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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bill Bars Parties From Joining Forces

The agenda-setting State Duma Council on Tuesday discussed United Russia-drafted legislation that would forbid political parties from including candidates from other parties on their voting lists.

The amendments, if passed into law, would slam shut the last door allowing small parties to join forces and compete against United Russia in Duma elections next year.

The liberals have used this approach to win seats, most significantly during Moscow City Duma elections last December, when politicians from the Union of Right Forces and other liberal parties placed their names on Yabloko's ticket to collect enough votes to overcome the 10 percent barrier.

A United Russia deputy and co-author of the amendments defended them as a way to "bring order to the parties' ranks."

"Now, people who belong to a party can join the list of another party without giving up membership in their party," Deputy Alexander Kharitonov said.

"People should decide which party they belong to, and if they want to change parties, they should send a written request," Kharitonov said.

Liberal politicians criticized the bill as an assault on the opposition that at the same time served to prop up United Russia.

"This is barbarian legislation meant to crack down even more on the opposition," said Sergei Mitrokhin, a senior Yabloko official.

"On the one hand, United Russia wants to prevent its deputies from leaving the party, but on the other hand, they also want to complicate the rules for small opposition parties to get into the Duma," said Boris Nadezhdin, deputy head of the Union of Right Forces.

Gennady Gudkov, the leader of the People's Party and a member of United Russia's faction in the Duma, complained that the legislation targeted small parties like his.

Gudko said that if it were passed before the Duma elections, it would force him either to leave the People's Party or lose his mandate, Interfax reported.

Kharitonov insisted that the amendments were not a move against the opposition or small parties but an attempt to prevent "people from running from one party to another."

In past years, deputies have been elected to the Duma with one party and then gone to another. More recently, after the last Duma elections in 2003, dozens of independent deputies and deputies who won in single-mandate districts joined United Russia's faction.

The amendments, which were submitted to the Duma on April 4, are to be considered in a first reading by the end of the spring session, June 15.

Last year, the Duma approved Kremlin-sponsored legislation that prevented parties from joining forces to create electoral blocs, a tactic that was previously used by small parties to overcome the threshold required to enter the Duma. The change has helped United Russia, which had faced strong competition from blocs in regional elections.