The State Duma allowed dacha owners to elect a headman on an equal basis with the villagers

The State Duma allowed dacha owners to elect a headman on an equal basis with the villagers

The State Duma on Tuesday adopted in the first reading a bill allowing homeowners who do not have local registration to participate in the elections of village elders. Consideration of the document resulted in a discussion of who the elders actually are. When this question became clear, the deputies asked themselves something else: whether the initiative contributes to the development of local self-government in Russia or its degradation. As usual, the deputies did not come to a consensus.

An amendment to the law “On the general principles of organizing local self-government in the Russian Federation” was submitted to the lower house of the Moscow Regional Duma in September last year together with State Duma deputy from the Moscow region Gennady Panin (United Russia). According to current regulations, in settlements with up to 300 residents, a headman can be appointed by the municipal council upon the proposal of a gathering of registered villagers there. However, in many villages near Moscow, the number of homeowners significantly exceeds the number of residents registered there, according to the explanatory note to the bill. Let us note that more than a year ago an amendment came into force allowing homeowners who are not registered in the village to be appointed as village elders. The authors of the bill also proposed reducing the quorum for the eligibility of such a gathering from half to a quarter of the listed number of residents. However, the government considered the last proposal in its response to be “insufficiently substantiated” (conceptually, the Cabinet of Ministers considered that the initiative as a whole “deserves attention”).

In its conclusion, the State Duma Committee on Local Self-Government promised to finalize the document for the second reading and proposed reducing the quorum only in exceptional cases, as well as holding the gathering in stages if citizens cannot gather simultaneously in the required number.

Gennady Panin, telling deputies about the essence of the bill, said that it is aimed at developing “such an important and effective” institution as village elders, “revitalizing” rural areas and creating a comfortable living environment there. The deputy emphasized that “a gathering of citizens is one of the main forms of direct participation of the population in the implementation of local self-government.”

The head of the State Duma Committee on Local Self-Government, Alexey Didenko (LDPR), noted that the initiative enjoys support in the regions. He also explained that “pendulum migration” is common in rural settlements, when citizens work in the city or rent an apartment there and live in the suburbs.

However, Nikolai Kolomeytsev (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) asked the question what powers and financial resources does the head of the settlement have and “what will he manage besides signing some certificates”?

Gennady Panin responded that the bill is not even talking about heads of settlements, but about elders who work on a voluntary basis, although local governments “can make certain decisions on measures to support such active citizens.”

Alexey Kurinny (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) developed the topic, clarifying whether Mr. Didenko considers the increased role of the institution of elders “a sign of degradation of ordinary official institutions of local government.” The head of the committee responded rhetorically, citing the opinion of retired Constitutional Court judge Nikolai Bondar, who said that the path of federalism and local self-government in Russia is a constant movement from absolute centralization to decentralization and back.

He generally agreed that “the financial side of local government is the key.” “Blaming settlements for not being able to implement their powers is like blaming a swimmer for swimming poorly in a pool without filling it with water,” Alexey Didenko figuratively put it. But this situation can only be corrected by a revision of the fiscal system or local government reform.

All these arguments did not stop the communists from debating. Thus, Renat Suleymanov called the bill “another step towards the elimination of local self-government,” albeit a “small” one: he called the proposal to reduce the quorum of the assembly “degradation.” Here he found support from some representatives of United Russia. Aidar Metshin said that in the elections of the headman the quorum should be 50%. Gennady Panin reassured his colleagues, saying that these comments would be taken into account for the second reading. And Alexey Didenko, “in fairness,” recalled that in municipal elections, like in any other, “no threshold is set at all.” “And today, even if one percent of the population comes to the elections, they will be recognized as valid,” said the head of the committee.

Oleg Leonov (“New People”) asked about the already existing norms: if a person owns several apartments and, accordingly, theoretically he can be a headman in several localities, is it not worth legislatively limiting this possibility. Alexey Didenko suggested thinking about this issue in preparation for the second reading and, perhaps, limiting the location where a person “could exercise these powers.”

Oleg Nilov (“A Just Russia – For Truth”) unexpectedly expressed concern that the word “elder” would be associated with “those who served the fascists with a white bandage on their hands.”

Independent deputy Oksana Dmitrieva invited her colleagues to support the bill as “expanding the capabilities of local government.” She emphasized that the elders are truly leaders who “do not fall into the state or local budget, but on the contrary, invest their money, strength and experience in organizing various things.” But Alexey Kurinny objected to this that the headman does not have any authority. “People’s representation must be strengthened, but not at the expense of essentially eliminating local self-government and forming such an amorphous public institution in the form of elders,” said Mr. Kurinny, noting that the Communists will not support the bill.

As a result, the document was approved by 365 votes, six deputies voted against, four abstained.

Ksenia Veretennikova

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