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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Vote Challenger Loses Out, Will Appeal

A controversial legal challenge to the way Russia elects its parliament was thrown out by the Supreme Court on Thursday, but counsel for the plaintiff pledged to take their case to the Constitutional Court.


The suit, brought by Moscow construction worker Mikhail Martinyuk, contested that the proportional voting system through which half of all State Duma deputies are elected is illegal.


Deputies have charged that the case is part of a Kremlin effort to get the uncooperative Duma, the lower house of parliament, dissolved and replaced with one supportive of the president.


Half the 450 deputies in the Duma are elected from individual districts. The remaining seats are apportioned according to the percentage of votes won by the party. Communist and nationalist parties -- Yeltsin's opponents -- have done better in the proportional voting.


After two days of hearings, presiding judge Alexei Chernyaev ruled against the plaintiff. Martinyuk's lawyers immediately said they would submit their case to the Constitutional Court on the grounds that the current electoral law violates voters' constitutional right to be represented in the Duma.


Martinyuk's attorneys argued that his vote was wasted in the 1995 parliamentary elections because the party he voted for failed to muster the 5 percent required to win seats in the Duma.


Oleg Mironov, the Communist deputy representing the Duma in the case, said he was confident the Constitutional Court would reject Martinyuk's suit. "The Duma will exist until its term of election runs out," whatever the verdict of the Constitutional Court, Mironov added.


The plaintiff himself has not shown up in court at either of the two sessions, leading to allegations that the presidential administration was the real instigator of the suit.


"[My client] is just a regular citizen," said Yury Samsonov, one of Martinyuk's attorneys. "He did not expect that he would be invited to appear in court, or the press attention. He is simply shy."