The President and the faction leaders exchanged views on national development issues and key aspects of the legislative process and also discussed preparation of the annual presidential address to the Federal Assembly.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
Today we continue our regular meetings with party faction leaders. These meetings have always been interesting and useful in my view. I can speak for myself with confidence at least. We have always discussed topical issues in international life and domestic policy, economic and social problems.
The autumn parliamentary session is in full steam and you have many matters indeed on your agenda. I know that they all get put to intense discussion. This is the way things should be in a parliament. Of course there will be battles. This is only natural. But at the same time, I want to thank you for almost unanimously supporting my package of anti-corruption legislation. These are very important documents. I think that we also made the right decision together to take the next step in our democracy’s development. I am referring here to the new principles for the upper house of parliament’s formation.
I know that many of you think we should move on to electing the senators directly. I agree with this idea, but we have to look at the Constitution. The Constitution states that the members of the upper house represent the regions’ legislative and executive branches of power. ‘Represent’ is the key word here. We should therefore think about changing the Constitution. I believe that at our current development stage the new principles we have introduced are entirely in keeping with democratic criteria and give our people greater opportunities to play a part in the upper house’s formation.
I know there are some other positive moments worth noting. The budget law has been approved, for a start, and this is an extremely important document. The budget law usually goes through the fiercest debates because it reflects state policy priorities so clearly, and of course its ultimate shape is influenced too by how the representatives of the parties in the parliament view these priorities. This is a natural process. It is good in any case that this work has been completed and with a positive result what’s more. I am sure that we will discuss this too, today.
Regional parliamentary and gubernatorial elections have taken place. These were direct secret ballot elections. True, views differ on this whole process, but overall the reaction is positive. I know that some colleagues have expressed concern over the so-called ‘municipal filters’. Let me remind you that we did not invent this idea. One European country has provisions for such filters written into its legislation on its presidential election procedures. We copied it directly. Nearly all of the parliamentary parties got through these filters in any case. There is a point to their existence. After all, if someone wants to work in a particular region, the people living there should know and support them. There is nothing bad in this idea.
I remind you too, that newly registered parties – around 26 parties in all, I think – took part in these elections. This is clear evidence that the democratic space is growing. Of course these new political parties could not put up the same level of strong competition as parties already long established on Russia’s political stage, but they will build up their strength and the parties currently in the parliament should keep this in mind. You are to battle for the voters, battle for people’s interests, but battle in such a way that people see the tangible results.
In conclusion, let me add that together with my colleagues and the Presidential Executive Office, we are working hard on the final draft of the Annual Presidential Address [to the Federal Assembly]. This was a presidential election year and I made a lot of policy statements in my election campaign articles and the executive orders I issued in May, but the annual address is important and still has to take place.
Leader of the Communist Party Faction In the State Duma Gennady Zyuganov: When will the address take place?
Vladimir Putin: In mid-December. I think it would be very useful and interesting to hear your recommendations on the address’s content.
That is all I wanted to say for a start. Let’s follow our tradition and discuss freely now all of the issues we think of most interest and importance.