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The law on Political Parties: Not a Single Opposition Amendment Adopted

Source: (info), 16/03/12

· Electoral rights  · Freedom of association  · Public protests

Not a single important amendment proposed by the opposition has been accepted into a new draft law on political parties. Consequently, according to a statement by Konstantin Merzlikin, secretary of the political council of the Party of People's Freedom (PARNAS), PARNAS has left the working group on political reform.

"It's becoming obvious that the so-called Medvedev political reform and the announced intention to take the opposition's interests into account is nothing more than a profanation," Merzlikin announced in a statement published on the party's site.

Merzlikin was informed about the fate of the amendments, that had been jointly proposed by PARNAS, the Russian People's Democratic Union and Left Front, by someone from the presidential administration on the eve of the meeting of the State Duma committee. As Merzlikin explained, "the issue is primarily about simplifying the procedure for registering parties and guaranteeing parties genuine independence of action." "Under these conditions I see no point in taking part in tomorrow's sitting of the committee and continuing our activities in the working group," he declared.

As noted, the deadlines for the work on the law on political parties were cut short and the second reading is to take place on 20 March. The law is due to come into force in April. At the beginning of the week the majority of the members of the working group, headed by Vyacheslav Volodin, deputy head of the Kremlin Administration, supported the President's proposal that parties have a minimum membership of 500 people. Representatives of the unregistered opposition were seeking the opportunity to create electoral blocks, however, Volodin gave them no guarantees of this. PARNAS's representatives explained that this issue is closely linked to the reduction in the minimum membership for parties. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Justice has already received over 70 applications from organising committees to create political parties. According to Merzlikin, "there was a definite impression that a target had been set to register the maximum number of parties by the autumn regional elections." "And this will be a new tool with which to subtly manipulate the political landscape."

According to Merzlikin, not all the amendments preventing state intervention in party affairs were passed, and all the legalistic elements allowing the state to refuse registration still remain in place in the law. A date for the working group to discuss the other bills that form part of the reforms set out by Medvedev has not yet been set. A date has not been set for the working group's discussion of other draft laws within the framework of the Medvedev reforms.

On 20 February, after a meeting between the representatives of the unregistered opposition and the President, Vladimir Ryzhkov announced that Medvedev had wanted to implement the political reforms before handing over power to the new President. "He wants us to also take part in the implementation of the reforms that he has initiated." According to Ryzhkov, if the reforms are implemented they "will set processes in motion that no-one will be able to turn back." "This is a man on his way out, but this is a man who sincerely wants to carry out political reform in his final days." According to Ryzhkov, Medvedev said that his views had changed a great deal in the last year or two.