Kremlin Submits New Elections Bill

MOSCOW, March 1 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin has submitted a bill to parliament that would significantly revise current parliamentary electoral procedures, the Kremlin said Friday.

The proposed legislation would reintroduce voting for individual candidates in parliamentary elections and lower the threshold for representation from 7 percent to 5 percent.

Lawmakers in the State Duma, parliament’s lower house, are currently selected from party lists in proportion to the number of total votes garnered by a party nationwide. Putin’s bill, which is highly likely to pass, would see an equal split in the 450-seat chamber between directly elected legislators and those chosen from party lists.

Candidates running for direct election to the Duma, rather than via party lists, would be required to present signatures in support of their bid from 0.5 percent of potential voters in their electoral district.

Candidates would also be allowed, however, to run simultaneously in direct elections and via the party list.

But the bill would forbid parties from forming so-called electoral blocs, a blow to smaller parties that often lack the resources to ensure nationwide representation at elections.

“Everyone must fight for themselves,” the Kommersant newspaper reported a Kremlin source as saying.

Electoral reforms introduced by Putin in 2003 and 2004 scrapped voting for individual candidates, as well as direct elections for regional governors, leaving the post of president as the only individual elected directly by voters on a federal level.

Kremlin reforms in the wake of mass anti-government protests in December 2011 saw a reintroduction of direct gubernatorial elections. But opposition figures say they have been unable to get on the ballot in many regions due to Kremlin regulations obliging potential candidates to have their bid approved by five to 10 percent of the region’s municipal legislators. Opposition candidates allege local legislators have come under pressure from Moscow to ignore their bids.

State Duma lawmakers are also currently considering a bill that would allow regions to opt out of direct gubernatorial elections. The proposed law would give Putin the right to submit three candidates for approval by regional authorities.

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