The Heritage Foundation

Backgrounder #976 on Russia

January 14, 1994

January 14, 1994 | Backgrounder on Russia

A Reform Agenda for the New Russian Parliament, Part II: Political and Legal Issues


(Archived document, may contain errors)

976 January 19,1994 AREFORMAGENDA FORTHENEW RUSSIANPARLIAMENT PARTIkPOLITICALANDLEGALBSUES INTRODUCTION The results of Russias parliamentary elections are a soberin g reminder of the politi cal task facing the cause of reform in Russia. As a consequence of the elections, com munists and fascists will have the largest block of seats in the lower house of parliament the Duma. Reformers will have the second largest bloc k of seats, but they are still badly divided on how quickly to proceed with economic reform.

In such a political environ ment, it is vitally important that reformers form a united front against the red-brown ex tremists. To do this they must agree upon a d ramatic and sweeping reformist agenda that promises quick results. The reformers are running out of time. If they do not show some positive results before the next presidential election, in 1996, Russias next president surely will be an anti-democrat, and possibly even an extremist like Vladimir Zhirinovsky But the cause of democracy and he markets is not dead. If he wishes to act, Boris Yeltsin can exercise more powers than before, granted by his newly approved constitu tion, to push through economic and p olitical change. Moreover, the reformist parties from Yegor Gaidars Russias Choice to Grigory Yavlinskys bloc, should have learned a valuable lesson from the December elections: bickering over petty differences is a recipe for disaster. If the democrats p u t aside their differences, and if the Russian president once again acts as a leader of the reformist movement rather than a passive observer, the democratic movement once again may become united behind a common agenda the Federal Assembly. There reformers have the chance to create a bold and sweeping program that will produce results quickly. As they work to build democracy, a market economy, and the rule of law in Russia, members of the newly elected Russian parlia ment should The arena for reinvigorating the this agenda will be the new Russian parliament, called STARK 1) Create a pro-reform coalition that will represent the commitment of the Russian people to freedom and free markets 2) Adopt rules of parliamentary procedure that will reduce factionalism a nd enhance party discipline 3) Create an independent judiciary 4) Enact a new criminal code that conforms to international legal standards 5) Make the fight against crime and government corruption a very high priority 6) Bring the Defense Ministry, the In t erior Ministry, and the Federal Counterintelligence Service firmly under civilian control 7) Adopt laws that ensure a free mass media 8) Pass federal legislation regulating election campaigns and political parties 9) Adopt a new pro-market civil code, inc l uding laws on bankruptcy and intellectual property protection 10) Strike social rights, or entitlements, from the Russian constitution 11) Create parliamentary committees that will organize and accelerate reform legislation 12) Press for constitutional am e ndments that ensure a greater balance between the 13) Adopt a law that will ensure the systemic cleansing of the government of its com- r authority of the central government and the regions munist legacy ZHOICES FOR THE NEW PARLIAMENT Reforms in Russia ha ve stalled. Boris Yeltsins political struggles with his hard-line op position have distracted and divided the once united democratic movement. The chal lenge now for the new parliament will be to restore the momentum lost over the past year.

The slowdown b egan in December 1992 when Yeltsin dismissed economic reformer Yegor Gaidar as Prime Minister. Gaidar and other democrats, such as Gennady Burbulis and Galina Starovoitova, were fired in response to pressure from the Supreme Soviet Chairman, Ruslan Khasbu l atov, and other hard-liners, who saw their political positions threatened by Gaidars reforms. As a result, the influence of the former communist up parutchiki and nomenklatura in the central and regional governments grew. While privatization proceeded in t he service sector and light industry, most large industrial enterprises remained in the hands of the state. Privatization of the land was not occurring at all. The Central Bank continued supporting state-owned industrial enterprises, collec tive farms, an d the military-industrial complex with subsidies and cheap credit. The result was an enormous budget deficit and a near hyperinflation rate in August 1993 of 33 percent per month.

Russian Supreme Soviet engaged in a political struggle against Yeltsin. The obstruc tionist policies of the legislature, led by Khasbulatov, frustrated Yeltsins campaign of Instead of passing legislation to create a viable free market democracy, meanwhile, the 2 reform, slowing the process and ultimately postponing the time when t he reforms would show positive results. The widespread popular discontent expressed in the December 1993 parliamentary elections, when ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky s Liberal Democratic Party won 24 percent of the vote, is indeed rooted in the sl o w pace of reforms. Far from conducting shock therapy on Russia as Yeltsins opponents often charge, the Russian president has not yet tried a policy of sweeping and rapid market reforms tinue the bitter political struggle with the president that could resu lt in civil war, or to cooperate with him in a far-reaching and rapid campaign to create a market economy.

Parliament must decide between trying to undermine a popularly elected president or finding a modus vivendi with him. It must choose also between con tinuing to entertain unrealistic ideas of imperial grandeur as envisioned by Zhirinovsky, or living peacefully with Russias neighbors and other nations, including the United States.

If market reforms are abandoned, democracy rolled back, and hard-line eco nomic and foreign policies pursued, no tangible benefits will accrue to the people of Russia or its leadership. Russias chances for continued integration into the international community and the world market will be lost, foreign investors will be scared a way, and renewed hostility between Russia and her neighbors as well as the West, will surely occur. The result will be more poverty, less security, and even greater humiliation for Russia and its people Russias new parliament, which convened on January 12 , 1994, has a choice: to con A REFORM AGENDA FOR THE NEW PARLIAMENT While members of the new Russian parliament may have political choices, Russia it self has no choice: either it proceeds quickly toward establishing a constitutional democracy and market e c onomy, or it will surely sink into an abyss that threatens harsh political repression, more grinding poverty, and possibly even bloodshed and war. The pace of reform cannot slow in Russia. Certainly it cannot stand still either. Russias only choice is to m ove as quickly as possible toward creating a legal order that protects the freedom and security of each individual in the Russian Federation. Only when Russians are free, secure, and prosperous will Russias neighbors be free, secure, and prosperous as wel l.

To bring their county forward, members of the new Russian parliament should d Create a pro-reform coalition that will represent the commitment of the Russian people to freedom and free markets Poll data show that the majority of .Russians support the ma rket reforms and multi party democracy, and do not want to return to the times of Communist Party rule A Rus sian exit poll on election day, December 12, 1993, indicated that 70 percent of the voters wanted Russia to develop a market economy 1 1 The poll w as conducted by Mitofsky InternationaVInstitute for Comparative Social Research. The results were reported in 3 Almost 60 percent of the voters sup ported Yeltsin's constitution which intro duces basic in dividual freedoms and recognizes property rights I n April 1993, a majority of voters approved Yeltsin's economic reforms. At that time 53 percent said they sup ported the crea tion of a free market in Rus sia. Despite the success of Vladimir Zhirinovsky s ultranationalist Liberal-Democratic Party, the ele c tion results prove that most of the elec torate favors President Yeltsin and his reforms. Russian voters have sent Yeltsin a mes sage: they want the reforms to work, and work fast. In order to do that, more-not less free market transformation has to take place.

The factional splits in the democratic camp and personal animosities between the reformers, as successfully exploited by Zhirinovsky and the communists, could be devas tating for the cause of democracy in Russia. Zhirinovsky could torpedo the reform s and win the presidential elections in 1996 under such a scenario. Only a strong, tightly knit coalition of reformers is capable of enacting a program radical enough to show positive results before 1996.

The formation of such a coalition should be the fi rst priority for the democrats. Can didates for a united anti-communist and anti-fascist front should include: Russia's Choice, the Yavlinsky-Boldyrev-Lukin bloc, and Sergei Shakhrai's Unity and Accord party, plus some newly elected deputies from the Wome n of Russia movement. Perhaps even some Zhirinovsky supporters could be persuaded to break ranks with their leader and join the reformist bloc Margaret Shapiro Russians Approve New Constitution The Wmhingron Post, December 13,1993, p. Al 4 Many independent and uncommitted deputies, elected from the single mandate dis tricts? may wish to join a pro-reform coalition to work on the transformation of their country into a prosperous and democratic state. If reforms prove successful, more voters will support the reformers. By contrast, communists and ultranationalists promise dis aster for Russia: international isolation, hyperinflation, and possibly even war.

The Federal Assembly must avoid the mistakes of its predecessor, the Supreme Soviet of Russia. A head-on confrontation with the president and the administration would be counterproductive More efforts to seek compromise ijhd cooperation with the president and reformist ministers of the government are needed d Adopt rules of parliamentary procedure that will r educe factionalism and enhance party discipline Communists and other opponents of the reforms demonstrated discipline and effective organization in the former Supreme Soviet. This was not true for the democrats and the reformers. Some in the Democratic Ru s sia movement, such as Ilya Konstantinov, Sergei Baburin, and Mikhail Astafyev often voted with the opposition or defected altogether to the anti-reform camp. The rules of procedure were often manipulated by the speaker Rus lan Khasbulatov, to purge his op ponents and mobilize the Supreme Soviet against Yeltsin. And Khasbulatov used his powers to purge disloyal parliamentary committee chairmen and to pass a hyperinflationary budget last summer.

To form a united front against hard-liners in the new parliament , the reformers should develop a whip system. Whips would maintain party discipline on votes by applying sanctions-including possibly expulsion-against party members who voted with the op position d Create an independent judiciary system The Russian court system is notoriously inefficient, in part because it was never meant to function in a market economy. Haunted by its Soviet past, the Russian court system is wholly inadequate for resolving disputes between private businesses. A simple contract can hardl y be enforced in Russian courts today. Speedy trials with professional judges and a reliable enforcement system are needed. Also necessary is a bottom-up reconstruc tion of the court system, including dismissal of incompetent and corrupt judges.

A market e conomy and a democratic system cannot function with such a court system This will require retraining most judges and recruiting new ones. Western legal associa tions such as the American Bar Association could provide technical expertise 3 2 One half of th e Duma (a total of 450 seats) was elected by party slates based on proportional representation, while the other half was elected based on the majority system, with one district sending the deputy who received the plurality of votes (single-mandate district s).

Professor Nina Belyaeva, President of lnferlegul Foundation, personal interview, Washington, D.C., December, 1993. 3 5 d Enact a new criminal code that conforms to international legal standards For three generations Russians have suffered from a repressiv e and arbitrary criminal code. Under Soviet rule, the criminal code favored the state and the prosecution and guaranteed precious few constitutional rights for suspects. The current Russian criminal code contains remnants from the socialist past, such as c l auses on preventing specula tion, which under current law could include any sale of goods for profit The new parliament should pass a modem penal code that is compatible with interna tional standards. Such a law would protect such individual rights as the inviolability of residences and the privacy of postal and telephone communications. It would shelter citizens from abuse and persecution by the state d Make the fight against government corruption a very high priority While protecting basic individual rig h ts, the penal code also must be adequate to the task of fighting government corruption and organized crime, which have become ram pant in the last couple of years. Russia has become one of the most corrupt states in the world. The main reason is a complet e breakdown of law enforcement. But also important contributing factors are bureaucratic red tape and unabashed nepotism. Corruption has undermined the confidence of Russia's citizens in good government, making them cyni cal about their public servants and about politics in general This cynicism is corrosive to the public spirit that is needed if democracy is to survive. In addition, corruption in creases the costs of doing business in Russia for both domestic and international com panies 4 To solve the pro b lem of government corruption, the new parliament should Drastically cut the size of government bureaucracy, and curtail its authority to reduce the opportunities for corrupt behavior Recruit and train a new civil service that is sympathetic to free market and democratic principles Draft and adopt a very strict ethics code for the civil service to stop corruption and nepotism and to prevent conflicts of interest. Such a code, for example would prevent government officials from taking equity, commissions, an d consulting fees for transactions in which they are involved owning private businesses related to their work, to prevent conflicts of interest f Pass legislation that enables the court system to prosecute and punish quickly and justly those who are guilty of government corruption The legislation should define corrupt behavior and specify open and competitive bids for contracts that involve government participation Prevent civil servants from holding more than one government post, or 4 For a detailed discus s ion of the issue seeVictorYasmann The Russian Civil Service: Conuption and Reform RFm Research Reporr, Vol. 2, No. 16, April 16, 1993, p.18ff 6 d Bring the Defense Ministry, the Interior Ministry, and the Federal Counterintel ligence Service under firm ci v ilian control Historically, it has been the executive, not the legislative or judicial branches, that has been guilty of the worst abuses of human rights in Russia. It allowed the Cheka, in revolutionary times, and later the KGB, to create a state within a state with great powers and privileges. Such power ministries as the Main Political Directorate OGPU), the;-Peoples Commissariat -for-Internal affairs (NKVD the Ministry of State Security (MGB and the Committee on State Security (KGB) were internal secur i ty or ganizations controlled by the Communist Party elite which violated the human rights of the population. These organizations were guilty of mass murder and conducted such destructive economic policies as the forced collectivization of agriculture and the heavy industrialization and militarization of the economy.

In order to prevent a re-occurrence of these disasters the internal bureaucracies in the defense, security, and interior ministries must be placed firmly under the appropriate form of civilian control: in the case of the military, under the president, and in the case of the security apparatus and interior ministry, under the supervision of the Procurator General, the courts, and the parliamentary committees for National Security, Human Rights, and Judiciary.

Currently the resistance of Russian generals to the conversion of the military in dustries and reform of the Russian armed forces threatens to bankrupt Russia. The top brass of the security apparatus, most of whom are survivors of the Soviet KGB are still arguing for vast and uncontrolled powers. Meanwhile the Foreign Intelligence Service SVR) and the Military Intelligence Directorate (GRU) continue their activities against the West, despite declarations by Russian officials that Russia does not have foreign enemies In the last two years, Russian diplomats have been expelled from Britain, Ger many, and Scandinavian countries for espionage To increase the accountability of the security and military services to the people, the National Security , Judiciary, and Human Rights committees of the parliament must Participate, through working groups, in the formulation of policy. This could be done by conducting hearings on important issues in the fields of defense and national security, such as policie s in the near abroad(the former Soviet Union relations with the U.S. and NATO, and the size and tasking of military forces Hold confirmation hearings for top nominations in the security and military ministries Amend the constitution to allow parliamentary p articipation in military personnel questions. Greater openness in civil-military relations will advance the reform process Keep the military budget under strict control by the government. Military ex penditures should not be allowed to derail economic ref o rm by exceeding three percent to five percent of Russias gross domestic product Ensure that draft laws on key defense and security issues are published and circulated in advance so that wide public scrutiny, analysis, and debate are encouraged 5 7 Draft l aws to purge the security organs of people who are holdovers from the communist era.

Legislate a "Freedom of Information Act to allow citizens access to their domestic surveillance files Prevent the security services from controlling the freedom of movemen t and the approval of visas for foreign travel Revise the 1992 Law on Security, which gave the security ministries unprece dented authority to tamper with individual rights, including vast powers to search, arrest, and monitor private correspondence witho u t court sanction and judicial control. The activities of the security apparatus should be brought into accordance with internationally accepted practices. Thus, the ac tions of state security organs should be sanctioned by independent courts and supervise d by state prosecutors Narrow the range of Federal Counterintelligence Service activities SO that it is involved only in combating crime and terrorism, and not in domestic espionage Curtail the use of secret informers (seksom, permitting it only under a co u rt order, and then only under strict supervision of the Procurator's office. The employment of informers recruited during the Soviet era should be stopped altogether Observe international legal norms concerning the interception of mail and the tapping of t elephones. A court order should be required for each intrusion on personal communications. Court orders should be issued only when there is a suspicion of criminal activity that can be supported by evidence 6 d Adopt laws that ensure a free mass media The state should minimize its involvement in the media business. The Russian govern ment subsidizes the majority of nationally circulated newspapers, controls printing plants, and is managing two national television channels and several national radio net wor ks. Local governments are in charge of their own electronic and print media. The hard-liners in the former Supreme Soviet attempted numerous times to take over the daily newspapers and the Ostankino and Russian television stations?

Russia should now begin the privatization of television and radio stations. Newspapers and magazines should be allowed to function freely so that the state cannot control the publication of news and political commentary. Moreover, new private distribution chan 5 6 Ibid. pp. 34-3 5 7 J. Michael Waller, "When Will Democrats Control the Former KGB?".Demokratiz,atsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratizution, Vol 1. No. 1 (Summer 1993). pp. 27-37.

Vitaly Korotich On the Unpaved Road to Democracy Propaganda, Disinfornration, Persuas ion, Vol. 5 (Summer 1993 pp. 13-15 8 nels for the print media, instead of the old Soviet-style state-owned distribution agency Soyuzpechat should be created. The government should encourage these new distribu tion channels by offering them tax benefits an d by eliminating cumbersome regulations d Pass legislation on election campaigns and political parties The December elections clearly revealed several drawbacks in current electoral laws.

For example, allowing a small plurality in electoral districts to se nd representatives to the State Duma was an unwise law. These small pluralities do not sufficiently reflect the popular will of the electorate Also unwise was permitting extremist, anti-constitutional parties on the ballot ties and elections that To corre c t these and other problems the Parliament should adopt laws on political par Require a longer notice for holding elections and a longer period (up to a month) for collecting qualifying signatures. This will allow small, nascent political parties the time t o organize for an election campaign Permit run-off elections in singlemandate districts that currently send the win ners of the smallest plurality to the Duma This will prevent the election of deputies who win only a small percentage of the vote and thus d o not ade quately represent their constituencies Replace the choice of voting against all candidates on ballots with the option of writing in a vote. This will help to prevent attempts by extremist political groups to eliminate all candidates and annul th e vote. They do this by urging their supporters to vote against all candidates thus denying a district the minimum number of votes required for a valid election Permit preelection agreements that would enable parties which fail to clear the five percent hu r dle to reallocate their votes to parties that successfully cross it! This will allow losing parties to pass their votes to parties of their choice thus providing for a more democratic reflection of the popular will Ban members of the Duma and Council of t h e Federation (the upper house of parliament) from occupying posts in the executive branch.This should ensure the separation of powers and prevent conflicts of interest Add a clause in the criminal code banning any political organization that advo cates th e violent overthrow of the existing constitutional order. A similar code provision in Germany outlaws the Nazi Party 9 8 9 Russian election law stipulates that a minimum of five percent of the vote must be attained for a party slate to qualify for seats in the parliament.

Un Raanan, A Problematic Electoral System, Perspecrive,Vol. IV, No. 1 (September-October 1993 p. 2 9 d Adopt a new pro-market civil code, laws on bankruptcy, and legislation protecting Russian domestic and international investors are calli ng for the introduction of a modem civil law code that will ensure predictability in business transactions. Such a code would improve the business climate in Russia, increasing Western investment and contributing to the success of reforms. Major statutes s hould include a modern contract law, a bankruptcy law,-a statute regulating the sale of goods, intellectual property protec tion, and an investor-friendly real estate and land use law. The latter should allow for the quick and orderly development of the r e al estate market and ensure a timely resolution of Russias perennial housing shortage intellectual property d Strike social rights, or entitlements, from the Russian constitution Even in Bill Clintons America, which is much richer than Russia, the governm e nt could not pay for all the social rights guaranteed by the Russian constitution. Although the U.S. Constitution lacks the many social rights found in the Russian constitution Americans enjoy higher quality health care, housing, and education than do Rus sians.

The government-guaranteed free medical care, free college education, minimum wages and free housing promised by the new Russian constitution are echoes of the empty dec larations of the Soviet era. To make these promises perpetuates the false notion that an all-powerful state, rather than the Russian people, is responsible for providing desired goods and services.

The many social rights found in the new Russian constitution are being abandoned throughout the industrialized world, even in such welfar e-rights nations as Sweden and Germany. Any serious attempt to ensure these entitlements by the government would bankrupt the Russian state and the Russian people, who would have to endure very high rates of taxation to pay for them. Failure by the govern m ent to deliver on its promises, as will certainly be the case, would only contribute to the longstanding cynicism with which Russians historically have viewed their constitution. The current constitution should be amended to delete those social rights, wh i ch it lacks the resources and the authority to guarantee d Create parliamentary committees that will organize and accelerate reform legislation The chief task of the new parliament should be furthering economic and democratic reforms. The pro-reform coali t ion should assign its members to parliamentary commit tees according to their expertise and interests, with the most experienced and able politicians heading the key committees In addition, committees.must rely on competent professional staffers with refo r mist credentials In order to facilitate its functions, the new Parliament should establish committees on Economic reform Constitutional reform and federal development International affairs and foreign trade 10 1 Defense and national security Individual fr e edoms and human rights Agriculture, land use, and environment Social policy Judiciary Education, science, and health care These committees should reflect the reformist agenda and should institutionalize it by drafting appropriate legislation d Press for c o nstitutional amendments that ensure a greater balance between the authority of the central government and the regions The newly adopted constitution creates a strong federal government that denies many powers to the regions (oblasts) and the autonomous re p ublics." This situation creates an imbalance favoring federal power over local interests. As the constitution allows for an amendment process, a more equitable federal structure should be created that will diminish the authority of Moscow bureaucrats and e mpower the republics, regions cities, towns, and rural administrations to find their own path to the free market. The con flict between Moscow and the regions is over the rate of taxation, decision-making in economic development, and control over local na t ural resources. While the federal government can provide binding laws outlining the reform path, the ultimate say in the way reforms should be implemented must be kept in local hands This can be done by reviving an old Russian practice and combining it wi t h Western approaches to local government. From the 1860s to the early 19OOs, Russia had a local administrative body (the zemstvo) that was in charge of education, health care, land use and other local issues. This experience, together with electing local d emocratic bodies ac countable to the voters, can be successfully updated and used in enhancing local govern ment today. A law on local administration that envisages wide public participation in municipal and local government and full accountability to the electorate needs to be drafted. Doing this should reduce the current stranglehold of entrenched nomenklatura elites on local governments in Russia In addition, the newly adopted constitution assigns to the president judicial functions such as the settleme n t of disputes between the local and federal governments and guaran teeing the protection of human rights. These tasks should be defined by the constitution and performed by the Supreme Court and the Procurator General. To maintain the separa tion of power s the executive branch should not be excessively involved in matters best left to the'judiciary 10 The Federal Treaty, defining authority and relations between the regions and the center was signed in spring 19

92. It was a part of all recent constitutiona l projects, but was dropped from the final Yeltsin constitutional draft. d Adopt a law that will ensure the systemic cleansing of the government of its communist legacy After World War 11, the allied powers required that West Germany adopt de-Nazifica tio n laws. These laws ensured that the grim legacy of Hitlers rule was put to rest once and for all. De-Nazification allowed Germany to accomplish its economic miracle of the 1950s and 1960s. A similar process took place in Japan. To complete the transition t o democracy, and to do away with the legacy of communism, similar laws should be adopted for Russia as well. While avoiding witch hunts that create bitterness and only paralyze the country, the new Russian parliament nevertheless should Permit those who oc c upied party positions at the level of regional committee secretary and above to engage in politics as elected officials, but bar them from working in the government bureaucracy Prosecute Communist Party and KGB personnel for the worst abuses of the old So v iet system. Party and government functionaries involved in the mass deportations of the Balts, Chechens, and Crimean Tatars, as well as officials responsible for torture, human experimentation, and mass executions, should be prosecuted Permit citizens acc e ss to their KGB and Communist Party files Create job retraining programs for security services officers fired from the old KGB and Ministry of Security CONCLUSION The newly elected Russian parliament will either make or break the cause of Russian democrac y . To be sure, the temptation will exist to reject many democratic reforms as non-Russian. While it is true that democracy must be adapted to the Russian character, it is equally true that the principles of democratic capitalism are time-tested and univers a l challenge of the new parliament. It will not be easy. Almost half of the new parliament will be composed of deputies who are clearly anti-democratic and hostile to the free market. But if Russia is to be free and prosperous, it has no choice but to dest roy the old communist system and prevent the rise of fascism, while building a new democratic free market system Finding the Russian way to institutionalize the universal principles of democracy is the Ariel Cohen, Ph.D.

Salvatori Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies 12

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