President Putin submitted to Russian Parliament the draft law "On referendum in the Russian Federation”, the document whose history reminds a detective story.
The atmosphere of secrecy demonstrates that the document authors did not want to face press criticism. There were grounds for such concerns. Answering the question of an Izvestia reporter to highlight the new law, President’s envoy in the Parliament for this law, Chairman of the Central Electoral Committee Alexander Veshnyakov said that the amendments contain "toughening procedure for starting referendum”. Meanwhile, before the Parliamentary elections of 2003 the State Duma put a moratorium on having referendum during the two years being close to the election date. Providing that Parliamentary elections take place every 4 years in Russia, the people willing to have referendum have only 2 years out of 4 for this.
Meanwhile, the referendum is one of the direct forms for people to execute their authority, it is an effective tool of democratic outlet for public opinion on the issue, an important method of solving the complicated issues which cannot be solved by the Parliament.
“The main purpose for the changes is to make the law on the basic guarantees for people’s right to vote correspond with the new legislation on elections”, said Mr. Veshnyakov. The prerequisites for starting the referendum procedure will be stricter. There must be more accurate reply to the question who initiates the referendum. The group initiating the referendum should register its subgroups in the regions of Russia. All these documents must be submitted to the Central Electoral Committee. Only after this the initiative will be officially registered. In addition, the new amendments request notary’s authorization for the people willing to participate in the next stage of the procedure – collecting signatures for referendum.
Mr. Veshnyakov did not dwell on the other details and said that “this work has not been completed yet”. However, this information was sufficient to realize that the people willing to start referendum, will be in trouble. The law requests to collect more than 2 million signatures to initiate referendum. Providing that the each signatures collector must be officially registered in the Central Election Committee, the procedure can last many months.
Former Chairman of Central Election Committee, the Head of the Independent Institute of Elections Alexander Ivanchenko said after seeing the amendments that this means return to absolute domination of executive power. According to Mr. Ivanchenko, the new bureaucratic procedures will not allow any activists to implement their initiatives.
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