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Moscow Times, October 10, 2002

Lawmakers Eye Tougher Rules for Duma Seats

By Oksana Yablokova

A handful of young Yabloko supporters, wearing red wigs in a nod to Chubais and carrying boxes reading "Alms for reform," protesting the UES bills at the Duma on Wednesday.

Pro-Kremlin lawmakers have drawn up a bill raising the minimal number of votes that parties need to be elected to the State Duma, a move that could prevent Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces from winning seats in next year's elections.

Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov, Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky and other politicians immediately slammed the proposal.

Unity and Fatherland-All Russia presented an amendment to the law on elections in the Duma on Tuesday that raises the vote threshold from 5 percent to 7 percent.

The bill could be put on the Duma's agenda this fall, Interfax said, citing a Fatherland source.

Unity and Fatherland-All Russia, which merged into the United Russia party earlier this year but are represented as separate factions in the Duma, had earlier considered increasing the barrier to 12.5 percent.

In the last Duma elections in 1999, Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, or SPS, squeaked past the minimal barrier, winning 5.93 percent and 8.52 percent, respectively. Recent polls have suggested that neither party would get more than 7 percent in the December 2003 election.

Yavlinsky said the United Russia initiative would create a Duma of pro-Kremlin lawmakers and Communists.

Seleznyov dismissed the proposal as "odd and ridiculous" and warned that such a change would lead to the revival of the one-party system.

"It looks like that is what they are aiming for," he was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying. "One party would sit in the parliament and would form the Cabinet and the country's home and foreign policies."

Vladislav Surkov, the deputy head of the presidential administration, called the bill unacceptable.

"The issue of raising the barrier required to make it into the State Duma can be discussed and is being discussed, but radical proposals from United Russia are simply unacceptable," he said.

Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov also condemned the bill. "As a lawyer, I think the legislation cannot be changed for a certain political party, politician or political situation," he told Interfax.

Sergei Markov, a Kremlin-connected political analyst, said the initiative might ending up doing United Russia more harm than good.

"This is a grave political mistake," he said. "Coming from the pro-Kremlin factions, the West will view the initiative as an attempt by Putin to throw Yabloko and SPS out of the parliament."

See also:
the original at www.themoscowtimes.com

State Duma elections 2003

Interview of Grigory Yavlinsky to the NTV channel, "Segodnya Vecherom" programme, October 7, 2002

Moscow Times, October 10, 2002

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