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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bill Lets Presidential Hopefuls Hide Wealth

In a move to liberalize election campaign rules, the Kremlin is pushing for a bill that would allow presidential candidates to stay on the ballot even if they hide information about their earnings -- a restriction that has led to controversial disqualifications in lower-level elections.

The bill, outlined Tuesday by the country's top elections official, also boosts campaign spending to five times the current limit and introduces new rules for nominating candidates.

Most of the proposed changes are meant to bring presidential elections in line with recently passed legislation on voters' rights and political parties, Alexander Veshnyakov, head of the Central Elections Commission, told reporters. Putin appointed Veshnyakov on Thursday as his pointman for getting the legislation through parliament.

Under the bill, a candidate can be nominated by a political party or electoral bloc, or can nominate himself with the backing of 500 supporters. In both cases, the nomination requires 2 million signatures to be considered. The signature requirement will be waived, however, for candidates put forward by political parties with seats in the Duma.

Veshnyakov predicted that under the new rules only four or five candidates would be eligible to run in the next elections, slated for March 14, 2004. Duma elections are set for December 2003.

Veshnyakov said the bill increases possible campaign spending fivefold, up to 150 million rubles ($4.75 million).

The bill also lists violations that can lead to disqualification. These include significant overspending on campaigns and concealing that a candidate has a criminal record or holds citizenship in another country, Veshnyakov said.

However, false information about earnings or property will not be enough to get a candidate struck from the ballot.

"There are different kinds of discrepancies. And there is no need to resort immediately to radical measures," Veshnyakov said. "The main judge is the voter." He said voters must be told of any misinformation given by candidates, so they can make an informed decision.