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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: March 3, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
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Vladimir Churov, the long-time head of the Russian Central Elections Commission and the constant target of opposition leaders charging fraud in Russia's ballots, is missing from the newly-restructured commission, Novaya Gazeta reports, citing a decree published today from President Vladimir Putin.

The five new members of the CEC are: Aleksandr Kinyev, deputy head of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service; Vasily Likhachyov, a State Duma deputy; Boris Ebzeyev, a former Constitutional Court judge; Ella Pamfilova, ombudsperson for human rights; and Yevgeny Shevchenko, a member of the Patriots of Russia party.

In the Russian system, the president appoints five members, but 10 others must be chosen and confirmed by the State Duma (5) and Federation Council (5), respectively, for the total of 15.

Unlike other former Soviet republics where opposition parties have gained seats in CECs, in Russia a formula has not been created to enable this, given the docile nature of the parliament. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for September 2016.

Back in December, Churov had told TV Rain he would leave his post if told to, and in January, Vedomosti had predicted Churov might leave the high-pressure post but there is also said to be a "planned rotation," according to a source.

Churov was appointed in 2007, re-elected in 2011 and saw the consolidation of Putin's power and his controversial re-election in 2011. He was then elected again. 

Ella Pamfilova is believed to be Putin's choice to head up the newly-constituted CEC, but this will not be clear until the final composition of the CEC is confirmed by parliament.

Translation: The CEC without magic: what to expect from Vladimir Churov's successor.

Churov was nicknamed the "Magician" after then-president Dmitry Medvedev said he was "practically a magician."

Pamfilova, an engineer by training, currently the human rights ombudsman and formerly the head of the Presidential Council for Human Rights and Civil Society Development, had occasionally taken positions against the Kremlin, such as defending NGOs accused of being "foreign agents." Her influence is limited, however; when she believed she had overturned the designation for Golos, the independent elections monitoring NGO, ultimately it remained on the Justice Ministry's list and was later closed.

By installing Pamfilova, who is seen as a liberal in the Russian context, Putin may hope to forestall complaints that the elections are not free or fair.  It will be another matter whether Pamfilova herself will agree to play this role.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick