MOSCOW, March 20 (RIA Novosti)
Kremlin to Keep an Eye on Nepotism
The Kremlin is concerned about recent cases of nepotism in the government. The president’s executive office was particularly displeased by the appointment of Samara Region governor Nikolai Merkushkin’s son as deputy prime minister of the Mordovia region. The entire government hierarchy was advised against nepotism.
“The offspring and other close relatives of public officials can take government posts, but those lobbying for them must offer legitimate reasons for appointing a given candidate. If the government benefits from such an appointment, then so be it,” a source at the Kremlin commented to Izvestia.
He added that the appointment of Merkushkin’s son, with no previous experience in public administration, was too much.
“The presidential executive office has resolved to pay close attention to any government appointments of any other officials’ relatives. Also, the HR departments at ministries and government agencies will be checking the family relations of candidates down to the third generation.
The president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov told Izvestia that he sees nepotism as one of the principal causes of corruption although the problem lies deeper.
“Still, I don’t think nepotism is so widespread in our government,” he said.
First deputy head of the United Russia parliamentary group, Vyacheslav Timchenko, has nothing against public officials appointing family members to administrative positions.
“Since Soviet times we have had this saying that sons do not answer for their fathers. There are many examples in the world of several generations of politicians,” he said.
Communist Party deputy Vadim Solovyov believes that only legislation can prevent nepotism in the government.
“A family does not care about politics; it only cares about helping itself. It’s ‘scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.’ It’s less work and more corruption. The USSR Labor Code prohibited bringing relatives into your organization and that was right.”
The children of high-profile politicians can be very successful in their posts.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s daughter, for example, is director of the Emergency Situations Ministry’s Emergency Counseling Center. She started as a counselor and only two years later became deputy director.
Dmitry Tuleyev, son of Kemerovo Region governor Aman Tuleyev, heads the Siberia Federal Road Directorate of the Transport Ministry.
There are ‘dynasties’ in the State Duma. Igor Lebedev, son of Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, has been a parliament member for several convocations now. Dmitry and Gennady Gudkov used to be members of the same parliamentary party. A Just Russia member, Ilya Ponomarev, has a mother who is a senator.
“But the federal government must somehow deal with obviously inappropriate appointments,” says Leonid Polyakov, Deputy Head of the Political Science Department at the Higher School of Economics. “This is one of the weaknesses of our political system. The counter-measures will face great resistance but something must be done about it.”
There are examples of dynasties or nepotism in other political systems. Both George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, were elected presidents. Another American president, John F. Kennedy, also appointed relatives to important government positions.
Khodorkovsky Could Get Real Chance for Release
The Supreme Court has requested the case materials from the trial that resulted in the convictions of former Yukos leader Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev. The move comes hours after Yukos lawyers demanded an investigation into alleged forgeries by Moscow judges.
On February 15, Supreme Court Judge Sergei Shmalenyuk requested that the two district courts that convicted Khodorkovsky and Lebedev in 2010 and 2005 send their respective rulings to him for review, according to information obtained by Kommersant.
The Supreme Court decided to review the cases after receiving several motions earlier this year from Yukos lawyers seeking to nullify the convictions as illegal.
Last year Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev ordered a review of the proceedings and forwarded the Yukos motions to the Moscow City Court Presidium. After considering them on December 20, the court adjusted the verdict by correcting the amount of oil stolen and then cut Khodorkovsky and Lebedev’s sentence from 13 to 11 years.
“We hope that, unlike the Moscow City Court, the Supreme Court will pay more attention to the violations committed by the Khamovniki Court during these cases,” Lebedev’s attorney Vladimir Krasnov said. They also reported the alleged violations to the Investigative Committee a few days ago. According to the report, the Moscow City Court ruling contains falsified information which qualifies as forgery. For example, the court ruling stated that Yukos had been buying oil from its subsidiaries at understated prices, as confirmed by forensic audit; however, there were no such audit results attached to the case.
“The ruling also contains a false statement about some ‘fake’ documents issued with regard to oil shipments by state company Transneft. However, this wasn’t even mentioned in the original conviction,” Lebedev’s attorney said.
These examples prove that the case materials were deliberately manipulated, the lawyers claim, asking Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin to prosecute the members of the Moscow City Court Presidium for forgery.
The Moscow City Court offered no response to the lawyers’ allegations.
An Investigative Committee source said they would follow the standard procedure which includes verification of the complaint and a report to the complainant. According to the law, the complaint must be handled within 30 days. By that time, the Supreme Court should receive the Yukos case materials it requested from the two district courts and decide whether to review the cases or to forward them back to the city court presidium. In any case, this might give Khodorkovsky and Lebedev a chance to be released.
Parliamentary Parties to Amend Draft Law on State Duma Elections
The parliamentary opposition is planning to draw up amendments for the second reading of a new electoral draft law introduced by President Vladimir Putin on March 1. This was the result of meetings held by First Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Vyacheslav Volodin with representatives of the LDPR, A Just Russia, and the Communist Party.
The participants in the meetings discussed the presidential bill that permits any registered party to take part in the parliamentary elections. The party representatives were unanimous in saying that there were too many new parties and that the terms of their participation in the elections should have higher standards.
According to the LDPR’s Yaroslav Nilov, some parties are created for machinations and distraction and will only steal votes from the legitimate opposition parties. They won’t make it to parliament anyway, and their votes will only fall to United Russia, he said.
As an alternative, he suggested that the new parties should be required to collect 0.5% of voters’ signatures in 50% of the regions, like candidates in single-seat constituencies do. Another option is that a party receives the right to run in an election if it has deputies at the municipal and regional levels, A Just Russia’s Alexander Ageyev said.
If the major parties introduce relevant amendments, they will meet with understanding, Volodin remarked. His meeting with the representatives of new parties is scheduled for March 21. He has invited everyone who cares to come, but there is no need to meet with people from every party. Some of them, like RPR-Parnas, visit the Kremlin often enough and do not need an invitation.
Some new party leaders, like Yuri Babak of the Cities of Russia, have signed up for the meeting. Mr Babak said it would be interesting to discuss their chances at participating in the elections and to be advised on electoral legislation. Alexander Ryavkin of Civic Force said introducing restrictions on new parties was a premature idea and that it was backsliding on liberalization. This should be brought up again only after the first national campaign in 2016, if ever, he added.
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