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City news, 26.07.2005 11:45

Matviyenko Widens City Hall’s Powers By Wielding Veto

city_hall Governor Valentina Matviyenko vetoed 18 of 52 laws Friday submitted by the Legislative Assembly shortly after lawmakers went on vacation this month, approving mainly new legislation that widens the plenary powers of her own office, media reported last week.

One of the key laws signed by the governor was a set of amendments to the City Charter Court that limits lawmakers’ ability to publish new draft laws, giving more power to the governor. At the same time Governor Matviyenko vetoed a number of laws aimed at increasing social protections, such as an amendment aimed at increasing pensioners’ nominal official average spending index which is used to calculate other figures.

“[City Hall] is not able to finance social obligations, which have not been approved [by the city government] and are groundless from an economical point of view. All draft laws of this kind should be offered [to the Legislative Assembly for approval] by City Hall,” said Anna Mityanina, head of the City Hall legislation committee was quoted as saying by Kommersant Daily on Saturday.

Matviyenko also sent back to the Legislative Assembly unsigned amendments to the municipal election law to ban the recent practice of advanced voting, which was pushed forward by City Hall and resulted in numerous violations registered by opposition candidates. The law would have affected the additional municipal elections in 14 districts of St. Petersburg, including in the satellite towns of Sestroretsk and Zelenogorsk, scheduled to take place in October.

By not signing the amendments to the election law Matviyenko has turned the situation in City Hall’s favor, which will be able to run the elections according to the old scheme with the advanced voting, opponents of City Hall said.

“There are two sides in this question. The elections in the rest of the districts would have to take place according to the rules that have been implemented in relation to elections in other municipalities this year.

This endless story with the municipal elections should be finally finished and if Matviyenko means this by not signing this law, it’s fine,” said Vladimir Yeryomenko, the Legislative Assembly lawmaker of the United Russia faction, in a telephone interview on Monday.

“But if she aims to keep the same rules in the future this is wrong. Advanced voting is very comfortable for the organizers of the elections in order to provide a reasonable turnout, but it doesn’t help democratic voting in any way and even otherwise. I know this according to an experience in my own district, where the advanced voting disturbed the whole picture of the final results,” Yeryomenko said.

The local branch of the Yabloko party, strong opponents of City Hall, believes Governor Matviyenko aims to stop the process of distribution of power from the city government to the municipalities.

“This position was formed [by City Hall] quite a while ago. There are numerous examples of how deputies from Yabloko, that won on election day, have not become deputies because City Hall fixed it using advanced voting by the direct buying of votes,” said Maxim Reznik, head of the local branch of Yabloko in a telephone interview on Monday.

“This was the practice of the administration of [former governor] Vladimir Yakovlev and Matviyenko does the same by stopping re-division of power between City Hall and municipalities. It’s just comfortable for her to live this way, with all the power concentrated in her own hands,” Reznik said.

In the last parliamentary session (2004-2005) lawmakers passed 160 new laws in total, 89 of which were initiated by deputies, 54 by the governor and 17 by municipalities, Vadim Tyulpanov, the Legislative Assembly speaker, said at a briefing this month. Lawmakers see the passing of St. Petersburg’s general development plan as well as laws that softened the consequences of federal reforms to replace privileges for pensioners with cash payments as their major legislative accomplishments of the session.

Governor Matviyenko has signed 80 laws and has returned to the Legislative Assembly 41 laws. Twenty-five of them have been amended and passed. Legislators voted in five laws over the governor’s veto.

The Legislative Assembly returns for work on Sept. 1.

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