19 July, 2018 – the Pension Reform: Russia

The government’s bill on changes in the Russian pension system was passed in first reading by the State Duma on 19 July, with 327 lawmakers supporting the draft legislation (104 voted against). A wider discussion of the initiative will continue as proposals on amendments of the draft bill will be presented for the second reading. The State Duma has exceptionally set the period for the preparation of amendments to 60 days instead of the traditional 30 days.

Surprisingly, a deputy of the ruling United Russia party Natalia Poklonskaya (former Crimea-based prosecutor) voted against the bill as she found the bill to be “unacceptable.” Eight more United Russia deputies did not come to vote at all, including top party member Sergei Zhelezniak.

The bill continues to raise discontent within the Russian public, which however remains mostly silent and does not materialise in visible public protest. The presentation of the bill “coincided” with the extraordinary security measures, forbidding any public rallies in FIFA World Cup host (as well as in other large) cities.

Protest rallies in smaller cities gathered few participants and were ignored by state TV. With the World Cup over, a protest initiated mainly by leftwing political organisations was authorised in Moscow ahead of the discussion in the parliament, but 1500 protesters had to make their way to a remote part of the capital and thus the PR effect was extremely limited. Independent media inform that “counter-measures” are actively implemented as well. State-run media have suddenly completely stopped using the term “pension reform” (as it may remind of the unpopular reforms of the 1990s) and instead speak about “changes in the pension system”.

Allegedly, certain State Duma deputies have been requested not to mention Vladimir Putin in their critical comments on the bill.

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