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Opposition rebuffs plans to toughen legislation on rallies

May 18, 2012, 14:42 UTC+3
1 pages in this article

The lower house of Russian parliament on Friday will not consider a draft law motioned by United Russia to toughen responsibility for organizing illegal rallies. The opposition factions – the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and A Just Russia – warned they would leave the session hall during the debates. Earlier in the day the State Duma postponed the debates on the draft law until Tuesday, May 22.

The Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and A Just Russia have many claims to the draft law, both related to the wording and formalities, Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported. They did not quite understand why the authors of the amendments to the Code of Administrative Violations chose such a high size of fines – 1 million rubles for ordinary protesters and 1.5 million roubles for organizers. Opposition MPs feared that by raising fines for organizing mass rallies legislators will cause higher fines on other articles of the Code of Administrative Violations. But more doubts are expressed over haste in debates. On May 10 the draft law was submitted to the State Duma for consideration, while in a weeklong period it was put on the session’s agenda.

A parliamentarian from the Communist Party, Vladimir Kashin, said the draft law “is not only raw, but is also repressive and corruptive, because it empowers police to interpret freely what law enforcers can consider a breach of the legislation during mass rallies.”

During the talks with the speaker communists will do their utmost to exclude the law from the parliamentary agenda, Kommersant wrote. They say such laws should be put on public discussion and express special concern over hasty efforts to adopt the law. The second reading is scheduled for the next week; this means that tougher measures will be signed into law at the end of May or the beginning of June. “And the March of Millions rally is expected on June 12,” said Sergei Reshulsky, the deputy head of the Communist Party’s faction.

On Thursday Prime Minister and future leader of United Party Dmitry Medvedev at the St. Petersburg international legal forum made it clear that he was dissatisfied with the ruling party’s initiative on mass rallies. Instead of toughening rules for organizing mass rallies the government has to adjust to the changes in the society, Medvedev said. “In this respect we should apply common rules of conduct in relation to those situations irrespective of where they emerge either in New York, London or Moscow. We should change ourselves, and not simply toughen responsibility or to switch off Twitter during civil riots,” he said.

Democracy is not only rights, but also responsibility, both organizers of opposition and pro-governmental rallies should realize this (in New York it is necessary to apply for organizing a rally 45 days in advance), a Kremlin official said. He drew attention to the fact that Medvedev spoke about imperfection of not only Russian measures, but also of foreign ones, in particular those in Britain.

The draft law will be adopted in compliance with the European standards, but there should be the understanding that any provocation will be punished, the head of United Russia’s Duma faction, Andrei Vorobyev, said in his comments on Medvedev’s statement. He underlined that the debate on amendments will be maximally transparent.

Conciliatory attempts of the authorities did not influence the plans of all opposition parties to boycott a session considering the draft law in the first reading. The Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and A Just Russia demonstrated such solidarity only back in 2009, when they protested against the results of the Moscow city Duma elections.

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