State Duma may cut aid to political parties to save funds

State Duma plenary session. (RIA Novosti / Maksim Blinov)
A leftist lawmaker has suggested cutting state monetary support to Russian political parties by 45 percent in order to save on the budget and use it for social programs instead.

The bill suggesting a cut in state financing of political parties to just 60 rubles ($1.77 - $0.96) from the current 110 rubles per vote cast in federal elections was drafted by MP Igor Zotov, who represents the center-left party Fair Russia. He also heads the young Party of Pensioners for Justice.

Zotov said in comments that in his view political parties who have genuine support of the people could do with less financial help from the government, especially when the situation in the economy is as difficult as it is today. “I think that it would be better if we spend less on self-promotion and more on real help for our citizens,” the MP said. If the bill is passed into law the overall savings could amount to 3 billion rubles (over $48 million) by as soon as 2016, he said.

Zotov also noted that his Party of Pensioners was enjoying increasing public support and good results in regional political polls, despite the fact it didn’t receive any state funding.

Russia provides state help to all parties that manage to pass the 5 percent threshold in federal parliamentary elections. The government allocates about 7 billion rubles ($113 million) for this annually.

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MP Yevgeniy Fyodorov of the majority United Russia party strongly opposed the suggestion saying the move could hurt Russia’s sovereignty. “If we stop providing sponsorship it would come from the United States. Increased financing of political parties adds to our country’s sovereignty, because this is where the power is. If we choose to abandon party resources, someone would use the opportunity to get them for themselves,” Fyodorov said.

State support for political parties in Russia was doubled in 2014. The bill ordering the move was prepared jointly by all four parliamentary parties – the conservative United Russia, nationalist LDPR, center-left Fair Russia and leftist Communist Party.At the same time, the new law canceled the annual indexation of state donation to parties.