Excerpts from transcript of meeting with leaders of parliamentary parties
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
Not long ago, I met with all the deputies of the State Duma at the end of the session and the end of the work of the current parliament. I have already mentioned the vast amount of work performed by you over the years, and expressed my gratitude to all the deputies for their cooperation.
We agreed to have an additional separate meeting with some of you. I reiterate that you have done a great deal of work. Despite different approaches to resolving numerous social, economic and domestic issues, the current Duma still managed — under your leadership, of course, because you are the leaders of the parties represented in the Duma — to find compromises on key issues, and achieve consensus. This is important, and I wish to thank you specifically for that as the leaders of the State Duma parties.
A new election campaign is, in fact, already underway. There will be elections to legislative assemblies in 39 regions, 11 municipal assemblies of major administrative centres, and elections of nine governors of Russian regions. This is a major campaign and an important event in this country.
I took note of the fact that you have decided to have all candidates to the State Duma be personally involved in the election campaign, the debates, and the meetings with eligible voters, which is extremely important and very useful, because both the administrative authorities and the representative bodies must use this period for delving even deeper into the issues that concern our citizens, to be able to better understand them and, based on this understanding, to set the right priorities in our future work.
Of course, major and powerful political forces, such as the parties that you represent, expect to not only make it to the new parliament, but also to improve their respective positions. This can be done only if we rely on the will of the people who put their faith in all of us, and provide us with a mandate to do the work in question.
As you are aware, we are back to using the mixed system, including single-seat constituencies, which, in my opinion, should help foster competition, in a good way. I strongly hope that this political competition will help active, effective and goal-oriented people get elected to the State Duma.
Let us first talk about how you see the upcoming period of our joint campaign. Then we will discuss the priorities, which I have already mentioned and which will certainly have to be adjusted depending on the mandates Russian citizens give to the future deputies.
In particular, I would like to thank the Speaker of the State Duma for managing — amid the heated passions that occasionally arose in parliament — to steer confidently this unwieldy ship to its final destination, which we are all working toward.
One other important and noteworthy point is that the deputies and the citizens must be pleased with not only a higher level of competition, but also with an improved political culture. When we see what is happening in some countries, we know that the outrageous behaviour, brawls and profanity in those parliaments are designed to advance not the legitimate interests of the citizens, but their self-serving interests, which is, of course, inevitable in politics — there's no way around it. However, we should focus primarily on the interests of the people for whom we work.
Let us discuss the issues that you consider important.
Mr Naryshkin, please.
State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin: Mr President, thank you for convening this meeting and for addressing the State Duma on June 22. In that address, your assessment of the work of the Sixth State Duma was rather high and you formulated fundamental tasks for the parliament related to the upcoming September election, the further development of the parliamentary system of government and its structures, and the prestige of the parliament in the country.
It is true that there is still much to be done in this area, primarily in improving the law-making process. I believe that the main stages of this process, its procedure and duration should be formalised in a special law. This has been done in European countries and in some CIS countries. A well-planned and systemic legislative process, about which you spoke in your June 22 address, will serve the interests of all branches of power. I believe that the Seventh State Duma we should focus on this objective.
Second, I am convinced that public opinion should be the main criterion of the success of the legislative branch, more so than in the case of other branches of power. No other convocation of the State Duma was given such a mixed assessment, even including suggestions to dissolve it, which contradicts the Constitution, than the Sixth State Duma in the initial period of its work. You may remember that this is how it was in late 2011 and early 2012.
But we managed to overcome this, proving with our work that it is better to hold discussions in the State Duma than to take them to the streets and squares, and that the so-called “street democracy” cannot replace the professional and consistent work of all the political forces that are represented in the country’s supreme legislative body. I would like to remind you that as a result of this parliament’s approval rating increased nearly twofold by the final stage of its work, according to opinion polls.
Third, the September 18 election will be a major stage in the development of the country’s political system and possibly another trial for the Sixth State Duma, because polls show that the four political parties that are represented in this Duma can achieve the 5 percent barrier and win seats in the next State Duma. In a way, the Sixth State Duma was unique because of the unprecedented external challenges that Russia faced at that time.
I have already said and would like to repeat once more that at the times of trial all four parliamentary parties managed to rise above their narrow party interests and pool their efforts to resolve major strategic tasks facing our society. Mr President, I would like to thank their leaders in your presence for constructive cooperation in key areas of our work.
I am convinced that the ability to maintain constructive cooperation will help us in the upcoming election campaign. I think there is every opportunity to hold it today without public quarrels, squabbling and so-called black PR. It can and should be based on honest competition and a positive agenda.
I hope very much that other parties that have already announced their participation in the elections will also act positively. I know personally many activists of non-parliamentary parties with whom I worked in the Council for Non-Parliamentary Parties that was established for the first time under the State Duma Speaker. There are smart and responsible people among them that are concerned about their homeland and understand the value of professional work over populism.
I would like to make a general conclusion that I already mentioned to my colleagues at one of the closing State Duma sessions, that parliament is always stronger in a country where the might of a state and the role of civil society are growing. Conversely, active civil society and a durable state are impossible without a strong parliament.
And the last point. Deputies of the State Duma of the sixth convocation continue working. Literally every day I receive new bills submitted by Duma deputies, and they will be reviewed in detail by the Duma of the seventh convocation. International parliamentary diplomacy is as active as ever.
Two weeks ago we held a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC) as its Chair. Our delegations took part in the session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy. Today a group of our deputies is working at the venue you established – the Petersburg Dialogue. The deputies will continue exercising their powers until the State Duma of the seventh convocation holds its first session.
Vladimir Putin: You have repeated one of the points I have described already. To be more precise, we managed to come to an agreement on all the key issues. I must say that the efficiency of this country’s parliament was a great help with the problems of 2008–2009 and all the complications in the run-up. This was very important.
While there are, rightly, different approaches to addressing the key challenges related to development, parliament must be able to get things done. The absence of a functioning parliament is a huge threat to internal stability, to our ability to maintain the level of public wellbeing, and to economic development. It is a disaster. That is why I sincerely hope the next parliament will consist of people who are professional, responsible and who know why they are in the State Duma of Russia.
Vladimir Putin: We really need to approach our past carefully. It should be analysed calmly, carefully and thoroughly as we draw our conclusions. We should not overlook anything positive in our past, while also understanding where we have made mistakes and how and using that as we move forward. All this is our past, good or bad. It is something special that can reassure us, because we have experience, and experience is precious.
Levelling is certainly bad. That is clear. However, we cannot do away with free education and healthcare now, and we will not do so. First, they are guaranteed by the Constitution and, second, quality paid services should expand solely in parallel with rising prosperity in general.
We must understand how we got here, and what state our economy and social services are in. That is why we will work together on public utilities with the Liberal Democratic and Communist parties, with United Russia and A Just Russia. If some of the present contenders for parliamentary seats make it to the Duma, we will work with them all. However great the difference in our approaches to the challenges facing our country, we will seek to meet each other halfway and arrive at the most effective solutions to problems. Working together is the only way for us to address the problems that people expect us to solve.