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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Court Backs Party Membership Rule

MTTyulkin leaving the Constitutional Court after losing his suit on Monday.
The Constitutional Court upheld on Monday a law requiring political parties to have a minimum of 50,000 members, leading to the closure of another opposition party ahead of parliamentary elections in December.

Government officials argued in court that the law, which went into force last year, was constitutional because a party needed at least 50,000 members to represent a segment of society. The party that filed the suit, the Russian Communist Workers' Party-Revolutionary Party of Communists, said the law illegally limited people's right to participate in the political life of the country.

The Constitutional Court sided with the government, and upheld a Supreme Court decision in late May to liquidate the party, which has a membership of about 35,000.

"What we see happening now is the removal of organizations that represent common people," State Duma Deputy Viktor Tyulkin, first secretary of the party, said outside the courtroom after the ruling Monday.

"We have witnessed once again that without a big sack of money you can't get into the political arena," Tyulkin said, apparently referring to his party's lack of money to create more branches and increase membership.

Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov, whose Republican Party was dissolved by the Supreme Court in late March for the same reason, said Monday's decision contradicted the Constitution.

"The court has trampled on the Constitution," Ryzhkov said. "Everything is done in our country to prevent people from using their constitutional right to unite."

Constitutional Court chief justice Valery Zorkin said the minimum requirement of 50,000 members did not prevent people from being politically active.

"The membership limit doesn't contradict the Constitution as it allows participation in political life, if not in the form of a political party, then in the form of a public association," Zorkin said, reading from the ruling.

Under the law, only political parties registered by the Federal Registration Service can take part in elections. A public association can be reregistered as a party when the number of its members exceeds 50,000 people.

The presidential envoy to the Constitutional Court, Mikhail Krotov, praised the ruling. "Political parties must reflect the interests of a major part of society instead of being representatives of separate groups of people," Krotov told reporters outside the court. "In the current Russian situation, the process of enlargement of political parties is a sound process."

In the complaint, filed in late 2004, the party pointed to violations of 15 constitutional provisions, including the right to coalesce, the right to participate in the governance of state affairs and the right to elect and be elected, Tyulkin said.

The Federal Registration Service has found 16 parties in noncompliance with the law, including the Russian Communist Workers' Party-Revolutionary Party of Communists, it said on its web site.

The service has won lawsuits challenging its decision to disband six of the parties, including the Eurasian Union and the Republican Party. Seventeen parties are now legally registered in Russia. Duma elections are scheduled for December.