On September 20, the State Duma approved the decision to merge the Reported Incomes Monitoring Commission and the Ethics Commission. Otari Arshba, who chaired the latter group, will head the new amalgamation, leaving the former’s chairwoman, Natalia Poklonskaya, without a post on the new commission. For more than two months, Poklonskaya (who served as Crimea’s first post-annexation attorney general before joining the parliament) has been feuding with her own political party. In July, she was the only United Russia deputy to break ranks and vote against unpopular legislation that will raise the country’s retirement age.
The State Duma votes on the first reading of legislation to raise Russia’s retirement age. With almost 90 percent of the country opposed to the reforms, the Communist Party, LDPR, Just Russia, and Natalia Poklonskaya vote against the bill. Poklonskaya votes no, despite a decision by her political party’s leadership to support the draft legislation unanimously. After her rebellion, United Russia leaders promise to discuss Poklonskaya’s future in the party.
United Russia deputies skip the next meeting of Poklonskaya’s Reported Incomes Monitoring Commission. Only two of the other 16 members show up: one from the Communist Party and one from LDPR. Sergey Neverov, the head of United Russia’s State Duma faction, suggests that Poklonskaya should consider “surrendering her mandate” and resigning from the parliament. She refuses, saying defiantly, “The voters elected me. The [party] leadership entrusted to me the work that I am doing today according to my conscience, so no [I will not resign].”
Vladimir Putin addresses the nation, trying to explain the necessity of raising the retirement age, and proposes a slight softening of the drafted reforms. In a post on Facebook, Poklonskaya expresses support for the president's position. Two days later, she writes another post where she implies her support for pension reforms. “The speech by the president, whom everyone supported at the polls only recently, clearly opens up prospects,” Poklonskaya says.
On September 11, the news agency Interfax reports that United Russia is planning to remove Poklonskaya from the State Duma’s Security and Countering Corruption Commission, where she serves as deputy chairperson. Hours later, Poklonskaya announces the Reported Incomes Monitoring Commission will investigate five deputies from United Russia and Just Russia for potentially illegal involvement in undeclared “business entities,” including enterprises based abroad.
The State Duma’s Regulations Committee proposes merging the Reported Incomes Monitoring Commission with the Ethics Commission, noting that the idea has been under discussion since January, and arguing that the two “artificially created” commissions are redundant. Poklonskaya says she’s not surprised by the move: if they punished her “openly,” she explains, “there would be excessive heroization” and it would turn out “quite costly.” She promises to see through all the investigations she launched as chairwoman of the Reported Incomes Monitoring Commission.
United Russia’s Presidium endorses Otari Arshba’s candidacy for the chairmanship of the new joint Ethics and Incomes Monitoring Commission.
The State Duma officially approves the decision to merge the two commissions, and Poklonskaya is left without any role in the new committee. For now, she holds onto her post as deputy chairperson of the Security and Countering Corruption Commission, and she is still an ordinary member of the National Security Budgetary Spending Commission.