Prime Minister and President-elect Vladimir Putin urged continuing dominance of his United Russia party as outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev signed a law that authorities say will make it easier for new parties to register.
“In parliament there is a leading political force, which is a guarantee that the legislative process will continue in a positive way,” Putin said at a meeting with leaders of his People’s Front supporters’ movement outside Moscow today.
Medvedev called on the Justice Ministry to ensure that it has “seriously well-founded” reasons if it refuses to register political blocs in the future at a meeting with representatives of some unregistered parties in the Kremlin.
Opposition leaders who organized protests that erupted in Moscow and other cities after alleged fraud in December parliamentary polls say the law won’t prevent the authorities from blocking them from forming parties to compete for election.
Under the measure, parties would require 500 members from at least half of Russia’s regions, down from 40,000 currently, to gain registration.
“The authorities, if they want, can continue to keep unwanted political parties out of the political system for years,” Mikhail Kasyanov, a former prime minister under Putin who is now an opposition leader, said on his website on March 30.
Kasyanov’s pro-democracy Parnas party was refused permission to register, preventing it from running in the December parliamentary vote, and he was barred from competing in the 2008 presidential elections.
Medvedev, who will be succeeded by Putin on May 7 after replacing him as president for four years, promised in December laws to make it easier to register parties and run for president as well as restoring direct elections for governors. The changes marked the authorities’ first concessions since facing the biggest anti-government protests in Putin’s 12-year rule over the alleged election fraud in the Dec. 4 parliamentary polls.
The unity of the ruling party, which has a majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, must be maintained, Putin said. The party, which lost its two-thirds majority in the election, was accused by opposition parties of inflating its share of the vote from 30 percent to about 50 percent.
A strong ruling party in parliament “will allow us to take decisions, otherwise we could get into a situation where we are unable to adopt any measures,” Putin said.
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