The Kremlin seek to impose more electoral restrictions

Following the
Russian State Duma’s support for a new code of administrative legal proceedings that will
regulate disputes between citizens, political parties and government – and,
particularly, deal with complaints about election results – Russian pundits and
politicians expressed their opinions on the stance.

While some
see this move as unconstitutional and “shallow,” others argue it will help to
make Russia’s
election system more professional and balanced.


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Controlling the observers

On May 21,
the Russian parliament supported President Vladimir Putin’s project for the new
administrative code proposed last March. Putin mentioned this initiative in
December 2012, in an address to the Federal Assembly where he proposed amending
the current Civil Code.

The need
to create such legislation stems from the lack of equal relations between
parties [government, political parties and citizens], and the amendments are
expected to help “equalize this misbalance,” Garry Minkh, the presidential
representative in the State Duma, told Kommersant Daily.

the proposed legislation contains controversial amendments that may restrict
the rights of both political parties and citizens in appealing against vote
fraud and other falsifications during elections. For one, it will reduce the time-limit
for appeals from political parties; in addition, it will prevent ordinary
citizens from issuing complaints about elections results.

politicians and pundits are divided in their assessments of the legislation.

Orlov, a member of the United Russia political party, greets the new
legislation as an attempt to “professionalize [the] election process” and
minimize “the amount of groundless requests” to appeal against the Central
Election Commission.

“At first
glance, this code looks reasonable,” said Orlov. “Sometimes ordinary people can’t
present well-grounded and detailed requests [for court appeal]. On the other
hand, reducing the limits for complaints might encourage parties to collect all
documents without delay.” 

contrast, the Communist Party’s Vadim Solovyov opposes the amendments and
regards them as unconstitutional. In his opinion, prohibiting members of the
public from appealing against election fraud violates the Russian Constitution
and the country’s Civil Code.

Elections in Russia

decision is illegitimate,” said Solovyov. “Political motives lie behind this
stance. It means that the government imposes more restrictions on Russia’s
election legislation, which limits democratic freedoms during the elections.”

Communist Party member argues that reducing time-limits for court appeals will
increase the bureaucratic burden on political parties and decrease their
chances of filing all necessary documents on time.

it may be regarded as a tough restriction,” Solovyov said. “Actually, the legislation
will serve the interests of the United Russia ruling party.”

Likewise, Yuri
Korgunyuk from the Moscow-based INDEM think-tank believes that the proposed administrative
legislation will help authorities expand their opportunities to overturn
appeals from the people.   

He views
the amendments as “pseudo-judicial” and “shallow,” especially against the
backdrop of recent political events such as the NGO inspections and a worsening
human rights record.

“Putin has
followed this [restrictive] course since he came to power,” said Korgunyuk.
“Previously, the Russian courts dragged their feet about approving appeals [that
came from citizens]. And this legislation is not a big deal, as matter of fact.
It might have caused anxiety when Putin took office, but now it’s too shallow
and brings no surprise.”

Chizhov from the Center for Political Technologies describes the amendments as
“symbolic” and “pre-emptive.”

authorities are giving a sign to opposition parties that they won’t pin many
hopes on victory during the next elections,” said Chizhov.

At the same time, Chizhov sees the prohibition against
civilians filing appeals as “dubious,” because it puts into questions people’s
rights to fair elections.

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