of law. They ensure protection of property, respect for civil as well as human rights. In addition, the cabinet implements measures to fight crime.
The cabinet is also charged with the responsibility of formulating the state budget which is submitted to the State Duma (US Library of Congress 5). To accompany the report is an implementation plan for the budget. However, the State Duma may reject the budget, thus, forwarding it to the conciliation commission. It has to ensure the implementation of the budget. In addition, it has to report on the progress of the implementation process.
It is also mandated to manage federal property. Again, the cabinet has to ensure that state policies as regards to education, science, culture, ecology, social security as well as health protection are implemented uniformly across the country. However, if the cabinet issues implementing directives as well as decrees which are not in line with presidential decrees or the legislation, the president has the power to overturn them.
In Russia, the constitution allows several bodies to check the powers of the executive which makes governance of the country to be democratic and more representative of the public’s wishes. One such body is the State Duma.
The state Duma may force the president to dismiss the prime minister and the entire government especially if the government can not make important policy decisions (The Constitution of the Russian Federation 5). For the State Duma to force the president to dissolve the entire cabinet, it has to pass a censure motion against the cabinet twice in a span of three months. However, if that only happens once, the president does not necessarily have to dismiss the cabinet as he may choose not to.
The president of Russia is empowered to dissolve the State Duma any time that the body frustrates his or her efforts especially if the body declines to consent to the nomination of the prime minister on three consecutive occasions.
Again, the president may also decide to dissolve the State Duma if the body passes a censure motion against the cabinet twice within a period of three months (Remington and Smith 58). However, due to the constitutional role of the State Duma in the governance of the country, the president is not allowed to dissolve the body within twelve months from parliamentary elections (Remington and Smith 58).
This means that the president can not manipulate the appointment as well as dismissal of the Plenipotentiary for Human Rights, the Chairman of the Accounting Chamber plus its staff auditors, the Chairman of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, within his or her last year of his or her term to for personal reasons (The Constitution of the Russian Federation 6). This means that the integrity of the bodies are maintained till the president leaves office or the next government.
In countries where the constitution allows the president to dissolve the body charged with the responsibility of approving such appointments, the president takes advantage on the powers vested on his office to dissolve the body and make appointments which suit his or her personal ambitions as has been the case in some autocratic governments.
Another body that checks the executive powers of the Russian president is the Federation Council, which is the upper chamber. Even though the president of Russia is the Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces and is empowered to declare state of emergency and to introduce martial law in the regional states or at national level, he or she must notify both the upper and lower chambers (The Constitution of the Russian Federation 7).
The upper chamber, which is the Federation Council, has the authority to reject or confirm such declarations. Due to the weight of such decrees and martial laws on the country or state, their implementations are subject to the approval of the Federal Council.
In addition, the Federal Council is empowered to make decisions on the activities of the Russian Armed Forces outside the Russian territory (The Constitution of the Russian Federation 7). These provisions in the Chapter 5 of the Russian constitution ensure that the president does not abuse the powers bestowed upon him or her while ensuring the security of the country and individuals.
The Federation Council also holds important role as regards the appointments judges to the Supreme Court of Arbitration, the Supreme Court as well as the Constitutional Court. The body also has the power to appoint or remove the Prosecutor-General as well as the deputy Chairman of the Accounting Chamber plus half its audit staff (The Constitution of the Russian Federation 7). In all these appointments, it is the president who submits candidates to be appointed for the above posts.
These powers of the bestowed upon the Federation Council ensure that the president’s appointments are approved by the upper chamber hence improving the integrity of the institutions as well as their legitimacy. This means that the president can not make any appointment which is not in line with the wishes of the majority and that the office holders perform their constitutional mandate, failure to which they can be removed by the Federation Council. Thus, the checks and balances help improve transparency in the executive.
Unlike most countries where it is the president who declares the presidential election date, in Russia, it is the duty of the Federation Council to call for presidential elections. This means that the president can not call for a snap election at a time when the country, and in particular, the opposition is not prepared, for his or her own advantage. This promotes the spirit of democracy within the country.
Although the Russian executive branch has a dual executive with a vertical power structure, it has a governance structure which allows it to check the powers of the executive. The Federation Council and the State Duma provide checks on the powers of the president and approves most government undertakings which include the budget and its implementation, the activities of the Russian Armed Forces among others.
The two bodies approve important appointments which includes major legislative offices, the prime minister, the Chairman of the Central Bank among other offices. These powers that have been granted to the Russian Federal Assembly ensure that the President does not abuse the powers bestowed upon him or her while governing the country. Thus, the Russian executive branch structure could be copied by other nations which wish to improve their governance structure, democracy, leadership and transparency.
Bertelsmann Stiftung, BTI 2010 — Russia Country Report. Gutersloh: Bertelsmann Stiftung, 2009. Print.
Bertelsmann Stiftung, BTI 2010 — Russia Country Report presents the country’s report on its transformation status. Of major importance to the study are the index ratings on the country’s democracy as regards its stateness, political participation, stability of democratic institutions, rule of law as well as the social and political integration. Another major aspect of the country’s transformation presented in this article is the economic performance as well as the sustainability of Russia’s market economy.
Caraway, Bill. Russia: Land of Firebird Government. Journey to Assia, 2011. Web. 30 October, 2011.
The article provides information on the three arms of the Russian government which includes the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. It presents a historical background of the Russian governance structure beginning early 1990s. It explains the composition of the executive branch of the government as well as the roles of each office, particularly that of the president.
Eckert, Mark and Shevtsova Fedorona. The Problem of Executive Power in Russia. Journal of Democracy 11.1 (2000): 32-39. Print.
The journal “The Problem of Executive Power in Russia” discusses an executive power with an effective system of checks as well as balances in a democratic government. It explains that such a system would be significant for the operations of the Russian government. It presents the Russian transformation period since 1990 and continues to explain Yeltsin’s period in power in which the former president concentrated much power on the office of the president, thereby compromising the other political actors within the system.
Fish, Steven. Democracy Derailed in Russia: The Failure of Open Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Print.
“Democracy Derailed in Russia: The Failure of Open Politics” provides information on the Russian political system after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It compares the level of democracy in Russia at that time to that of other states so as to explain the democratic transition of the Russian political system since 1991.
Remington, Thomas and Smith Steven. The Politics of Institutional Choice: The Formation of the Russian State Duma. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011. Print.
The book provides a background of the Russian Federation from 1980s. It provides information on the political institutions of Russia which include the legislative institutions, the Russian electoral body, the Sate Duma among others. It provides incredible data on the Russian Duma as well as its composition which was very important for the study.
Sakwa, Richard. The Crisis of Russian Democracy: The Dual State, Factionalism and the Medvedev Succession. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.
The book presents an interpretation of the Russian politics by conducting an empirical analysis to explain the dynamics of the Russian political system. It reveals that Russia faces a democratic crisis due to the interference of the constitution by the administrative regime. It therefore proposes consolidation of the subjective authority of the administrative system.
The Constitution of the Russian Federation. Section One: Chapter 5. The Federal Assembly. Web. 30 October, 2011.
The Constitution of the Russian Federation presents a section of the constitution which outlines the composition of the Russian Federal Assembly, which is the State Duma and Federation Council, their election into office, including the election requirements and procedures, their terms of office, defines their roles and jurisdctions, their compositions as well as their relation with the president.
Troxel, Tiffany. Parliamentary Power of Russia, 1994-2001: A New Era. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Print.
“Parliamentary Power of Russia, 1994-2001: A New Era” traces the progress of the Russian parliament beginning 1994 up to 2004. It provides information on the authority of the Russian parliament particularly in the policy process and discusses the relationship between the parliament and the executive. The book proves the Russia’s executive powers are checked by the parliament.
Treisman, Daniel. The Return: Russia’s Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev. Glencoe, Illinois: Free Press, 2011. Print.
“The Return: Russia’s Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev” presents the evolution of Russia’s political system from Gorbachev’s reign to the period of the current president, Medvedev. It shows Russia’s maturity process into a more democratic political system with checks and balances on the executive.
US Library of Congress. The Constitution and the Government Structure. Web. 30 October, 2011.
US Library of Congress, “The Constitution and the Government Structure” provides rich source of information about the Russian executive branch including its transformation since 1990. It presents information on the composition of the executive branch, presidential powers, the cabinet, presidential elections, as well as, power centers plus the informal powers of the president.