Mr Mironov represented the St Petersburg Legislative Assembly in the Council of Federation, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, and was its speaker for nearly ten years until his mandate was terminated by the St Petersburg Legislative Assembly in May.
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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Mironov, before we begin, I would like to thank you for all the work you did as speaker of the Council of Federation, the upper chamber of our parliament, for your efforts in law-making, designing our country’s political system in the broadest sense, and the multifaceted activities you conducted in improving our legislation. Indeed, you have followed this path for long, for almost ten years.
Over that period, whatever one may think of the present-day legislation, I believe we were able to set the frameworks or foundations of a modern legal system, the modern foundations of law in our nation. This would certainly be impossible if it weren’t for the input of the Council of Federation and its law-making mission. Thank you for your work.
I hope that you will succeed in your new, strictly political role and guess your life will be full of unexpected surprises, at least if compared to your term in the Council of Federation.
Sergei Mironov: It has already begun to be.
Dmitry Medvedev: Perhaps this is good. It’s important to change your angle of vision every five to seven years. I wish you success in this.
Sergei Mironov: Thank you very much, Mr President.
Dmitry Medvedev: No doubt, we will talk now about various issues. One of the matters that I would like to touch on today at this meeting with you as the leader of a parliamentary party, concerns modern electoral laws and the improvement of the political system.
You and I have met many times, at meetings with parliamentary party leaders, as well as at Security Council meetings and one-on-one meetings, and we have talked about what we must do to make modern legislation on the election system in our nation more effective, more transparent, more definite, attracting less criticism, and contributing to general consolidation of all political forces.
True, there will always be debates. Nevertheless, these debates should not be results of serious flaws in the legislation, and I therefore suggest we discuss this issue as well, given the approaching parliamentary and presidential elections.
Sergei Mironov: Thank you, Mr President, for your words of gratitude concerning my work as speaker of the Council of Federation. Thank you for your kind wishes for success in my new political activities. I hope that my work will indeed be fruitful.
I prepared a few legislative suggestions and some other suggestions on behalf of our party, A Just Russia, and would like to focus on three areas: the economy, protection of childhood and the family, and electoral law. There are certainly things to discuss concerning all three.
With regard to protecting children and the family, we unfortunately believe that since your Address to the Federal Assembly, where you very clearly indicated the priorities, little progress has really been made in terms of legislation.
We have specific suggestions on how to resolve problem of insufficient kindergartens, increase birth rates, protect working mothers, and ensure that children do not end up in orphanages, or at least minimise these numbers.
I am referring to the per capita principle of financing orphanages which, sadly, is becoming convenient in the sense that more children in an orphanage means better financing, with all the resulting consequences.
Another issue concerns electoral legislation. Our party has two main suggestions. The first is to think about and change over to forming election commissions at all levels on the principle of party representation.
Today, we are seeing a paradox: primary and district committees are formed either by municipal authorities or by executive authorities – in other words, by the authorities that are up for re-election. We believe we must transition to forming election committees at all levels based on the party principle.
Russia has seven officially registered parties; we are suggesting having one or two representatives of each in the district commission at each level. The head of the commission, if we are talking about the Central Election Commission, should be appointed by the President, the heads of the Regional Election Commissions should be appointed by the governors, and at the municipal level the head of election commission should be appointed by the head of the municipal district.
And our second key suggestion: we find it imperative to restore the “against all” option in electoral law and to the ballots. Politically active citizens want to express their points of view at the elections, and we are depriving them of that right.
Some people feel unmotivated to even go to the polls, by lack of trust, the absence of the party they wish to vote for on the ballot, or a lack of desire to support a particular candidate. I think that the “against all” option would serve as a barometer of our society’s political well-being.
I receive a great deal of correspondence from people wishing to take an active position. They tell me directly, ‘If the ‘against all’ option existed, we would come and show that we are not satisfied with the current party representation, or we are not satisfied with the specific candidates – in the mayoral elections, for example.’
This option was eliminated some time ago and we believe that the current state of affairs and political well-being of our society speaks to the need to restore that option. These are our main suggestions. With your permission, I would like to tell you about them in more detail.
Dmitry Medvedev: Very well, let’s discuss everything.