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Medvedev submits draft electoral law amid growing opposition

Dmitry Medvedev giving his final State of the Nation address
Dmitry Medvedev has submitted a draft law proposing the formation of new electoral districts to the Russian State Duma.

However, his initiative comes amid signs that his ambitious proposals for electoral reform may be coming up against sustained opposition within the Duma.

225 new electoral districts

The draft law is the latest of a series of electoral reforms first proposed in his State of the Nation address last December.

It proposes taking the 450 Duma seats and dividing them into two groups. 225 would continue to be elected on the basis of proportional representation, as currently happens for the full Duma. The other 225 would be allocated to geographical electoral districts.

Introducing his proposal last year, Medvedev told Duma representatives that it would allow “each territory to have their own direct representative in the parliament” and would “enhance communication between deputies and the electorate”.

Two of the other reforms he proposed in his State of the Nation address have already been submitted and are being considered by the Duma. One would allow for the direct election of state governors. The other would make it much easier to register political parties, partly by dramatically cutting the the number of signatures that new parties must submit to the Central Election Commission.

Growing opposition

Putin and Medvedev Square UpMedvedev’s reforms were welcomed by many observers as a step towards increasing democratic participation within Russia and, in the case of changes to rules about electing state governors, removing the ability of the Kremlin to hand-pick candidates.

However, in an indication of Medvedev’s lame duck status, they seem to be meeting increasing opposition from within the State Duma and there is some doubt about just how closely the final laws will resemble Medvedev’s proposals.

When Medvedev first proposed changing the way that governors were elected, we noted that Medvedev had taken a proposal initially made by Vladimir Putin and subtly changed it to remove the President’s right to veto candidates. However, it appears that Putin may not have been happy with this meddling, and already United Russia have supported an amendment that puts the veto clause straight back into the law.

Extraordinary meeting

An extraordinary meeting of the State Duma has been called for 28 February 2012 to discuss the proposals.

It’s extraordinary in the sense that as well as the 450 Duma members, representatives of political parties who didn’t win any Duma seats will be invited to take part, as well as delegates from political groupings such as the People’s Freedom Party that have been barred from registering as political parties in Russia.

Of course, they won’t be able to participate in any vote on the draft laws – that remains the perogative of the elected Duma representatives – but it does mark an interesting departure from the norm of Russian politics.

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