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    Court upholds constitutionality of new gubernatorial election procedures

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    MOSCOW, December 21 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Constitutional Court confirmed Wednesday that the president-proposed new gubernatorial election procedures were lawful.

    The court said the new procedures accounted for regional interests since they stipulated that the president's gubernatorial candidates must be approved by local legislatures. The court ruled that the procedures were not a violation of "the principle of the division of powers and federalism."

    The court was considering a complaint filed by Vladimir Grishkevich, a resident of Tyumen (Urals) who tried to challenge the local legislature's approval of Sergei Sobyanin's candidacy for Tyumen governor February 17. A regional court declined to review the case, so Grishkevich then appealed to the Constitutional Court.

    "Sergei Sobyanin being appointed governor with a five-year term by the local legislature, rather than being elected to the post through general elections, violates my constitutional right to participate in elections at all levels," Grishkevich said.

    His position was supported by liberal activists of the Union of Right Forces (SPS) who also filed dozens of similar complaints.

    "Forming regional bodies of power is not within the federal center's jurisdiction, according to Article 71 of the Constitution," an SPS member told the Constitutional Court. "Article 72, which deals with joint competence issues, does not contain such a provision either."

    Yury Sharandin, a Federation Council member who represents the upper chamber in the Constitutional Court, said Russian citizens could elect governors in general elections or trust regional parliaments to appoint them. "These are equally relevant models," he said.

    The plaintiffs challenged the December 11, 2004 law, which stipulates that the president should nominate a candidate for governor 35 days before the expiration of the incumbent governor's term. More than 50% of lawmakers must approve the nominee for the candidate to become governor.

    The president has the right to dissolve the legislature if it rejects his candidate twice or fails to make a final decision on the candidate. However, the president is only allowed to make such a move after month-long discussions with lawmakers. The new law also allows for consultations between the president and legislatures before a candidate is nominated.

    Under the law, the president has the right to dismiss a governor before the official's term expires due to "a loss of confidence or improper fulfillment of his/her duties."

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