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Lawmakers continue clampdown throughout spring session

July 04, 2013, 12:06 UTC+3

Citizens have lost count of new bans and fines

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The New Izvestia publishes an article which sums up the results of the spring session of the State Duma lower house of the Russian parliament which is due to end on July 5. They regard the law on parliamentary control as their main achievement in the past six months, the newspaper writes. Meanwhile, citizens have lost count of new bans and fines. Political scientists note that Russian legislators are continuing to follow the clampdown course, in order to find out to what extent they can infringe on people's rights.

In the past few years, the parliamentarians have tried to cut the time of the discussion of proposed bills, therefore it often takes just a couple of months for a legislative initiative to become a law. Many of the laws passed during the previous parliament session have already come into force. The law on protecting religious feelings became effective from July 1. It envisions up to three years in jail and large fines for damage to religious literature and desecration of relics. Also, a number of transport laws became effective, including amendments to the traffic regulations and the introduction of a new road sign - photographing/video-recording - with the appropriate road marking. The amendments to the Criminal Code concerning illegal money transfers across the Customs Union borders also became effective from July 1. The anti-smoking bill prohibiting smoking in public places - which caused heated arguments - came into force a month ago.

Political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky thinks that the clampdown trend is continuing because many lawmakers are aware of the Sword of Damocles over them. "The State Duma might be dissolved in order to compromise, that is why they are toadying to the presidential administration which set the clampdown course," the expert said.

During this session, the parliamentarians were turning into reality not only their own ideas, but also presidential initiatives. They considered the rules for the next parliamentary elections, toughened migration legislation, settled citizenship issues, and continued the struggle against drunk driving and smoking.

They drew numerous bans, such as the bans on the adoption of Russian children by same-sex families, propaganda of homosexuality, invectives in the mass media, shooting at unauthorized sites and anti-piracy law. A law banning the publication of personal data in the mass media was released under the pretext to protect privacy. The document bans the use or dissemination of any personal information about a citizen’s origin and private or family life. Therefore, bloggers are no longer allowed to publish the information about officials’ property abroad or their children studying in foreign colleges.

“Throughout the whole spring session they have been adopting resounding bills along the lines of struggle for morals which provoked a mass media stir and were broadly covered,” director of the center for political studies Pavel Salin said.

Experts believe the authorities are now assessing citizens’ reactions, in order to calculate how far their clampdown can go, so they keep introducing various initiatives to as far as banning Russians from marrying more than three times.

Vice president of the center for strategic studies Dmitry Abzalov underlines that the main problem of Russian legislation is that laws are reviewed at a breakneck rate where speed is preferred to quality.

“They are trying to make all efforts to push through a bill, but there is no legislative groundwork or bylaws for it; as a result, the originally good idea is stripped of whatever good it had in it. It might appear that they propose sound initiatives, but the obsession with these ideas without working on their substance kills the very initiative. The adopted economic amnesty is a classic example,” Abzalov said.

Political analyst Piontkovsky reminds that the initial version of the economic amnesty brought forward by business ombudsman Boris Titov made it applicable to 110,000 to 120,000 persons, but later versions only made 3,000 eligible, with an extra 300 or so to be released from penitentiaries or remand prisons.

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