MOSCOW - The Central Elections Commission is pushing for a new
law on political parties that would slash the number of existing
political groups by over 90 percent, leaving only a dozen or so
major players and barring the rest from participating in parliamentary
If passed, the legislation would wipe out scores of small, regional
and could force many organizations - including the likes of Yabloko
of Right Forces - to forge strategic alliances that would ensure
The draft law introduces the legal concept of a "political
establishes it as
the only entity allowed to put forward candidates to the State
legislatures, Yelena Dubrovina, a CEC official and head of a working
group on the
bill, said in an interview last week.
A political party, as defined by the draft law, must have at
nationwide and branch offices with no fewer than 100 members each
at least 45 regions, Dubrovina said. Now, no such limitations
The proposed law would give organizations two years to reregister
Dubrovina said. Otherwise, they will lose the right to put forward
The limitations proposed in the bill would apply only to those
and local legislative assemblies that are distributed via party
deputies will continue to be elected from so-called single-mandate
districts and will
not need to be members of a political party. In the State Duma,
deputies are elected through each method.
CEC Chairman Alexander Veshnyakov has said he hopes the law
number of political organizations by a factor of 10 - ostensibly,
leaving fewer than
20 of the 188 groups registered today.
Dubrovina was convinced all factions in the State Duma would
be able to
into parties during the two-year grace period. "They will
have to work
hard to get
their organizations in shape, but I'm sure they can make it,"
But Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank, was
"I'm sure the Communists will make it, because of the network
the Soviet Communist party," he said. "Unity will be
able to do it
thanks to its huge
administrative resources and Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democrats will
simply buy 10,000
people. The rest - I'm not so sure."
While the majority of Duma factions have supported the idea
participation in elections to political parties, several of
The most vocal critics have been Yabloko and the Union of Right
or SPS -
each of which were estimated by Pribylovsky to have around 5,000
"It [the bill] is an artificial method of clearing the
Yab lo ko's
representative to the working group, Alexander Shishlov, said
interview last week. Shish lov said the main criterion for becoming
be a political group's ability to generate voter support - not
Even Unity's representative to the working group, Alexander
10,000-member requirement "problematic." He said in
his faction would try to get the figure reduced to 5,000 to 7,000.
The CEC's Dubrovina said one of the bill's aims is to ensure
politically active on a federal level and don't limit themselves
interests: To these ends, the bill stipulates that a party which
doesn't participate in
State Duma elections at least once every eight years could have
"This will force them to recruit new members, keep in touch
and be far more active on a daily basis - and not just to come
before elections," she said.
The law would put an end to the numerous regional political
said, calling them nothing more than "governors' pet parties,
But Boris Nadezhdin, the SPS representative to the working group,
regions stripped of their local parties could become unstable.
pointed to the republic of Dagestan, where political stability
on unwritten quotas ensuring the participation of all ethnic groups
"If these people will now be able to vote in local or regional
elections only for
federal parties, we could easily end up with all the Avars joining
Unity, all the
Lezgins joining the Communist Party, etc. This is not just illogical,
Panorama's Pribylovsky saw the bill's greatest danger in its
parties must disclose the names of their members - if, for example,
suspected of massaging membership figures.
"That could scare many people away [from political participation],"
"It's a highly undemocratic stipulation."
Some political groups also oppose the CEC's call for a modicum
be distributed among parties on the basis of election results.
The draft law is expected to be endorsed by the working group
- made up
representatives from major Duma factions and the CEC - after one
sometime before the winter holidays. Then it will be sent to the
president, who is
expected to present it to the Duma by the end of the month. The
the Duma will consider the bill in a first reading before March,
Concerns and conflicting opinions notwithstanding, most politicians
agree that a law on parties is needed - but it remains to be seen
whether the CEC's
version will suit the majority of them in its final form.
"It's generally a sensible law," Yabloko's Shishlov
said. "It could
make Russia go
toward decentralization and the development of civil society,
could also push
it towards the total centralization of political life and growing
"The devil is in the details, and the details will not
be known before