Instituto de Estudios Políticos y Derecho Público "Dr. Humberto J. La Roche"
de la Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Políticas de la Universidad del Zulia
Maracaibo, Venezuela
Esta publicación cientíca en formato digital es continuidad de la revista impresa
ISSN-Versión Impresa 0798-1406 / ISSN-Versión on line 2542-3185Depósito legal pp
197402ZU34
ppi 201502ZU4645
Vol.39 N° 70
2021
ISSN 0798-1406 ~ Depósito legal pp 198502ZU132
Cues tio nes Po lí ti cas
La re vis ta Cues tio nes Po lí ti cas, es una pu bli ca ción aus pi cia da por el Ins ti tu to
de Es tu dios Po lí ti cos y De re cho Pú bli co “Dr. Hum ber to J. La Ro che” (IEPDP) de la Fa-
cul tad de Cien cias Ju rí di cas y Po lí ti cas de la Uni ver si dad del Zu lia.
En tre sus ob je ti vos fi gu ran: con tri buir con el pro gre so cien tí fi co de las Cien cias
Hu ma nas y So cia les, a tra vés de la di vul ga ción de los re sul ta dos lo gra dos por sus in ves-
ti ga do res; es ti mu lar la in ves ti ga ción en es tas áreas del sa ber; y pro pi ciar la pre sen ta-
ción, dis cu sión ycon fron ta cióndelasideas y avan ces cien tí fi coscon com pro mi soso cial.
Cues tio nes Po lí ti cas apa re ce dos ve ces al año y pu bli ca tra ba jos ori gi na les con
avan ces o re sul ta dos de in ves ti ga ción en las áreas de Cien cia Po lí ti ca y De re cho Pú bli-
co, los cua les son so me ti dos a la con si de ra ción de ár bi tros ca li fi ca dos.
ESTA PU BLI CA CIÓN APA RE CE RE SE ÑA DA, EN TRE OTROS ÍN DI CES, EN
:
Re vicyhLUZ, In ter na tio nal Po li ti cal Scien ce Abs tracts, Re vis ta In ter ame ri ca na de
Bi blio gra fía, en el Cen tro La ti no ame ri ca no para el De sa rrol lo (CLAD), en Bi blio-
gra fía So cio Eco nó mi ca de Ve ne zue la de RE DIN SE, In ter na tio nal Bi blio graphy of
Po li ti cal Scien ce, Re vencyt, His pa nic Ame ri can Pe rio di cals In dex/HAPI), Ul ri ch’s
Pe rio di cals Di rec tory, EBS CO. Se en cuen tra acre di ta da al Re gis tro de Pu bli ca cio-
nes Cien tí fi cas y Tec no ló gi cas Ve ne zo la nas del FO NA CIT, La tin dex.
Di rec to ra
L
OIRALITH
M. C
HIRINOS
P
ORTILLO
Co mi té Edi tor
Eduviges Morales Villalobos
Fabiola Tavares Duarte
Ma ría Eu ge nia Soto Hernández
Nila Leal González
Carmen Pérez Baralt
Co mi té Ase sor
Pedro Bracho Grand
J. M. Del ga do Ocan do
José Ce rra da
Ri car do Com bel las
An gel Lom bar di
Die ter Nohlen
Al fre do Ra mos Ji mé nez
Go ran Ther born
Frie drich Welsch
Asis ten tes Ad mi nis tra ti vos
Joan López Urdaneta y Nilda Marín
Re vis ta Cues tio nes Po lí ti cas. Av. Gua ji ra. Uni ver si dad del Zu lia. Nú cleo Hu ma nís ti co. Fa-
cul tad de Cien cias Ju rí di cas y Po lí ti cas. Ins ti tu to de Es tu dios Po lí ti cos y De re cho Pú bli co
“Dr. Hum ber to J. La Ro che”. Ma ra cai bo, Ve ne zue la. E- mail: cues tio nes po li ti cas@gmail.
com ~ loi chi ri nos por til lo@gmail.com. Te le fax: 58- 0261- 4127018.
Vol. 39, Nº 70 (2021), 933-941
IEPDP-Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Políticas - LUZ
Recibido el 07/07/2021 Aceptado el 28/08/2021
Counter-majoritarian mechanisms in
local self-government: a view from Russia
DOI: https://doi.org/10.46398/cuestpol.3970.57
Sergey Solovev *
Olga Pastukhova **
Elena Sumina ***
Abstract
Through a documentary methodology, the article analyzes
the main theoretical, practical, and problematic legal issues
related to the functioning of the counter-majority mechanisms
existing in the Russian local self-government system. The study
proposes a set of legal measures aimed at improving the content
of existing counter-majoritarian legal structures and seeks at the
same time to introduce new ones to bring Russian municipal
legislation into place to bring Russian municipal legislation into
place. It is concluded that the thesis of the system of tyranny of
the majority (majority democracy) at the local level cannot be recognized
as a democratic and stable legal structure for the application of local self-
government. Around the world, there is a fairly long process of replacing the
concept of majority democracy with the concept of participatory democracy
that involves the interaction of all population groups and the search for
compromises between dierent social communities, through a balance of
respect and recognition of memories of all kinds.
Keywords: local self-government; counter-majority mechanisms;
counter-majoritarian legal constructions; participatory
democracy; Russian experience of local government.
* South Ural State University (National Research University), Chelyabinsk, Russia. ORCID ID: https://
orcid.org/0000-0001-9314-8538. Email: sergey.g.solovev@bk.ru
** South Ural State University (National Research University), Chelyabinsk, Russia. ORCID ID: https://
orcid.org/0000-0003-0057-8155. Email: olga.n.pastukhova@mail.ru
*** South Ural State University (National Research University), Chelyabinsk, Russia. ORCID ID: https://
orcid.org/0000-0001-7630-1203. Email: elena.v.sumina@mail.ru
934
Sergey Solovev, Olga Pastukhova y Elena Sumina
Counter-majoritarian mechanisms in local self-government: a view from Russia
Mecanismos contramayoritarios en el autogobierno
local: una mirada desde Rusia
Resumen
Mediante una metodología documental el artículo analiza las principales
cuestiones legales teóricas, prácticas y problemáticas relacionadas con el
funcionamiento de los mecanismos contramayoritarios existentes en el
sistema de autogobierno local ruso. El estudio propone un conjunto de
medidas legales destinadas a mejorar el contenido de las estructuras jurídicas
contramayoritarias existentes y busca al mismo tiempo introducir nuevas
para adecuar la legislación municipal rusa a las principales tendencias
mundiales en la protección de los derechos de las minorías municipales. Se
concluye que, la tesis del sistema de la tiranía de la mayoría (democracia
mayoritaria) a nivel local no puede reconocerse como una estructura
jurídica democrática y estable para la aplicación del autogobierno local. En
todo el mundo, hay un proceso bastante largo de sustitución del concepto
de democracia mayoritaria por el concepto de democracia participativa
que implica la interacción de todos los grupos de población y la búsqueda
de compromisos entre diferentes comunidades sociales, mediante un
equilibrio de respeto y reconocimiento a las memorias de toda índole.
Palabras Clave: autogobierno local; mecanismos contramayoritarios;
construcciones legales contramayoritarias; democracia
participativa; experiencia rusa de gobierno local.
It’s enough to lose the election,
to understand: the majority is not always right.
Andrew Mackenzie
Introduction
The analysis of the complex of events that had been taking place in the
world recently allows concluding that the existing unied global community
has passed into a stage of instability and serious transformations, the
results of which are quite dicult to predict. Concerning the system of
Russian local self-government, it is not dicult to predict the fact that the
economic diculties that are inevitable during the transformation period
will objectively cause an increase in protest activity of the population due to
the naturally escalating problems with solving local issues that complicate
the lives of residents of municipalities daily.
Therewith, the modern institution of Russian local self-government (as a
democratic institution) is objectively programmed to prioritize the interests
935
CUESTIONES POLÍTICAS
Vol. 39 Nº 70 (2021): 933-941
of the majority of residents over the interests of the territorial residents
of local communities. The main forms of implementation of local self-
government by the population and participation of the population in the
implementation of local self-government are focused on the legitimization
of the interests of the majority, most of which are majoritarian (local
referendums, municipal elections, voting on the recall of a deputy, citizens’
gatherings, public hearings, public discussions, meetings and conferences
of citizens, citizens’ polls).
However, as the practice of local self-government shows, in the current
information age, when solving issues of local signicance, serious problems
arise related to adequate legal protection of the protest consolidated and
formalized will of the population of local territorial communities on issues
of compaction development, changes in the number of oors of buildings,
changes in the purpose of land, placement of environmentally dirty objects,
support for the implementation of industrial and commercial projects,
deforestation of municipal forests… Quite often, such projects, which are
positively assessed by the majority of the population of the municipality due
to the prospects of their implementation from the standpoint of common
municipal interests, cause an unambiguously negative consolidated
reaction of residents of local territorial communities, whose interests will
be infringed to some extent in the event of the implementation of relevant
projects entailing the deterioration of the local environmental and the
economic situation, a decrease in the comfort of living conditions and
several other locally signicant circumstances.
This problem conceptually follows from the general democratic attitude,
which assumes the priority of the interests of the majority concerning
the minority. However, concerning the system of local self-government,
which assumes the priority of nding consensus among all residents of
the municipality, the lack of eective counter-majoritarian municipal
legal institutions is puzzling, and, accordingly, this topic is of undoubted
scientic interest.
1. Methods
Based on the analysis of the theoretical foundations and the existing
experience of practical implementation of legal structures that regulate
counter-majoritarian mechanisms in local self-government in Russia, this
study attempts (using dialectical, logical, historical, formal-legal methods
of scientic knowledge using reference, value, system, functional and
informational approaches) to analyze the main problematic legal aspects of
the implementation of counter-majoritarian mechanisms in Russian local
self-government and to suggest promising directions for improving the
content of the legal structures under consideration.
936
Sergey Solovev, Olga Pastukhova y Elena Sumina
Counter-majoritarian mechanisms in local self-government: a view from Russia
2. Theory and practice of implementing counter-majoritarian
mechanisms in local self-government in Russia
The issue of the legal consequences of the contradiction between the
will of local communities and the expression of the will of the majority of
the local population has not until now been the subject of close attention of
theorists of municipal law. However, concerning the general constitutional
and legal issues, the «counter-majoritarian diculty» is a well-researched
political and legal plot, which was rst described by A. Bickel (1986),
a professor of law at the Yale Law School, and subsequently studied in
sucient detail by such Russian and foreign scholars like I.A. Alebastrova
(2018), A. Arutyunyan (2008), N. V. Varlamova, N.B. Pakholenko (1997),
S.M. Popova, S.M. Shakhrai (2019), K. Ragnarsson (2019), J. McGarry, B.
O’Leary, R. Simeon (2008).
Therewith, it is important to note the fact that, within the framework of
the constitutional problem concerning counter-majoritarian mechanisms,
the emphasis is on protecting the interests of ethnic and cultural minorities,
and not the interests of local territorial communities (houses, streets,
neighborhoods) that remain in the minority when making public decisions.
In our understanding, when considering the content of municipal counter-
majoritarian mechanisms, it is important to understand and take into
account these specics.
When analyzing the content of counter-majoritarian municipal
mechanisms, it is important to emphasize that their essence is precisely
the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of local territorial
communities, and their organizational guarantees should include elements
of the municipal mechanism for the exercise of public power that can resist
the decisions of institutions formed by the majority of the local population
and designed to reect their interests.
Therewith, the understanding of counter-majoritarian municipal
mechanisms solely as tools for protecting the rights of local territorial
communities, which enable them to resist the repressive decisions of the
democratic majority of municipalities, in our understanding, narrows
the signicance of these mechanisms. Their purpose should also be to
promote the development of consolidating principles in municipalities,
the coordination of interests, the search for compromises to smooth out
the emerging conicts of interests of local territorial communities and the
majority of the population of municipalities.
Analyzing the legal aspects of counter-majoritarian municipal
mechanisms, one should also take into account the fact that they can receive
their legal consolidation in the relevant municipal legal institutions, which
contain separate counter-majoritarian elements in their content. Therein,
937
CUESTIONES POLÍTICAS
Vol. 39 Nº 70 (2021): 933-941
it should be noted that there are no specialized counter-majoritarian
municipal legal institutions aimed exclusively at protecting the interests of
local territorial communities in the current Russian municipal legislation.
Meanwhile, to date, within the framework of a municipal legal matter,
several municipal legal institutions can be distinguished, having in their
content separate counter-majoritarian elements that can legitimately adjust
both the process itself in the interests of local territorial communities and
the result of decision-making directly by the majority of the population of
municipalities or indirectly by their representatives.
1. The legal institution of public hearings provided for in Article
28 of the Federal Law No. 131-FZ of June 10, 2003 «On General
Principles of the Organization of Local Self-Government in the
Russian Federation» allows (when conducting this municipal
public procedure in buildings located in the territorial proximity of
disputed objects) providing conditions for the preferential presence
of representatives of the relevant local territorial community,
the expression and formalization of their consolidated will for its
subsequent consideration by the relevant local representative body.
2. The legal structure of the institute of public discussions provided
for in Article 24 of Federal Law No. 212-FL of July 21, 2014 «On
the Foundations of Public Control in the Russian Federation» and
paragraph 5 of Article 28 of Federal Law No. 131-FZ of October
6, 2003 «On the General Principles Of Organizing Local Self-
Government in the Russian Federation», the legal structure of the
institution of public discussions also creates certain conditions for
the preferential participation in it of representatives of the relevant
local territorial communities, the rights, and legitimate interests
of which are aected or may aect the discussed decision. This
procedure facilitates the clear expression and formalization of their
consolidated opinion to ensure that its content is more fully and
adequately taken into account by the relevant municipal authorities
and ocials.
3. The legal structure of the institution of the Head of a municipality,
as the sole highest ocial of a municipality elected at municipal
elections, either by the representative body of the municipality from
its composition or by the representative body of the municipality from
among the candidates submitted by the competition commission
based on the results of the competition, contains counter-majoritarian
elements, clearly manifested in its ability (provided for in part 13 of
Article 35 of the Federal Law of 06.10.2003 No. 131-FZ «On General
Principles of the Organization of Local Self-Government in the
Russian Federation») to reject a normative legal act adopted by the
representative body of the municipality.
938
Sergey Solovev, Olga Pastukhova y Elena Sumina
Counter-majoritarian mechanisms in local self-government: a view from Russia
Also, special attention should be paid to the fact that the very procedure
for electing the Head of a municipality, which provides for competitive
election as one of the options, indicates the desire of the legislator to
introduce elements into the content of this legal institution that ensures
(along with the level of professionalism) the possibility of carrying out
certain counter-majoritarian actions by the Head of the municipality.
4. The existing legal structure of the institution of a deputy of a local
representative body, which declares the responsibility of a municipal
deputy to the voters, but practically excludes the possibility of his/
her recall (Solovev and Titova, 2020), contains a certain counter-
majoritarian content, which allows the elected representatives of
the majority of the population of the electoral district, if necessary,
to carry out actions aimed solely at protecting the interests of local
territorial communities that are in the minority on certain issues.
Also, special attention should be paid to the fact that the deputies of the
local representative body are representatives of a part of the territory of the
municipality, and in the event of a discrepancy between the interests of the
population of the entire municipality and its part from which the deputy is
elected, this legal gure, representing the interests of its voters (remaining
in the minority), acquires a purely counter-majoritarian content in its
activities.
5. Among the legal institutions that have counter-majoritarian elements
in their content, which make it possible to systematically protect the
interests of local territorial communities by legal means, it is also
possible to distinguish the institutions of local branches of public
associations and political parties, as legal structures by denition
focused on defending certain group interests, among which the
interests of local territorial communities may well be included.
6. A specic legal institution with a pronounced counter-majoritarian
content is the legal institution of judicial appeal of municipal legal
acts, provided for in Part 2 of Article 46 of the Constitution of the
Russian Federation. Within the framework of this legal procedure,
the sole will of an appointed rather than an elected judge, aimed at
protecting the legitimate interests of local territorial communities
violated by decisions of the majority (or their representatives),
may have a purely counter-majority character, implying that a
judge cancels a municipal legal act in the interests of a minority of
the local population, adopted by the direct expression of the will of
citizens or by democratically elected bodies and ocials of local self-
government, representing the majority of the local population.
939
CUESTIONES POLÍTICAS
Vol. 39 Nº 70 (2021): 933-941
3. A set of legal measures aimed at developing counter-
majoritarian mechanisms in local self-government in Russia
To avoid the potential for the establishment of a majority dictatorship in
the modern Russian system of local self-government, in our understanding
it is necessary to introduce into its composition a group of specic legal
institutions that have a purely counter-majoritarian content, providing
more eective protection of the rights and interests of local territorial
communities within the framework of specially stipulated legal procedures.
In our understanding, we can oer the following legal constructions as such
counter-majoritarian legal institutions.
Firstly, to clarify the prevailing opinion of local territorial communities
on issues that cause widespread protest sentiments in them, it makes sense
to introduce in Article 28 of the Federal Law of October 6, 2003, No. 131-
FZ «On General Principles of the Organization of Local Self-Government
in the Russian Federation» norms dening the procedure for holding local
public hearings, which are public hearings held exclusively to clarify the
prevailing opinion of residents living in a certain part of the territory of a
municipality.
Secondly, if there is a negative opinion of local territorial communities
on high-prole local issues expressed as a result of local public hearings, it
seems appropriate to provide for the mandatory adoption of a formalized
decision based on the results of general municipal public hearings held
following Article 28 of Federal Law No. 131-FZ of October 6, 2003, adopted
by a qualied majority (2/3) of the number of participants in the relevant
public hearings.
Thirdly, to establish legal mechanisms that reliably guarantee the
protection of the rights and legitimate interests of residents of local territorial
communities, it makes sense to provide for an overqualied quorum (3/4 of
the established number of the deputy corps) in Art. 35 FL dated October 6,
2003. No. 131-FZ for making decisions by the local representative body on
issues in respect of which there is a negative decision based on the results
of local public hearings and there is no formalized positive decision based
on the results of general municipal public hearings.
Fourthly, the establishment of norms in Article 35 of the Federal Law
No. 131-FZ of October 6, 2003, which enshrine the right of a deputy of a
local representative body to make decisions on objects located on the
territory of his/her electoral district, in the presence of qualied support of
residents of the relevant territory, expressed by the results of local public
hearings (3/4 of the number of participants in local public hearings), will
undoubtedly contribute to the solution of the issue of creating mechanisms
for protecting the rights and legitimate interests of residents of local
territorial communities.
940
Sergey Solovev, Olga Pastukhova y Elena Sumina
Counter-majoritarian mechanisms in local self-government: a view from Russia
Fifthly, it is also quite a cardinal measure in the issue of protecting the
rights and legitimate interests of residents of local territorial communities
can be the consolidation in the Federal Law of October 6, 2003, No. 131-
FZ of a legal structure regulating the exercise of the right of a suspensive
veto on the decision of a local representative body by a group of residents
in the number of 15 percent of residents of the municipality who made the
corresponding decision by electronic voting.
Conclusion
In conclusion, we would like to emphasize the thesis that the system
of the tyranny of the majority (majority democracy) at the local level
cannot be recognized as a democratic and stable legal structure for the
implementation of local self-government. Throughout the world, there is a
rather long process of replacing the concept of majority democracy with the
concept of participatory democracy (Linz and Stepan, 1996; Susan et al.,
2012), which involves the interaction of all population groups and the search
for compromises between dierent social communities. This circumstance
determines the urgency of developing theoretical constructions and
modeling practical mechanisms aimed at introducing a group of counter-
majoritarian institutions into the system of Russian local self-government
that can legitimately correct the majority decisions taken in a legitimate
democratic procedure in the interests of local territorial communities.
Acknowledgments
The article was carried out with the support of the Government of the
Russian Federation (Resolution No. 211 of March 16, 2013), agreement No.
02.A03.21.0011.
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