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Russia plan would shift appointment of Constitutional Court chief to parliament

[JURIST] Speaker of the Russian State Duma [official website, in Russian] Boris Gryzlov said Wednesday that a proposal by President Dmitry Medvedev [official website] to allow parliament to select the head of the Constitutional Court will be supported by the parliamentary majority. Under the proposed legislative amendments [Moscow Times report], the 19 members of the court would no longer have the authority to elect their own president to serve a three-year term. Instead, the president of the court would be chosen by the Russian Federation Council [official website, in Russian], the upper house of parliament. Gryzlov said the proposed changes are in line with the practices of other countries [Itar-Tass report], citing the US system in which the president nominates all members of the Supreme Court. Critics have said [Telegraph report] that the move appears to be an attempt by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin [official website to make it easier for himself to run for president before he is eligible in 2012 by limiting potential challenges in the Constitutional Court.

In January, amendments [JURIST report] to the Russian Constitution [materials, in Russian] extending term limits for the president and members of parliament officially took effect. The amendments extending presidential terms from four to six years and terms for parliament members from four to five years were signed into law [JURIST report] by Medvedev in December. Medvedev proposed the changes in his first state of the nation [text; JURIST report] address in November. Critics fear the extension of presidential terms was designed to afford a longer third term for Putin should Medvedev step aside. Kremlin officials contended the amendments would strengthen the political system.

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