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The Moscow Times, March 24, 2003

Duma Eyes Election Violations

By Nabi Abdullaev

With parliamentary and presidential elections looming, the State Duma passed in the first reading Friday a raft of amendments that toughen penalties for electoral violations by individuals and the media.

The liberal Yabloko and Union of Right Forces parties, as well as the Communists, voted against the legislation, saying it would infringe on press freedom and give the authorities more power to influence election results.

The bill, which was submitted by President Vladimir Putin to the Duma last month, includes amendments to the media law, the law on charitable activities, the Criminal Code and the Administrative Code.

The amendment regarding the media allows the Central Election Commission to demand that a media outlet suspend operations if it violates the election law more than once during a single campaign. The demand would be filed with the Press Ministry, which would have no recourse but to take the matter to court.

"This amendment endows the executive branch with the functions of the court, which should be the only place able to decide whether the law has been violated," Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky said in a statement Friday.

Another amendment bans charitable activities -- which are sometimes used as a guise for bribing voters -- during election campaigns and referendums.

The bill introduces prison sentences for candidates who use money from outside their election funds for campaigns. Offenders would face up to five years behind bars. The counterfeiting of ballot papers would be punishable by a fine of up to $2,200 or four years in prison.

The amendments provide relatively lax penalties for officials who use their positions to influence election results. An official found guilty of ordering a local election committee to register a candidate or to manipulate election results would face a fine of 2,000 rubles ($65). The fine for agitation would be up to 3,000 rubles.


See also:

the original at

Freedom of Speech and Media Law in Russia

State Duma elections 2003

Presidential elections 2004

The Moscow Times, March 24, 2003

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