Mironov Offers Plan For Electing Senators

Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov has proposed a limited form of elections to the upper chamber of the country's parliament to replace the current practice of appointing members.

Under Mironov's proposal, voters would choose from at least three candidates for each seat in the council.

Each of the country's 83 regions sends two members to the chamber, and the plan would see the regional legislature provide voters with at least three candidates for one seat, while regional leaders would provide the second list, Mironov told Vedomosti in an interview published Tuesday.

Currently, regional legislatures choose one member and are called upon to confirm the executive's nomination as the second. Senators serve four-year terms.

Mirinov said the old system was too rigid, while offering at least three candidates would "ensure that the vote contains alternatives, even if one of them drops out," the paper reported.

He said the reform could be presented to the government and President Dmitry Medvedev by September.

Critics have accused the Federation Council of becoming even more of a rubber-stamp institution under Mironov, subjecting proposed laws to even less scrutiny than the largely opposition-free State Duma.

Mironov has been speaker since 2001.

Nikolai Petrov, an analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center, said the proposals might help return the Federation Council to its intended function of balancing regional interests.

"Most senators have been reduced to business lobbyists or their jobs are just sinecures for former officials," he said.

Critics have long said many senators are busier with private business interests than with working effectively for their regions.

Current Federation Council members include high-profile businessmen like Dagestani financier Suleiman Kerimov, Chechen entrepreneur Umar Dzhabrailov and multimillionaire hedge fund manager Andrei Vavilov.

St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko called earlier this month for changes to the council. "The regions must delegate people who ... will stand up for them. Currently, many in the Federation Council are there with different motives," she said, Vedomosti reported.

Last year, the council adopted a law requiring senators to have lived 10 years in the regions they represent.