Russia inches forward on political party reforms

(Moscow) Yesterday Russia’s Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Duma, passed long-awaited legislation to liberalize party politics in Russia. The vote was decidedly in favour of the reforms.

The legislation has been authored by out-going President Dmitry Medvedev after wide-spread political protests in December after public outcries amid charges of vote rigging in the Duma election. The President had promised to streamline rules for political participation and the bill decreases the number of members required for a party to officially register from the previous requirement of 40,000 to just 500 signatures nationwide.

Citizen protests after the December DUMA elections were met with police force. (photo: Ilya Varlumov, zualt.livejounal.com)

The new legislation is expected to be signed into law by Medvedev before his term in office expires in early May when Vladimir Putin, Russia’s old-new President-elect resumes power.

Despite criticism from members such as the Council’s legal committee chairman Nikolai Fyodorov who said the legislation was “risky” and would allow “extremists” to register too easily and enter the political process, the bill passed by a vote of 124-6.

Some Russians fear that the low minimum of 500 nationwide signatures will hurt chances for a united opposition since existing law prohibits small parties from joining forces in political blocs, thereby allowing the ruling United Russia party to remain dominant, an ironic situation as United Russia itself was formed by the merger of several parties in 2001.

President Medvedev has just concluded the BRICS summit in India.

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