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Federation Council speaker: changes to election laws have gone too far

CEC Chairman Alexander Veshnyakov has told the Federation Council that there should be a moratorium on applying new electoral procedures if they have become law less than six months before an election. Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov described some current regulations as “demented.”


Central Electoral Commission (CEC) Chairman Alexander Veshnyakov has told the Federation Council that in future there should be a moratorium on applying new electoral procedures if they have become law less than six months before an election. Veshnyakov stressed that electoral legislation still requires some corrections. Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov described some current regulations as “demented.”

At yesterday’s parliamentary hearings on electoral legislation, Mironov said: “Whatever anyone may say, elected government bodies are becoming less legitimate, and many are starting to have such apprehensions.”

In Mironov’s view, amendments made to electoral legislation in 2006 have played a leading role in this. In particular, Mironov criticized the decision to abolish the “against all candidates” option and the minimal voter turnout threshold. As a result, according to Mironov, voter turnout exceeded 50% in only six of the 44 regional elections held last year; in most cases, turnout was under 40%. Mironov claims that “many of our colleagues in the Duma are ignoring public opinion” in amending electoral legislation; and the latest amendments were made too hastily last September.

“Somebody out there is very scared, so they’re warping our electoral legislation, which isn’t all that brilliant as it stands,” said Mironov, hinting at his United Russia opponents.

All the same, electoral legislation does require some further changes – at least, that is the opinion of CEC Chairman Alexander Veshnyakov. At yesterday’s hearings, he reiterated his proposal to remove what he regards as superfluous obstacles in elections. According to Veshnyakov, requirements for political parties are sufficiently stringent already: for example, the minimal membership requirement has been raised from 10,000 to 50,000. “Given that Russia has no more than 15 parties now, let’s abolish the requirement for parties to lodge bonds or collect signatures before elections,” said Veshnyakov.

“Why do we need all these demented rules about collecting signatures or paying election bonds?” said Mironov.

Mironov, leader of the Just Russia party, pointed to the current regional election campaigns and complained that acting legislation has too many meaningless rules that could be used as pretexts to disqualify entire candidate lists.

“I’m not claiming that all incidents of parties being denied registration involve biased and unlawful decisions,” said Mironov. “But most cases of parties being disqualified are the result of subjective judgements which arise due to imprecise, poor-quality legislation.”

But it appears that Mironov himself doesn’t intend to improve electoral legislation in the immediate future. When asked if he plans to submit any further bills to the Duma with a view to changing the rules of the game again, Mironov couldn’t say for certain; but he reported that the Duma might soon receive a bill reducing the number of electoral districts for parliamentary elections (the proposal is that regions with fewer than three million voters should not be divided into districts). But Mironov does not support this initiative, which comes from the United Russia faction in the Duma.

“I do not agree with this proposal,” said Mironov, adding vaguely that “this could still be discussed.”

Even if electoral legislation is changed again before the 2007 election, the innovations might remain untested until the following campaign. Veshnyakov has proposed introducing “a moratorium on electoral regulations.” In his view, any amendments passed less than six months before an election should not apply to that election.

The Duma campaign of 2007 will officially begin just over six months from now.

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