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The President issues inquiry to Constitutional Court

March 14, 2020

Vladimir Putin issued to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation an inquiry On the conformity with Chapters 1, 2 and 9 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation of the provisions of the Law of the Russian Federation amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation On Improving the Regulation of Specific Aspects in the Functioning of Public Authority, which have not yet come into force, and the conformity with the Constitution of the Russian Federation of the procedure for enacting Article 1 of said Law.

The document reads, in full:

Pursuant to Article 3 of the Law of the Russian Federation amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation No. 1‑FKZ dated March 14, 2020 On Improving the Regulation of Certain Aspects in the Organisation and Performance of Public Authority, I hereby request the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation to issue a ruling on the conformity with Chapters 1, 2 and 9 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation of provisions from the Law amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation that have not yet come into force, as well as on the conformity with the Constitution of the Russian Federation of the procedure for enacting Article 1 of the said Law amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

Legislative assemblies in 85 constituent entities of the Russian Federation have approved the Law amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

Article 1 of the Law amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation provides for amending Chapters 3 through 8 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation in order to improve the organisation and performance of public authority. Article 3 of the Law amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation stipulates that these amendments will come into force only if approved by a national vote. Article 2 of the Law amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation sets forth the modalities for organising and holding a national vote to approve the amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

In accordance with Article 136 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, amendments to the provisions of Chapters 3 through 8 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation shall be adopted in accordance with the procedure established for the adoption of federal constitutional laws and shall come into force after they have been approved by legislative authorities of at least two thirds of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.

In accordance with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 3 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the multinational people of the Russian Federation is the bearer of its sovereignty and the sole source of power in the Russian Federation. The people exercises its power directly, as well as through state government bodies and local government bodies. While defining the referendum and elections as the supreme direct expression of power by the people, Paragraph 3 in the same Article of the Constitution of the Russian Federation does not set forth an exhaustive list of these forms of expression.

Considering a national vote as an additional measure (alongside having at least two thirds of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation approve the Law amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation) to guarantee that amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation are supported by the people of the Russian Federation, I believe that holding a vote of this kind will help better fulfil the principles set forth in Article 3 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

Federal Law No. 33-FZ On the Procedure for Adopting and Enacting Amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation dated March 4, 1998, specifies the procedure for adopting and enacting amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

Thus, Article 9 of the Federal Law stipulates that a legislative (representative) body of a constituent entity of the Russian Federation shall review a law of the Russian Federation amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation in the manner it determines independently. Pursuant to Article 11 of the Federal Law, the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation shall record information on the review by the legislative (representative) authorities of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation of the law of the Russian Federation amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation, and determine the outcome of this review. Under Article 12 of the Federal Law, within seven days after the outcome of the review is established, the Speaker of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation shall send the law of the Russian Federation amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation approved by at least two thirds of the legislative (representative) authorities of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation to the President of the Russian Federation for signing and official publication. Within no more than 14 days upon receiving the law of the Russian Federation amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the President of the Russian Federation shall sign it and provide for its official publication. Under Article 14 of the Federal Law, the President of the Russian Federation provides for the introduction of the adopted amendment to the Constitution of the Russian Federation into the text of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. The President of the Russian Federation shall provide for the official publication of the Constitution of the Russian Federation with the amendments as well as indicating the date the corresponding amendments came into force within one month after the law of the Russian Federation amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation comes into force.

Meanwhile, Article 13 of the Federal Law states that the law of the Russian Federation amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation comes into force on the day of its official publication, unless otherwise set forth in the law itself.

This approach appears to be fully consistent with the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which leads to the conclusion that there could be other viable modalities for enacting the law amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation with a view to providing additional guarantees that the citizens of the Russian Federation support the amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, as well as the possibility of setting forth in this law the timeframe for enacting, signing and promulgating the law.

I am also of the opinion that amendments contained in Article 1 of the Law amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation are consistent with Chapters 1, 2 and 9 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. The amendments follow up on these provisions and are designed to improve the organisation of public authority in the Russian Federation as a tool for achieving constitutional goals resulting from the provisions of the said chapters of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

In view of the above, I ask the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation to decide on the merits of the amendments contained in Article 1 of the Law amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation in terms of their consistency with Chapters 1, 2 and 9 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

In particular, I ask the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation to state its opinion on whether it would be acceptable, based on the outcome of the direct national vote by the citizens, to add to Article 81 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation Paragraph 31, whereby the limitation of the number of terms set out in Paragraph 3 of the same Article applies to the President of the Russian Federation in office at the time when the amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation come into force, discounting the number of terms during which such person has served and/or serves in this position as of the time the amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation set out in the Law amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation and changing the constitutional status of the President of the Russian Federation come into force.

In addition, I ask the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation to decide on whether other additional conditions for enacting the Law amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation can be established, including by the Law amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation itself, apart from obtaining the approval of legislative authorities of at least two thirds of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, and also whether the amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation can come into force on condition they are approved in a national vote, as set forth in Article 3 of the Law amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

March 14, 2020