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A new project for changing the constitutional structure has appeared in Russia
Its author Alexei Mitrofanov, a deputy of the State Duma (Lower House) from the scandalous Liberal Democratic Party, suggests canceling the general presidential election. He believes the head of state can be elected by State Duma deputies by two-thirds (300 of the 450) of the house. Mitrofanov's bill has passed the initial bureaucratic procedures and is to be discussed at the June 8 plenary session, though the Duma committee on the constitutional legislation recommended the Lower House to blackball it. The Liberal Democratic Party loves to shock the law-abiding Russian public with extraordinary statements. Its leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky became scandalously known in the early 1990s, when he published a book, "The Last March to the South," in which he called for carrying on the Russian emperors' plans of assuming control over the troublesome Asian region from the Caucasus to the Indian Ocean. The Liberal Democrats' statements on the domestic policy are no less revolutionary. For example, they advocate the liquidation of 21 ethnic republics of Russia and the transformation of the 89 federation entities into 7-9 large provinces without any ethnic distinction. Though the bulk of Russian politicians and common people reject such plans as excessively radical, they have a bearing on reality, unlike the party's foreign policy projects. For example, Zhirinovsky claims that his party suggested the current election reform in the regions, which replaced the public election of governors with their approval by the legislative assemblies upon the recommendation of the president, ten years ago. "Putin is acting too slowly. It takes him a year to do what our party would have done in a month," he says. The political calisthenics of Zhirinovsky and Mitrofanov mostly provokes laughter or embarrassment, depending on the audience. They are regarded as the political leaders of marginal groups. Liberal Democrats accepted the role of political jesters but their jokes sometimes turn out to be more correct than some scientific forecasts. This is what created the ballyhoo over Mitrofanov's bill on the new procedure for the presidential election. Russian liberals, who denounced the recent Russian reforms to strengthen the state as the return of authoritarianism, know very well that, given the will, this political reform can be carried out very quickly and in two or three months Russia would have a president elected by the Duma. This means that the rule of Vladimir Putin, whom they are trying to challenge all the time, or the rule of his successor relying on the conservative-etatist constitutional majority in the State Duma, would never end, leaving few chances to the Yeltsin-era liberals who had been forced out of big politics. On the other hand, there are no reasons for panic - so far. The Duma majority from the pro-presidential United Russia did not support Mitrofanov's idea. Besides, Mitrofanov suggests enforcing the law in eight years, when "everyone sees that the general presidential election in Russia is a silly waste of money." What have the Liberal Democrats offered the Russian public this time, another joke or a well-substantiated prediction? They probably do not know themselves. The only thing a jester can do is check the public mood by making his dangerous jokes. After all, the choice rests with the people, including as regards the election of president.
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