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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Takes Shot at Governors

The State Duma passed a bill Wednesday that would cut the number of governors allowed to seek a third or even fourth term from 69 to 10. But the bill, which apparently does not have the Kremlin's support, is likely to have a rough time making it into law.

The bill is an amendment to legislation that the Duma passed earlier this year with the Kremlin's silent approval that allowed all governors elected before October 1999 to seek two more terms in office.

The legislation was seen at the time as President Vladimir Putin's biggest concession to the governors since coming to power, a gesture of gratitude for the governors' approval of his federal reforms that sharply limited the power of the regions.

The bill was passed 247 to 38 on Monday, but with most members of the pro-Kremlin Unity faction boycotting the vote, Interfax reported.

The basis for the squabble lies in a law on regional government that came into effect in October 1999 and which limited a governor to two consecutive terms in office. In January of this year, the Duma passed legislation that defined the first term as the one that started after October 1999, thus granting 69 governors the right to seek re-election at least one more time.

Speaking on the Duma rostrum Wednesday, the head of the committee on regional policy, Leonid Ivanchenko, said it was "categorically unacceptable" to allow governors to rule for so many years, Interfax reported. He said some of the governors could rule until 2013 if the law stayed unchanged.

The bill approved Wednesday adds the condition that only governors of regions whose constitutions did not have the two-term limitation written into them in October 1999 would be allowed to run. This brought the number of governors eligible for another term to 10.

They include two political heavyweights: Yury Luzhkov, who has been Moscow mayor since 1992, and Mintimer Shaimiyev, who has been ruling Tatarstan since 1991 and was recently re-elected. By winning re-election again, Luzhkov could stay in office until 2007 and Shaimiyev until 2009. The other eight are the heads of the republics of Kabardino-Balkaria, Kalmykia and Komi and the governors of the Astrakhan, Leningrad, Novgorod, Sakhalin and Tver regions.

Interfax said the most open supporters were the Communists and the two liberal factions — the Union of Right Forces and Yabloko, which voted unanimously for the bill. Union of Right Forces Deputy Boris Nadezhdin was the author of the bill.

The future of the bill is very unsure, said Alexei Titkov, a regional policy analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center.

"The bargaining is far from over," Titkov said in a telephone interview. "The bill still has to pass the Federation Council and then get approved by the president. It can be stalled a million times over before that."

Some Kremlin-connected politicians showed open irritation at their colleagues from the Duma and threatened to block the bill. Valery Goreglyad, a leader of the pro-Kremlin Federation faction in the upper house, said the bill had "very little chance of becoming law," Interfax reported.