A list of deputies who regularly play truant is to be released by Russia’s parliament in a bid to improve discipline in the State Duma. European MPs share their experience of fighting low attendance.
A huge scandal shook Russia’s State Duma last week, after a vote on a key law on drunk driving was attended by only 20% of deputies. Taking advantage of the situation, those present started voting for those absent, trying to press as many buttons as possible, but were caught on camera. One MP even managed to vote 9 times.
The speaker of the Public Chamber, Sergey Mironov, said that this sort of situation brings shame on Russia’s parliament, so on June 1, it will publish its list naming and shaming serial offenders who often miss sessions.
However, at the time, there is no official punishment for those missing sessions and hearings. In an attempt to fight the trend, Russian authorities, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, have been continuously lashing out at the deputies, promising to ruin their political careers if attendance does not improve. In addition, the deputy secretary of the United Russia party, Sergey Neverov, suggested banning serial offenders from the election list for the next State Duma. Back in April, the Liberal Democratic opposition party put forward a bill proposing to remove parliamentary authority and cut salaries for whose who do not attend sessions.
Aleksey Bagaryakov, a deputy from Communist Party, suggested that the only way to solve the problem is complete exclusion.
“Unfortunately, there’s currently no legal basis to punish deputies for missing parliamentary hearings. Several methods have already been tried, including salary cuts and reprimands, but in my opinion, the only effective way is for party leaders to threaten them with exclusion from the official list of party members,” Bagaryakov told RT.
Although a full chamber is a rare sight in many parliaments, none of them has such low attendance – especially for key votes – as in Russia. This is achieved by strict sanctions – for example, in the European Parliament, MPs are punished financially if they do not arrive even at plenary sessions.
“When you don’t turn up, you lose your daily allowance. And you have to attend at least 50% of the sessions, because otherwise you lose your general payment. As a result, people are trying to attend as much as they can, since they are motivated,” European Parliament member Marta Andersen told RT.
This punishment was introduced only last year, and has proved quite effective. Andersen said that average attendance is 80% for plenary sessions, and if members do not attend a meeting, it is out of practical reasons, as they have a lot of business to do in their own countries.
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