THE COUNCIL OF THE FEDERATION OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
In 2000, the Russian Federation experienced a vast institutional reform.
The composition of the Council of the Federation was modified (I). Until then, it was composed of the heads of legislative (representative) and executive (governor) bodies of the 89 republics or regions.
The 89 governors compose the Council of State, an advisory body created on September 1st 2000 by an ordinance of the President of the Federation, Mr. Vladimir Putin.
I - COMPOSITION
2 representatives of each of the 89 members of the Russian Federation : one of the legislative and one of the executive apparatus of the Republic or region concerned, are appointed in the 89 constituencies. The regional assembly may reject the nomination with a two-third majority.
i.e. 166 members.
The length of office depends on the republic or the region that they represent.
The reform on the composition of the Council of the Federation shall be enforced progressively through regional polls. For the first time, the regional elections held since October 2000 implemented the reform, which shall take several years.
II - ELECTORAL SYSTEM
III - SESSIONS SYSTEM
A - ORDINARY SESSIONS
The Federal Assembly (the Duma and the Council of the Federation) operates on a permanent basis.
B - EXTRAORDINARY SESSIONS
When convened by the President of the Council of the Federation on his own initiative or following a proposal by the President of the Federation, by the Government of the Federation, a member of the Federation or following a proposal by a committee of the Council of the Federation, or a group of members of the Council of the Federation making up at least one fifth of the total number of members of the Council.
IV - RELATIONSHIP WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
A - LEGISLATIVE POWER
1) Legislative initiative
Yes. The initiative belongs to the Council of the Federation and its members in conjunction with the President of the Federation, the Duma members, the Government of the Federation, the legislative apparatus of members of the Federation and - for questions within their powers - the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Superior Arbitration Court of the Federation.
2) Right to amendment
The Council of the Federation can propose amendments to drafts examined by the Duma after their first reading. The amendments are submitted to the Duma for examination.
3) Legislative procedure
a) Ordinary procedure
Bills (constitutional federal laws or federal laws) are submitted to the State Duma.
Federal laws adopted by the Duma (generally after being examined in three readings) are transmitted to the Council of the Federation for examination within five days.
The Council of the Federation has the power to approve or dismiss any law adopted by the State Duma.
Bills are submitted to a committee for examination.
A federal law is considered ratified by the Council of the Federation if more than half of all the members of the chamber have voted in favour, or if it has not been examined by the Council of the Federation within 14 days.
If the Duma's draft is rejected by the Council of the Federation
A bill that is dismissed by the Council of the Federation is transmitted to the committee responsible by the Council of the Duma. The committee gives its opinion on the objections presented by the Council of the Federation, and presents proposals to the chamber to overcome the disagreements.
To do this, the Duma can take part in the creation of an arbitration committee made up of representatives of the Duma and the Council of the Federation and instigated on the initiative of the Council of the Federation, the State Duma, the President of the Federation, or the author of the legislative initiative. The absolute majority of the Duma members is required to decide on the creation of this committee, the Duma members to participate in it, and the choice of the member to be Co-President.
The arbitration committee examines each of the Council of the Federation's objections separately and attempts to produce a single draft. Its rulings are the result of a separate vote by the representatives of the Duma and those of the Council of the Federation. They require the absolute majority of members of each of the two groups.
The committee establishes a protocol specifying the proposals made to overcome the disagreements between the two chambers. This protocol is submitted to the Council of the Duma for examination and a new reading is scheduled.
During this new reading, the Duma debates only those proposals contained in the protocol established by the arbitration committee. No amendment that falls outside the limits fixed by these proposals may be examined.
If any of the proposals of the arbitration committee are rejected by the Duma, the Duma can request that the committee continue its work, taking into account the amendments that have been adopted in order for the arbitration committee to submit new proposals to the Duma within ten days.
The Duma declares its ruling separately on each of the arbitration committee's proposals by an absolute majority of its members.
The law resulting from the proposals of the arbitration committee being taken into account and accepted by the Duma is sent to the Council of the Federation by the President of the Duma.
If the Duma does not adopt the arbitration committee's proposals after the new reading, and disagrees with the dismissal ruling of the Council of the Federation, a new vote is organised. The Duma then deliberates on the draft in its previous format. This draft is then taken to be definitive if it obtains a two-thirds majority among Duma members. It is then sent to the President of the Federation by the President of the Duma within five days to be signed and promulgated. The President of the Duma informs the President of the Federation of this.
b) Special arrangements
1 - The following laws must be submitted for examination to the Council of the Federation: those concerning the budget, federal taxes, financial, exchange, credit and customs regulations, issuing of currency, ratification and denunciation of international treaties, the status and the defence of State borders, and laws dealing with problems of war and peace.
2 - Federal constitutional laws (adopted on the points specified by the Constitution) are considered as adopted if they have been approved by a three-quarters majority of the members of the Council of the Federation and at least two-thirds of deputies.
c) President of the Republic's Veto
If the President signs the law that is transmitted after its adoption by both chambers, this prescriptive legal instrument comes into force.
If the Head of State dismisses the law within 14 days of the draft being transmitted, it is sent back for examination by the State Duma. In this case, the Duma can adopt the version of the law in the terms proposed by the President, agree that the President is right and the law is unnecessary, or, with a two-thirds majority, overcome the President's veto and reiterate its adoption of the law in the terms adopted previously.
The draft that has been passed is transmitted to the Council of the Federation.
If the Council of the Federation overcomes the President's veto by a qualified majority, the Head of State must, in compliance with the Constitution, sign this law, even if he is not in agreement with it.
B - CONTROLLING POWER
The representatives of the Government and other civil servants are regularly invited to take part in sessions called "the Government hour" to present information requested to members of Parliament and answer their questions.
2)Hearings may be organised on questions that fall within the Council's competence.
3) The Duma and the Council of the Federation form a Court of Audit to ensure control over the exercise of the federal budget.
4) Ratification and termination of international treaties (see above 3-b-1).
C - RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERATION
1) Deposition of the President of the Federation
Deposition of the President of the Federation by the Council of the Federation of he is accused by the Duma of high treason or any other serious crime confirmed by an act of the Supreme Court of the Federation and an act of the Constitutional Court of the Federation respecting the established procedure for indictment.
The decision to depose the President must result from a two-thirds majority of Council members and be adopted within three months maximum following the accusation. If this is not the case, the accusation is considered as having been dismissed.
In this case, the functions of Head of State are carried out by the President of the Government and early presidential elections must be called within three months. In this case, the person temporarily acting as President of the Russian Federation has a series of restrictions imposed on their powers, including being prevented from dissolving the Duma.
2) Annual Address by the President of the Federation to the Federal Assembly (the Parliament consisting of the Duma and the Council of the Federation), summarising the country's situation, and the State's principal domestic and foreign policy options.
3) The President of the Federation (as Head of Government) can speak during sessions of the Council of the Federation (and those of the Duma) during discussion of the federal budget or key problems of State policy.
V - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENTS
A - CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
Proposals for amendment or revision of the Constitution can be presented by the Council of the Federation in conjunction with the President of the Federation, the Duma, the Government, the legislative apparatus of the members of the Federation or by at least one fifth of the members of the Council or the Duma.
Articles concerning the foundations of the constitutional regime, rights and liberties and the procedure for amendment and revision of the Constitution cannot be revised by the Federal Assembly. However, if a revision procedure of this nature is supported by three fifths of the members of the Council of the Federation and the Duma, the constituent assembly is convened.
B - The President and Vice Presidents of the Council of the Federation are elected from among the Council members.
They cannot be representatives of the same member of the Federation.
C - EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES
When the President of the Federation declares martial law or a state of emergency, he immediately informs the Council of the Federation (and the Duma).
D - NOMINATIONS
1) The Council of the Federation approves or dismisses candidates proposed by the President of the Federation for positions as judges for the Constitutional Court of the Federation, the Supreme Court of the Federation, the Superior Arbitration Court of the Federation and the Public Prosecutor of the Federation who can also be dismissed by the Council of the Federation.
The Vice president of the Federation Court of Audit is nominated and dismissed by the Council of the Federation.
2) Each of the chambers elects half of the auditors of the Court of Audit of the Russian Federation.
3) The President of the Federation nominates and recalls diplomatic representations of the Federation to positions in foreign states and international organisations following deliberation by ad hoc commissions or committees of the chambers of the Federal Assembly who present their recommendations.
E - REFERENCE TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE FEDERATION
1) On request by the Council of the Federation or by one fifth of its members (in conjunction with the President of the Federation, the Duma, one fifth of members of Parliament, the Government of the Federation, the Supreme Court of the Federation, the Superior Court of Arbitration of the Federation, the apparatus of the legislative and executive powers of the members of the Federation), the Court rules on the conformity with the Constitution:
a) Of federal laws, prescriptive acts passed by the President of the Federation, the two chambers and the Government of the Federation
b) Of constitutions, laws and other prescriptive acts passed by the members of the Federation concerning questions of the competence of the State or joint competence
c) Of treaties concluded between the Federation and its members, or between members
d) Of international treaties that have not been applied.
2) On request by the Council of the Federation (in conjunction with the President of the Federation, the Duma, the Government of the Federation, and the apparatus of legislative power of the members of the Federation), the Court interprets the Constitution.
3) The two chambers can meet together to be addressed by the Constitutional Court.
F - EXCLUSIVE POWERS OF THE COUNCIL OF THE FEDERATION
The following fall exclusively under the competence of the Council of the Federation:
- Approval of changes in borders between the members of the Russian Federation
- Approval of decrees by the President of the Russian Federation concerning the establishment of martial law and states of emergency
- The decision to deploy the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation outside the territory of the Federation
- The calling of elections for the Presidency of the Russian Federation.