(The Moscow Times) The State Duma on Tuesday passed in a first reading a bill that would reintroduce a mixed voting system for parliamentary elections, despite a heated argument on the Duma floor that it favors pro-Kremlin forces.
In voting late Tuesday afternoon, 296 lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, 148 voted against and one abstained. The vote totals reflect uncommon discord within the ranks of the lower house, which is often criticized for rubber-stamping legislation backed by the Kremlin.
The bill, submitted by President Vladimir Putin last month, would modify voting rules and reintroduce a mixed system whereby 225 Duma deputies are elected by party lists and 225 in single-mandate districts. The mixed voting system was abolished in 2005 in favor of a move to proportional representation and party lists.
Among other provisions, the bill would set the vote threshold for parties to get into the Duma at 5 percent — instead of the 7 percent threshold in place for the last Duma elections in 2011— and oblige independent candidates to gather signatures from 0.5 percent of voters in their district to qualify for registration. It would also uphold a ban on forming electoral blocks in place since Putin’s second presidential term.
A bill to modify voting rules passes despite criticism that it favors the ruling party.
Addressing their Duma colleagues, deputies from the Communist and Liberal Democratic parties attacked the bill for playing into the hands of the ruling United Russia party, saying it would boost candidates with administrative resources and facilitate falsifications on voting day.
“United Russia is no longer capable of winning elections according to the current system, so the switch to a mixed system has been proposed,” said Vadim Solovyov, reading out a joint statement from the Communists.