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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Gives Governors Token State Council

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After months of discussion, President Vladimir Putin on Thursday unveiled plans for a largely symbolic State Council comprised of all 89 governors.

Putin announced the make-up of the council in the Samara region, where he held the last round of closed-door consultations with regional leaders on establishing the new body. He said he would sign the decree forming the council on Friday.

Putin had promised to establish the council as compensation to the governors, who will lose their seats in the Federation Council, or upper house of parliament, by 2002 as a result of a law the president shepherded through parliament this year.

Many governors had hoped the State Council would be given real powers, but, in remarks to reporters Thursday, Putin indicated that — at least for the time being — it would be a purely advisory body.

The president said the council would convene every three months and would consist of all 89 regional leaders. Earlier, some officials had suggested that only selected governors would be granted seats.

Putin said the council would have a rotating presidium of seven governors — one from each federal district — who will be responsible for such "technical things" as drafting an agenda for the council’s meetings. The presidium will rotate every six months, he said.

The speakers of the regional legislatures — who will also have to give up their seats in the Federation Council — will not serve in the new body.

At the moment, the State Council seems doomed to play a purely advisory role. Transferring any legislative functions to it would require amendments to the Constitution.

In early August, Putin said it might be possible to give the council some of the non-legislative functions — such as confirming some presidential appointments and approving declarations of war — currently fulfilled by the Federation Council.

But on Thursday he said it was too early to transfer any powers, since the Federation Council "continues to function fully."

Putin hinted, however, that the State Council may become more powerful in the future.

"We will decide together what will happen next. We will not decide it in isolation," Putin said.

Putin said he had taken into account the suggestions of governors and other political forces in drafting his decree.

He said Thursday’s meeting with the 13 governors of the Volga District prompted him to change the name of the planned body from the "presidential State Council" to the "State Council of the Russian Federation." But it was not clear what that meant in terms of the council’s role.

Critics of the president’s plan to rein in the regions were for the most part quiet Thursday. An aide to Moscow City Duma speaker Vladimir Platonov said his boss will comment on the council only after Putin signs the decree Friday and reveals exactly what the new body will be.

But Tatarstan leader Mintimer Shaimiyev, who participated in Thursday’s meeting of Volga district leaders, told reporters in Samara that he supports establishment of the council, but hopes it will be given more powers in the future.

Shaimiyev’s spokesman, Irek Murtazin, said by telephone from Kazan that Shaimiyev will push for amendments to the Constitution to grant "real powers" to the State Council.

Grigory Belonuchkin of the Panorama think tank said attempts to amend the Constitution will likely fizzle out.

Amending the Constitution is a complicated process that in some cases requires a national referendum. In other cases, it must be passed by a two-thirds majority in the Duma and a three-quarters majority in the Federation Council and then endorsed by simple majorities of two-thirds of the 89 regional legislatures.

Belonuchkin said he expects the council to remain a consultative body that could lobby regional interests but will not have any powers to challenge the president.