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Ruling party stakes on single-seat constituency candidates

October 18, 2013, 9:55 UTC+3
The maximum number of candidates in single-seat constituencies in the regional legislative assemblies is to be increased from 50% to 75%
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MOSCOW, October 18 (Itar-Tass). — The State Duma Committee on Constitutional Legislation on Thursday recommended that the lower house of parliament adopt in the second reading the bill on the distribution of seats in regional parliaments. According to the bill, the maximum number of candidates in single-seat constituencies in the regional legislative assemblies is to be increased from 50% to 75%. Accordingly, only 25% of parliamentarians will be able to be elected to the regional parliaments by party lists. Moscow and St. Petersburg will be able to independently determine the percentage of deputies elected under different systems. The bill has been prepared on the initiative of an MP from the ruling United Russia party, which is beneficial to it, experts say.

Representatives of the opposition factions believe that the bill has been prepared solely in the interests of United Russia, the Novye Izvestia newspaper writes. “The fact is that the brand of United Russia and its popularity in the regions is dropping drastically, and many of United Russia candidates run in elections as candidates in single-seat constituencies, said member of the Duma Committee on Constitutional Legislation, member of the Communist Party (CPRF) Vadim Solovyov. “Therefore, United Russia members are interested in having as many people as possible elected in single-seat constituencies. All understand that the country is affected by a socio-economic crisis, and in the crisis conditions the ruling party wants to retain the majority, once again changing the rules of the game and confusing voters.”

Another member of the committee, A Just Russia party member Dmitry Gudkov is also certain that the bill is being adopted in the interests of United Russia and will deal another blow to the country’s political competition: United Russia in many regions cannot win a majority by party lists and is trying to compensate for this in single-seat constituencies. Of course, a candidate in single-seat constituency from United Russia is much better than a candidate from United Russia on the party list, but it is very difficult to beat the ruling party in single-seat constituencies, “because the administrative resource alone gives a candidate from the ruling party 20-30% of the vote.”

The Izvestia newspaper writes that now Moscow and St. Petersburg will be able to independently determine the percentage of deputies elected under different systems. Experts believe that if Moscow totally abandons party lists and transfers to the single-seat constituency system, this may cause trouble for the government.

Thus, the head of the Political Expert Group Konstantin Kalachev is certain that in this case Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin faces the risk of going wrong. He says that candidates in single-seat constituencies are independent people and that it will put an end to the era of the MP dependency, because after the adoption of this law the MPs will have to more respond to requests of the local electorate.

If the Russian capital transfers to the single-seat constituency system elections only, the advantage will go to quite different people - those who first of all have the administrative resource, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper also notes. Not to mention the fact that totally single-seat constituency elections in Moscow will bar from them a vast majority of the existing parties.

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