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The Constitutional Court decides whether previously convicted people can run in elections

September 20, 2013, 11:32 UTC+3
Observers believe the provision is directly related to ex-owners of YUKOS Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev
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On Thursday, the Constitutional Court began looking into a complains in connection with the legislative norm which now bans citizens who have at least once been sentenced for grave or especially grave crimes from running for governor, mayor or regional parliamentarian.

Novye Izvestia newspaper reminds the readers that this law came into effect on July 1, 2012. The case is being tried upon a complaint of a group of citizens who could not run in the election of October 14, 2012. They were all denied that with a reference to the new law. Their position is that the law is at variance with the Russian Constitution and deprives them for the term of their life of the right to be elected, and in defiance of the Constitution it punishes them twice for one and the same crime and “does not take into consideration whether the sentence passed by the court was real or suspended, whether the conviction was released or spent”.

Opponents of that norm were proving that the filter was unconstitutional and was in no way preventing criminals from getting into power. Representatives of the president, the State Duma and the Federation Council consider this restriction justified, as “crimes are the extreme degree of the violation of rules of morality”.

Five entrepreneurs running in the mayoral or parliamentary election in different regions of the country in the autumn of 2012 have decided to prove in the Constitutional Court that the new norm was unconstitutional. Three of them are from the A Just Russia Party and two were self-nominated candidates.

Government envoy Mikhail Barshchevsky has decided to clarify the situation, saying he does not understand the legislators’ “motives” at all. If they want to ban access to power for people from the criminal community with “criminal mentality” they on the contrary are leaving the door open for “crowned criminal lords” none of whom ever commits grave crimes, but “can have 25 jail sentences”. Barshchevsky offered the judges to recognize “the contested norm” as not running counter to the Constitution, but to commit legislators to develop and pass new norms that would clearly state what exactly crime envisages restrictions in the right to be elected, and not for the rest of one’s life but for a concrete term even if a long one.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily writes that the criminal filter, according to observers, is directly related to ex-owners of YUKOS Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, who are already serving their prison term, and to Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov who is under investigation, house arrest and is suspected of extremism and an attempt of a coup d’etat. This filter also concerns Communist deputy Vladimir Bessonov, stripped of immunity because of a criminal case over his beating policemen, which can also be regarded as a grave or especially grave crime in by Criminal Code. These and many other people groundlessly accused, for example, of abuse of power, have in principle nothing to do in politics.

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