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MOSCOW, June 7 (Itar-Tass World Service)
The amendments in the Code on Administrative Offences, which toughens responsibility for violations at rallies, was approved in the State Duma late in the evening on Tuesday, and the Federation Council approved it on Wednesday. Now the president should sign it into law. The opposition, which opposes strongly this document, urged the president to veto it down. He has already supported this initiative in public.
At night on June 6 the State Duma completed the approval of the amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences and the law on rallies, which a group of opposition deputies was seeking to block. They have drafted over 400 amendments and each amendment was put up for a separate discussion, the Kommersant daily reported. United Russia was fighting with this initiative as much as they could. The time for a speech on each amendment was cut from usual three minutes to 15 seconds, the law was approved by 241 votes just before midnight. The Federation Council approved the amendments much quicker, less than for an hour, though senator Lyudmila Narusova warned that “a hasty approval of the law without any debates undermines the image of the Federation Council and turns it in the legislative body for rubber stamping the laws.” Other senators supported the law.
After the law was approved in the State Duma and the Federation Council, the only opportunity to bar it from coming into effect is the presidential veto, the newspaper noted. “Vladimir Putin will oppose principally the enactment of the law only if it contradicts universally recognized and applied practices in other countries to exercise the rights of people and members of the society that the law grants,” presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday in comments on an address already made to Putin to veto down the law on a tougher responsibility for violations at rallies.
However, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily recalled that the president told a press conference after the Russia-EU summit in St. Petersburg, “The only thing that we should do is to introduce in our legislation those provisions of European law that are applied in many European countries to regulate similar events and that are certainly democratic, but at the same time create a clear-cut procedure for massive events.” Before Putin said at a meeting with the United Russia leadership on May 23 even more clearly, “We certainly should protect people from extreme radical manifestations. The society and the state can protect themselves.”
“Frankly speaking, there are few arguments for a veto. The law was amended, some most odious provisions were dropped from it. To veto it down means to give an absolutely undeserved slap to United Russia,” director of the International Institute of Political Expertise Yevgeny Minchenko told the Kommersant daily. He does not see any sense in such gesture of the president, “To gain sympathy of liberal circles? Putin already showed that he does not care much about the opinion of this audience.” Meanwhile, such step can inspire the opposition to further actions, the expert noted.
The Communists are preparing a petition in the Constitutional Court on a bill on rallies, head of the legal service of the Communist Party Vadim Solovyev told the Vedomosti daily. A petition can be filed only after the document enters into force.
No less than one fifth deputies of the State Duma or senators can file a petition in the way of the so-called abstract legislative control. So, the Communists need at least 90 signatures. The Communist faction has 92 deputies, but the Communists hope that the lawmakers from A Just Russia will join them to make their petition more substantial.
The approved bill contradicts Article 31 of the Constitution, Solovyev believes. This article guarantees the freedom of assembly except for the cases, when there is a threat to the constitutional system, he recalled. Meanwhile, in the approval of the law norms of the regulations were violated. The authors of the amendments were groundlessly stripped of their right to spell out the amendments, because the time for their speeches was cut from one minute to 15 seconds. The Communist Party also noted that during the voting on each amendment a large number of United Russia deputies were absent, though they were in the session hall on Wednesday morning, that means that they could not leave proxy cards for voting. This already can give some grounds to find the voting on several amendments invalid.
The prospects for a petition in the Constitutional Court are quite vague, lawyer Vadim Prokhorov noted. In the last few years the court almost did not take any decisions, which contradict the Kremlin position, and Chairman of the Constitutional Court Valery Zorkin took a state protecting position that his articles show emphatically.