Staunton, August 9 – Russia’s regions and republics would be major losers if President Dmitry Medvedev’s plan to reform the interior ministry forces goes through because they would lose most or possibly all of their leverage over the units on their territories as a result of Moscow’s assumption of total responsibility for the funding of the police.
According to an article in today’s “Vedomosti,” a core idea of Medvedev’s draft is that “Russia does not need a militia which depends on regional powers and commercial structures;” instead, he believes, the country should have “a police which will receive money from a single federal source” (www.vedomosti.ru/newspaper/article/2010/08/09/242969).
While Medvedev is likely to get his way given the unpopularity of the militia and continuing evidence of the often corrupt relationships between the militia and regional political and economic institutions, such a move will represent yet another attack on federalism, both fiscal and otherwise.
According to the draft law, available online at zakonoproekt2010.ru, the Moscow paper points out, “the police are part of a single centralized system of a federal organ of executive power,” the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and “will be completely financed from the federal budget,” rather than as now with the regions paying part of the bill.
Curiously, as “Vedomosti” journalists Aleksey Nikolsky and Liliya Biryukova point out, “the law does not prohibit local officials from paying the police a supplement and giving them apartments,” arrangements that could easily undercut the draft measure’s obvious intent to weaken gubernatorial control over the police. Indeed, such things could increase corruption.
Other aspects of the proposed law are drawing fire from human rights activists, lawyers, and interior ministry officials are criticizing the measure as unconstitutional, unworkable or both (For summaries of this criticism, see, among others, www.nr2.ru/society/295565.html and
But by depriving the regions of a financial role and hence political influence over the police, Medvedev’s plan not only means that they would “lose control” over those force institutions but would thereby lose one of the last vestiges of autonomy from the center (www.barentsobserver.com/regions-lose-control-over-the-police.4805142-116320.html).
And because such a trend would be such a threat to the heads of the regions and republics, it is entirely possible that some of them will work hard to oppose this measure, both through backdoor lobbying and in the Federation Council, even though an increasing number of them owe their positions to Medvedev personally.
Consequently, what may strike many in the Russian capital as a minor piece of bureaucratic housekeeping could easily become in the coming weeks a major source of contention between Moscow and the regions and further energize already powerful regionalist movements across the Russian Federation.