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On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin submitted to the State Duma lower parliament house a mixed election system bill restoring the election of legislators on party tickets and in 225 one-seat constituencies. Under the bill, State Duma members will be elected according to a mixed pattern – half in one-seat constituencies (one lawmaker – one constituency), and the other half - in the federal constituency proportionately to the number of the votes cast for the federal lists of candidates. The opposition says that by changing the rules of the game the authorities are seeking to retain control over the parliament in conditions when the pro-Kremlin ruling United Russia party is losing popular support.
Lawmakers will be elected as they used to be elected before the year 2003, writes the Kommersant daily. Parties, with their federal lists of candidates, will vie for 225 seats in the lower house. A party, which will manage to score at least five percent of the vote, will have the right to form a faction. The remaining 225 seats will be filled by lawmakers elected in election constituencies that are yet to be formed in the country. Any Russian citizen, whether a member of any party or not, may run for a Duma seat from a one-seat constituency.
Professional opposition activists from parties born back in the early 1990s were quite skeptic about the idea to restore the election system that might be used to help the ruling United Russia, which is losing popular support, to retain its parliament majority thanks to lawmakers from one-seat constituencies. In any case, the 1999 and 2003 Duma election campaigns, the last ones to be conducted under the mixed election system, demonstrated that the winner in a one-seat constituency is the one who can rely on the so-called administrative resource of the local governor. And the governor, as a rule, is lobbying the ruling party’s interests.
The off-parliament opposition is disappointed that the Kremlin political strategists opted not to restore the practice of election blocs along with the mixed election system. So, the ban is still in place to stage joint election campaigns under the flag of one party. Now, each party is obliged to put on its list only its own members or, if it comes to the pinch, candidates who are unaffiliated with any party.
United Russia along with the Nationwide Popular Front are the ones to benefit from the mixed election systems, writes the RBC daily. Even if the ruling party loses some of its electorate, Popular Front members will help it score the vote it needs in one-seat constituencies. Popular Frond delegates will simply self-nominate as independent candidates to later joint the ruling party’s faction in the Duma.
The new bill however does not restore the voter turnout lower limit. Neither it restores the “against all” option, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper stresses. Instead, the bill brings down the lower limits of obligatory parties representation in the lower house. Thus, under the current election system, elections are announced invalid in case all the parties, which win seats in the national parliament, fail to score at least 60 percent of the vote. The new bill puts this threshold at 50 percent. At the same time, the bill deletes the rule granting parties failing to surpass the vote threshold but nearing it the right to have one of two parliamentary seats.