I chose to compare Russia and America because Russia just like the United States has a rich history as far a constitutional making is concerned. First made up of different sates under the Soviet Union, Russia basically had a federal constitution like the American. The two countries hold great influence over the world. The both have strong military, nuclear weapon programs and great citizenship. Russia and America have hard several political differences at the global arena resulting in polarization of the world into two facets: the capitalists and communists. It is worth noting that, the two nation’s differences in political and economical ideologies could have been a product of fundamental differences in their constitutions. America which so far considered the most democratic country in the world is not exempted either and as such it will be interesting to screen it against its main contender for dominance over the world politically, economically and in military superior
The History of Russia from 1945-presetny
After the Second World War the cold war set it (Gleason, p386). The U.S.S.R build a collection of Communist states through Poland, Bulgaria Albania, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary and West Germany. The Soviet Union set offense against the non-soviet Western Europe blocking the western access to Berlin. This made the Western Europe acted swiftly completing the Western German Unification, an air lift and formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
After death of Stalin, the Kremlin had a new power Nikita Khrushchev as the first secretary of the party (Gleason, p 422). According to TverRomance (2009) Khrushchev formalized a system in the Eastern Europe in form of A Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon). He also came up with the Warsaw Pact Treat Organization which was a direct counter to the NATO. Under the new leadership the soviet union came up with a hydrogen bomb in 1953, intercontinental ballistic missile in 1957 launched the first space satellite called Sputnik I in1957 as well as putting Yuri Gagarin in the first orbit around the earth. According to Gleason ( p 425) Khrushchev lost support when he removed Soviet missiles from Cuba after being challenged by the U.S. TverRomance (2009) also not that Khrushchev was blamed for being ideologically weak against China in 1963 and was forced into retirement the following year. He was succeeded by Leonid Brezhnev. Alesksei N. Kosygin took over as the premier. U.S.S.R and U.S signed the SALT II treaty in Vienna on 18 June 1979 setting limits to each nation’s arsenal as well as intercontinental ballistic missiles. The American senate refused to ratify the treaty after the Soviet Union attacked Afghanistan. 1n 1984 the Kremlin became very hostile towards the west with all the nations affiliated to the Soviet Union apart from Romania boycotting that year Olympics games held in Los Angels due to the U.S led boycott the Moscow games of 1980
In 1985 Mikhail Gorbacheve rose to Soviet Union leadership and started a shift to a new generation leadership (Gleason, p440). According to Gleason (p441) he brought new thinking as compared Khrushchev old thinking. In 1978 he loosened the governments control over the economy and the following year allowed changes the structure of the soviet system. As a result, there wars a shift in power from the party to the local soviets. In 1989 election to Duma was made to open and competitive for the first time since 1917and Gorbachev was elected the president
In March of 1991in a referendum on national unity brought by Gorbachev the soviets voted for a federal government and the result were undermined by approval in Russia for a popularly elected president. Yeltsin emerged victorious in the resulting election contest assuming office in July the same year. A Union treaty was signed among the soviet leaders to preserve the unity and have industries lest to state by the federal government (TverRomance, 2009). A coup attempt in the same year orchestrated by a section of the Communist Party failed when the soviets did and other leader failed to support it. The communist party was disbanded as Gorbachev was made the president (Gleason, p551)
Russia and other Soviet states joined the Common Wealth Independent State in the December of 1991 and embarked on a series of economic reforms a new constitution was adopted in 1993 as the remnants of the Soviet Union structures ware dissolved. Chechnya was awarded independence I for Russia in 1997. In 1998 the country experienced economic hardships after a free fall in the stock market. Vladimir Putin be came the president in 2000 (TverRomance, 2009).
The demography of Russia
In looking at the demographics of Russia, I am basically interested in indicating the demographic futures of the country’s population. At the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian population stood at 148,689,000 (Korotayev, p37). Increase in death rates and decline of birth rate greatly influenced the population growth rate which began to grown at an increasingly declining annual rate of 0.5%. According to Index Mundi the growth rate stood at -0.4 in 2008 and the total population estimate for 2009 was 140,041,247
The 2002 Russian population census shows that the ethnic Russian make up 78 percent of the total countries population with Armenians make up 0.8%, Chechens 0.9 while the Bashkir and Chuvash make up 1.1% each. Ukrainians make up 2% and Tatars 3.8%. The Russian population in total has 160 varied ethnic communities and indigenous peoples (Index Mundi). Although there are over hundred languages in Russia, Russian is the most used language throughout the country and some language is at the verge of extinction. The population density in Russia is stands at 8 persons per square Kilometer. The Russian population is more concentrated in the European part of the country and mostly concentrated around St. Petersburg and Moscow. 73% of the Russian population is found in the urban area and 27 in the rural areas.
Most Russians are Christians subscribing to the Russian Orthodox Church. About 10-15% Russians subscribe to the Islam faith making Islam the religion with the second large following. The Roman Catholic in Russia has an approximate following of 15 of the total population while other protestant churches including the Lutherans, Baptists and Pentecostals together make 0.5%. Other religions such as Buddhism, shamanism, Judaism, Krishnaism as well as paganism are also represented. The literacy levels in the country stands at 99.7 in males 99.2% in females and the unemployment rate stands at 8.1% while the percentage below the poverty mark stands at 15%.
Comparison of the branches of the United States government and those of the Russian government
The U.S executive branch and the Russian executive branch
The America and Russian executive have deep mistrust for their respective countries legislatures. The executive branches tend to exclude the legislatures from policy formulation processes and intervention and trend that likely emanates from the mistrust that exists between these institutions. However, the gap between the executive and the legislature in every country is less wide in the United States than it is in the Russian Republic.
In the Russian the power to enforce decisions lies within the executive. This kind of arrangement was brought about by the enactment of a presidential constitution in 1993. In this regard The Russian Republic executive can be said to be similar to the American one. The executive is dominant when it comes to matter of policy formulation (Azrae). While the presidential leadership is necessary to ensure that the policy making is rational, it does not in any way provide assurance of rational policy making and could be further dangerous in absence of proper checks and balances. The Russian president determined the direction of domestic and foreign policy. He can appoint ambassadors and recall them, he appoint the prime minister to chair government business and deputy prime ministers (International Center, p170). As Azrae notes the cabinet consists of a prime minister, deputy prime ministers, and the federal ministers together with their departments. The prime minister is appointed by the president and approved by parliament. He then comes up wit the list of nominees for deputy prime ministers and federal ministerial positions within a week. Under the cabinet are the functions of monetary policy upholding the rule of law, upholding human rights and the civil rights ensure state security and protection against crime in addition to foreign policy issues. The president reserves the power to reject any poor policies by the cabinet or legislation by the parliament (International Center, p240).
The America the executive consists of an elected president just like the Russian case and a vice president. Unlike the Russian Republic the American executive does not have a prime mister and deputy prime mister’s positions. The American president serves a term of four years and my run for second term and is elected through electoral collage (Aberbach & Peterson, 20). The Russian president is elected by the people and serves a term of six year although he can also run for a second term.
In America the president is the head of state as well as the head of government he also serves as the countries top diplomat and the commander in chief of the armed forces (Aberbach & Peterson, 160). He can sign bills passed by the congress into law or veto. He can make foreign treaties with two third votes of the senate and can be impeached if by two thirds of the senate for bribery, treason and other crimes. He can pardon criminals convicted of federal crimes, appoint Supreme Court judges and federal judges and act on executive orders.
The vice president is the second highest official in the executive and become president upon the death of the incumbent, resignation or death (Aberbach & Peterson, p30). The vice president heads the senate and votes to break a tied vote and also preside over joint congressional sessions. The Secretary of State is in change of the United States Department of State. The Secretary of State is the third highest government official and the senior most member of the cabinet, advices the president on all matters pertaining to the country’s relationship with other countries.
The U.S also has the office of the Attorney general established in 1789 through a judicial act by the parliament. The Attorney General performs roles in line with the Supreme Court advices the president and head of other government departments on legal issues. He/she heads the countries department of justice and serves as a member of the cabinet. The cabinet is made up of various federal executive departments, the heads of the 15 departments who are nominated by the president and approved by the senate and other staff organization found under the office of the president
Comparison of the American legislative branch of government and the Russian
The legislatures are charged with the responsibility of formulating laws. As already noted, the legislative branches of the government in both countries have deep mistrust in their executives in respective countries (Azrae). The mistrust is more pronounced in the case of Russia than it is in America (Doktorov, p223). This mistrust is associated wit the formulation of policies. Before 1993 the Russia legislative arm had grater authority that the executive. However, as Azrae notes this authority was eroded by the adoption of the presidential constitution which made the executive so powerful. The legislative branch of the Russian government is a parliament consisting of 628 members and is normally referred to as Federal Assembly. The assembly is made up of two chambers. The first chamber is the State Duma or lower state made up of 450 members. The second chamber is the Federation Council or the uppers house which has a membership of 176 members. The houses meet separately as directed by the constitution. All their meetings are open to the members of the public (Doktorov, p318). However, when there is an important speech to be delivered by foreign leaders or the president the two houses can meet jointly the Federal Council also has two ex-officials who make the total number of members 178. Each of the legislatives houses elects their own chairman who manages the internal affairs of the respective house. Also these chambers formulate committees that deal with different issues. The State Duma has 28 committees and a number of commissions while on the other hand Federal Council has 12 committees and 2 commissions
The American legislative branch also consists of two chambers, the senate and the House of Representatives. These two together form the United States Congress. The two houses are established by Article I of the Constitution (Little & Ogle, p124). The congress has the power to enact laws, reject presidential appointments, and can also declare war. The congress further posses considerable investigative authority. The House of Representatives have 435 members who are elected representing every state in proportion of their population. There are other additional 6 members who do not participate in voting. They represent the Commonwealth republic of Puerto Rico, the District of Columba, and 4 other different territories of America (Little & Ogle, p128). The house is lead by a speaker elected by the representative. The speaker is third in the line of succession to the presidency. The house can also control revenue imitative, a job done by the cabinet in Russia. Impeach federal officials and elect the presided in case of an electoral collage when there is a tie in the electoral collage. It has 23 committees and 104 subcommittees
The senate has 100 members, 2 from every state who are elected by popular vote. The senate is headed by the vice president who only votes when there is a tie. It confirms presidential appointments and ratifies treaties and handles impeachment cases brought in from the House. It sends bills that have been passed by the congress to the president for his assent. It has 17 committees and 70 subcommittees. Each committee in either of the houses is charged with a specific reasonability.
According to the article “The Legislative Branch,” published in the government website by The White House, the legislation process starts with introduction of a bill to the congress. This can be written by anyone although only senate members can introduce it. It is the sent to the necessary committee for review. The bill is first considered at subcommittee level if deemed fit it move to the next stage-to the full committee. In these stages hearings are conducted to determine the suitability of the bill. The bill is then sent the floor of the House or senate to set aside a day for consideration where it is debated and amendments may be introduced. A simple majority vote is required to pass a bill through this stage. Before a bill is signed into law it must have gone through both the House and Senate. A bill can be subject to a conventional committee made up of members from both chambered and the presented to the speaker and the president of the senate for their signatures before being sent to the president who may sign it if he agrees with it making it law. The bill dies if the president rejects it and the congress can start all over again if it still wants the bill (The White House).
The American judicial system and the Russian Judicial system
In America there is a Supreme Court which is the highest court in the countries federal court system. The court mainly handles issues pertaining to the Federal Government, interprets the United States constitution and also presides over the handling of disputes between states. The court can declare an executive decision as being unconstitutional. Second on the hierarchy of courts system in the U.S. is the courts of appeal then district courts. The federal courts mainly engage in federal law crime trials. Besides this, the American has another system of courts called individual court trial system in each state. These deals with cases at state level and every state have its own system. The Supreme Court in every state is the final authority and also interprets the states constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court can only came to the aid of the individual courts in matter of the federal nature are involved. The relationship between the two systems of court is however very complicated.
The President appoints the judges in the federal courts who are confirmed by the senate and other inferior courts such as the district courts before they can assume responsibility. The congress retains the power to create new federal courts as well as abolish existing on but can not abolish the U. S. Supreme Court. The federal courts are of three levels and have “general jurisdiction.” The district courts are the “trial courts” that handles filing and hearing of cases while the courts of appeal are the “appellate courts” that presides over appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court handles appeals from the appellate courts and the States Supreme Courts. It further presides over Constitutional cases, cases affecting the countries treaties, consuls of foreign countries operating within the American territory, ministers and ambassadors. The American constitution safeguards the judicial impedance which ensures that the judiciary is not influenced by anyone. A judge who commits an offence while still serving is normally impeached.
On the other hand, the Russian judicial system is run by the Russian Ministry of Justice. The Ministry establishes the courts and appoints the judges below the level of federal courts. At the helm is a 23 member Supreme Court. The judiciary has three branches; court of general jurisdiction, the arbitration or commercial court and the constitutional court. General jurisdiction courts are subordinate to the countries Supreme Court and include the military courts. Arbitration court system falls under the high court of arbitration. The constitutional courts involve a number of courts dealing with constitutional matters and human rights issues. This total contrasts the American system where constitutional matters are handled by the Supreme Court. Each city or rural area has a municipal court presiding over criminal and civil cases at the lowest level of jurisdiction court system. Next on the hierarchy are the regional courts and at the highest level I the Supreme Court. Decisions by a lower court can only be appealed on an immediate higher court. This rule can however be ignored incases of constitutional issues. Similarly the arbitration court system has regional courts followed by appeal courts then the High Court of Arbitration.
In Russia it the president does not appoint the judges but only approves them once they have been selected is a qualifying body or collegia-an assembly of judges which can also relieve judges who misbehave and approve prosecution of other judges.
In both countries the constitutions set out the conditions for election both presidential and other elections. In both countries the president can only serve for two consecutive terms. In America one term takes four years in America and six years in Russia. In Russia a presidential candidate must be a Russian Citizen and must have attained a minimum age of 35. The candidate must have also resided within the country for at least 10 years. If the president is unable to serve due to sickness, resign or impeached or dies a presidential election has to be held within three months. The federal council sets the election date. A presidential candidate must have a million signatures though no single region should contribute more than 7% of the signatures. In charge of the process is the Central Electoral Commission. A election can only be valid if 50% of the voters participate and if no candidate get more than 50% of the votes the top two candidates must face each other in a run of election with 15 days. A candidate how advocate for violence can be banned from vying.
America has three level of election namely the federal elections, state elections and local elections. Under the federal elections are the presidential elections and congressional elections. In the presidential elections the president and the vice president as a running mate are elected together. The winner is determined through the electoral collage. People in every state select party representatives that will vote for the desired president in the electoral collage. This is totally different from the Russian case where the president is elected directly be the citizens. The congressional elections involve the election to the house and election to the senate. To be elected into the House of Representatives one must have attained the age of 25 years. He/ she must be an American citizen for at least seven years residing in the state he represents. To be elected as a senator one must have attained the age of 30 years. The senators are elected by popular vote and serve six year terms. Also one must have been an American citizen for at least nine year to run for senate (The White House).
State elections on the other hand are elections conducted at the election of state leaders; legislators at state level, Governor and Lieutenant Governors. In some state the Attorney General and the Secretary of state are elected. Local election on the other hand involve the election of local leaders at cites and counties
Article II of the United States government constituted the creation of the executive as well as the office and functions of the role of the president. According to this article the executive powers in the American government lies within the countries President (Cornell University Law School). Further more the president has the mandate to enact the instructions of the congress and stipulates the election of the president and stipulates a term of four year for presidency and the running mate who becomes the vice president, stipulates the methods of selecting electors while the third one gives the definition of the voters, elaborated how and who determines the day of elections, the article stipulates the qualifications for one to become a president or a vice president in the United States (Cornell University Law School). One must be an American citizen at the time of inauguration as the president or vice president of the United States of America. The person must be 35 years of age and must have also been an inhabitant in the United State for 14 consecutive years. The article also provides direction for what shall be done by the congress in case of removal of the president and the vices president, death or inability to function properly, stipulates the salary of the president and how the salary can be reviewed, states the oath to be taken by the president before assuming office, denotes the presidential powers, affirms the president as the Military commander and shall require the opinion of the secretaries to his cabinet before acting. The article further states the circumstances and the people the president can Pardon, the situations under which the president shall seek advice from other officials as well as consent from other organs. The presidential appointments during recess are elaborated, his responsibility to report to the congress the state of the union periodically, the power to call the congress for extraordinary sessions and adjourning the congress, reception of foreign envoys and maintaining the faith in the law. He is also to commission government officers.
Powers of the president in the United States compared with the president of Russia
The America constitution devotes less time discussing the roles of the president the power and limitation of powers of the congress as opposed to the Russian one which concentrates on the role of the president and confers little time to the parliament
As Mannheimer notes, the powers of the American president are stipulated in the second and third section of the Article II. The American president is the commander-in-chief of the countries armed forces as well as the states militia when they are called to service. The American president, with the consent of the countries senate, appoints all the officer of the American federal government. This covers the offices stated in the American constitution.
The American president can demand that principle in charge of the departments of the federal government to repot on all subjects pertaining their duties, issue reprieves and pardons, convene the congress on what Article 11 calls the extraordinary occasions and receive envoys or representative of other countries. The constitution of America also directs the president to ensure that the laws are enacted faithfully.
In contrast the Russian constitution in Article 80 of the Russian constitution states that the president is the head of the state (Nichols, p149). The article further declares the president as the guarantor of the constitution, as well as the guarantor of the civil as well as human rights and freedoms. The president is required to take all necessary measure to protect autonomy of the Russian Federation, uphold its independence and state integrity. The president ensures there is concerted operation and interaction of all the facets of state power. The president further defines and stipulates domestic and foreign policy guidelines of the country (Mannheimer).
Article 83 confers complete power to the president to appoint all the officers of the federal government with the exception of the prime minister. The article states that the Lower house of Parliament must give its consent to the presidential choice of prime minister. However, Article 111 empowers the president to unilaterally appoint a prime minister, dissolve the Duma, and call for fresh election if the Duma rejects his choice of a prime minister three times. If the Duma votes a vote of no-confidence in the prime ministers government, the constitutions article 117 permits the president to either disband the government or dissolve the Duma to pave way for fresh elections (Mannheimer).
The Article 85 confers to the president the power to suspend application of a law pending jurisdiction by an appropriate court on an issue. The president can do the same if he feels that a legislation enacted by a constituent province or region is no in accord with the federal constitution or it violates the human and civil rights and freedom. Article 19 allows the president to issue a decree or an executive order that is binding throughout the country as long as it does not contradict the constitution and the federal laws (Nichols, p149).
The American constitution and the Russian constitution
The American constitution emphasizes the issues of procedure. The constitution created a federal parliament base on the doctrine of sedation of powers to provide checks and balances. The constitution stipulate virtual the procedure of performing every thing ranging from election of the leaders stating with the president to the junior moist official at local levels. As Mannheimer notes, this includes procedures for approval of government projects and decisions, the process of enacting new laws and amending the constitution itself. Evidently the development of the constitution of was based on the idea that fairness and leadership in not based in individuals but procedure. This coupled with the explicit bill of right and other provision provided through amendments the American constitution has tried very much to protect the civil and human rights and liberties. Mannheimer further observes that the constitution allows democracy by allowing every citizen to participate in national process and decision making such as electing of the new president. Through election the American select president, senators and representative who poses the ideologies they desire thus getting to shape their countries economic and political development. However the election of the president through an electoral collage denies the Americans an opportunity to elect their president directly. The Russians also have an opportunity to participate in democracy through election of leaders. The constitution provide for election of a president that serves six terms and can also run for a second consecutive term. The citizens are represented by representatives in the parliament chamber that ensure their needs are catered for. Under the Russian constitution the fundamental human and civil right and liberties are protect and the constitution empowers the president as their custodian (Mannheimer)
Both America and Russia have a rich history that has shaped reforms in the countries. The constitutions developed by these countries are a product of long term experience of the subjects of these countries as they transformed from one political landscape to another. The American constitution was designed for provision of the separation of powers and procedures for the conduction of government responsibilities. The Russian constitution was designed to give the country democracy and transform the country from the devastating communist leadership procedures were infective and undermined the individuals’ rights and liberties. The new condition that was developed however made provision for the protection and upholding of the rights of the government and provided for mean of upholding these rights.
The American and Russian Constitutions have similar structures and provisions. Both countries have an executive president although the Russian president has far too many powers; the presidents are elected by a majority vote and can serve for two consecutive terms. He length of terms differ considerably with the American one being four years and the Russian being 6 years the parliament of the two countries are both made up of two chamber of elected officials. The parliament forms the legislative branch of the government that formulates laws.
The countries constitutions further provide the citizens with judicial systems that ensure that justice is properly disseminated. Both countries have Supreme Courts that to some extent perform similar federal roles. The supreme courts are at the highest level of the judicial system followed by other courts up to lower courts at the rural levels. Several differences do exits between the judicial systems of the two countries.