MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Vasily Kononenko.) --The State Duma on Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected a headline-grabbing amendment to federal law that would effectively have allowed some elected officials - including the president - to remain in office almost indefinitely.
Under the "Moskalets amendment," named after United Russia deputy from Krasnoyarsk Alexander Moskalets who proposed it, any city mayor could resign three months ahead of scheduled elections and do his/her best to guarantee insufficient voter turnout. The elections would then be declared illegitimate, and the ex-mayor would be able to run once again, just like before the first term.
Although the Constitution and current legislation both stipulate a maximum of two terms, President Vladimir Putin could have taken advantage of the amendment to run for a third term in 2008.
Representatives of opposition parties and political scientists slammed those who they said were responsible for advocating changes to election legislation. Deputy Moskalets was portrayed as a scapegoat, while most real anger was directed against the Kremlin.
Vladimir Pligin, the head of the State Duma committee that backed Moskalets' initiative, was forced to admit that the issue was complicated. But the Duma killed the amendment comprehensively, with only 32 deputies voting in favor.
Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov suggested four years ago that the Constitution be amended to allow the president seven years in office. Mironov's proposal was heavily criticized both at home and abroad, drawing allegations of a return to dictatorship and authoritarian rule and comparisons with Turkmenistan's president-for-life, Saparmurat Niyazov. Putin was forced to refute speculations and conjecture on the issue, eventually telling officials not to promote a cult of his personality.
However, in spring this year the indefatigable Mironov suggested another fantastic plan, under which Putin would be appointed prime minister after 2008 and subsequently re-elected president. Moskalets introduced his own amendment shortly afterward, and it seems that another obliging deputy may in future suggest amending the Constitution.