| 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
Communists, voted against the legislation, saying it would infringe
freedom and give the authorities more power to influence election
The bill, which was submitted by President Vladimir Putin to
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
the election law more than once during a single campaign. The
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
The bill introduces prison sentences for candidates who use
outside their election funds for campaigns. Offenders would face
up to five
years behind bars. The counterfeiting of ballot papers would be
by a fine of up to $2,200 or four years in prison.
The amendments provide relatively lax penalties for officials
their positions to influence election results. An official found
ordering a local election committee to register a candidate or
election results would face a fine of 2,000 rubles ($65). The
agitation would be up to 3,000 rubles.
the original at
of Speech and Media Law in Russia
State Duma elections