Site map
0The virtual community for English-speaking expats and Russians
  Main page   Make it home   Expat card   Our partners   About the site   FAQ
Please log in:
To register  Forgotten your password?   
  Survival Guide   Calendars
  Phone Directory   Dining Out
  Employment   Going Out
  Real Estate   Children
   October 1
News Links
Business Calendar
Phone Directory
 Latest Articles
 Archived Articles
Analysis & Opinion
30.06.11 A Carrot For The Liberals
By Pavel Koshkin

In an attempt to liberalize the Russian political landscape, President Dmitry Medvedev has indicated that he intends to propose legislation to decrease the passing threshold for the State Duma elections from seven to five percent in the near future, easing the path for opposition parties through Russia’s onerous electoral process. Russia’s opposition and some political experts are skeptical of the president’s motives and his ability to influence the political status quo, but others view this political move as a good sign for parties that have long sought to gain a foothold in parliament.

Medvedev revealed his intention to introduce a bill meant to reduce the passing barrier into the Duma from seven to five percent during a speech at the Moscow News editorial office last week. Even before this announcement, he stated his intentions to create a favorable political landscape for small parties and decrease the threshold in an interview with The Financial Times. In 2009, he mentioned the possibility of a three percent threshold at a meeting with the leadership of Just Russia.

The question is why did Medvedev decide to cut the passing barrier right now, given that the Kremlin raised this threshold from five to seven percent in 2005 to prevent marginalized parties from getting seats in the State Duma, leading to a significant decrease in the number of parties in Parliament in 2007. That year only four parties (United Russia, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) and Just Russia) out of 11 overcame the seven percent threshold, leaving behind seven parties that failed to garner even three percent of the vote. For example, the Union of the Right Forces only received one percent of the vote, and Yabloko – 1.6 percent.

Oddly enough, Medvedev believes that the previous law was very effective and timely, because it helped “to structure political forces” in the State Duma and decrease the number of irrelevant parties. However, he now finds it necessary to lower the threshold, possibly to prove that he is more democratic and liberal than his predecessor and the current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. “Putin and Medvedev keep working as members of one team, but at the same time they demonstrate different political approaches,” said Georgy Chizhov, the vice president of the Moscow-based Center for Political Technologies.

The fact that Medvedev is seeking independence by proposing reforms to Russia’s political structures may be a sign that he plans to compete with Putin in the 2012 presidential election. Nonetheless, although Medvedev wants to show that he matches his words with deeds, some analysts think that his initiative is not essential in the current political context. “Even though he is aiming to show that he implements all his initiatives instead of putting them on the backburner, his political stance is insignificant,” said Mikhail Vinogradov, a political expert and the president of the Petersburg Politics Fund. The proposed changes to the threshold won’t be implemented until the next parliamentary elections in 2016.

If parties are faced with a lot of restrictions and obstacles during the registration stage, the threshold is not necessary at all for parliamentary elections, claimed Vinodradov. “Even five or three percent is too much and makes no difference,” he said. “Even though Medvedev is signaling to the opposition parties that he is ready to propose a compromise, his move to lower the barrier won’t impact his image.”

But unlike Vinogradov, Chizhov is more optimistic. He believes that the five percent threshold is a good sign that Russia is becoming more liberal, which might positively impact Medvedev’s image in Russia and in the West. “Everything above five percent is not democratic,” he said, pointing to other European countries, such as Belgium and Germany, which have a five percent barrier. The passing barrier is even lower in some other democratic countries, such as Israel (two percent), Sweden and Norway (four percent), but there are other countries where this number is higher than Russia’s, as in Turkey (ten percent).

A Levada Center poll conducted in June of 2011 found that only three parties out of seven may be able to overcome the current seven percent threshold, while the other parties will have difficulty crossing even the five percent barrier. While United Russia is likely to get 53 percent of the vote, the Communist Party and the LDPR should receive 17 percent and 13 percent respectively, the liberals from the People’s Freedom Party (who have since been denied registration in the elections) would have received three percent and Yabloko can hope for a total of just one percent. Even Just Russia is losing its chance to get seats in the Russian Parliament: it is likely to get only five percent of the vote.

So far, opposition politicians are skeptical about the proposed reforms. Dmitry Ilyushin from the Yabloko party is convinced that the president’s attempt to decrease the threshold is cosmetic and won’t alter the Russian political landscape at all. “Medvedev only makes promises,” he said. “However, there is nothing behind these promises.” Ilyushin believes that this move is an empty gesture designed to generate positive publicity: Medvedev is trying to create an illusion of democracy to position himself as an independent politician and to improve his political image in the West, as well as in certain political circles in Russia. “In reality, since the beginning of his presidency he hasn’t done anything that contradicts Putin’s political course,” Ilyushin said. “It’s because everything that Medvedev did is nothing but a big PR campaign.”
The source
Copyright © The Moscow Expat Site, 1999-2023Editor  Sales  Webmaster +7 (903) 722-38-02