Medvedev signs new Russian political reform bill into law

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev yesterday (Tuesday) signed into law the much-awaited political reform bill promised to citizens after the street protests in December and January. The new law becomes effectively today.

Leaders of several unregistered parties took part in the signing ceremony as President Medvedev approved the law that reduces the number of verified signatures parties will need to become registered/recognized by the Federal Election Commission.

Russian opposition leaders listen to President Medvedev, 3 April 2012

The President signed the bill and spoke to the leaders inside the Kremlin, a signal to the importance of the new law. Mr. Medvedev spoke about the process of approving the bill by saying, “The registration procedure for political parties has been made more flexible. As you know, the Justice Ministry now gives the parties three months to correct any errors that may have been made. In general, the Justice Ministry has altered its position to a certain extent. It should no longer be perceived as barrier troops, as the participants of our last meeting put it, but as a necessary filter to rule out legal mistakes. The refusal to register a political party must now be accompanied by a detailed explanation.

Parties will now use a simplified reporting system, including financial reports. Instead of an annual report to the Central Election Commission and the Justice Ministry, reports will now be submitted once every three years to the Central Election Commission, which, in my opinion, is much easier and probably fairer.

I am also pleased that our major political parties, our political giants, have extended their support for the draft law. Moreover, all parliamentary parties showed remarkable accord: they voted unanimously. This is a unique situation for our country and in general for Parliament.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev addressed opposition leaders, 3 April 2012

Several leaders of unregistered opposition parties refused to take part in the signing of the bill, claiming that the new law was just another way to limit citizens’ rights and to keep tabs on opposition leaders. There are presently seven registered parties in Russia and the new law will allow parties to nominate candidates for regional governorships but only after approval by the president.

Opposition leaders in attendance included Gennady Selesnyov of the Communist Party, nationalist leader Sergei Baburin, Right Cause leader Andrei Dunayev, Vladimir Probylovsky who leads the Panorama think tank, Vladimir Pribylovsky, and outspoken former Moscow prefect Oleg Mitvol who is starting a new green party.

Some observers fear that the new law intentionally fragments the opposition by reducing the minimum required signatures from 40,000 to 500, and the law places limits on small party inter-cooperation.