Election restrictions for convicts must remain in force, says Constitutional Court

Election restrictions for convicts must remain in force, says Constitutional Court
The Russian Constitutional Court has said it will not review the law that sets a 10-year ban on participation in elections for people with unserved criminal sentences, but added that judges can still express different opinions on the matter.

These rulings are final and cannot be reviewed. However, the democratic nature of the Constitutional Court system allows judges who disagree with their colleagues to express their position in writing and this opinion is published together with the text of the Constitutional Court’s ruling,” reads the text of a statement by the court’s press office, as quoted by RIA Novosti. “Nothing above that. An opinion of a single judge who was outnumbered by his colleagues during the voting cannot change the fate of the document,” the press service added.

The comments came after on November 9 the Constitutional Court upheld its earlier rulings forbidding people with criminal convictions for serious crimes from becoming candidates in elections for 10 years after their sentences are served or officially recognized as expired. The law was contested by Sergey Kazakov, a former head of a municipal administration in Bryansk Region, who received a five-year suspended sentence for bribery in 2008 and as a result failed to register as a candidate in the 2014 and 2015 municipal polls.

Together with the ruling in Kazakov’s case, the Constitutional Court published the minority report of one of its judges, Konstantin Aranovsky, which read that a suspended sentence was an indication that the crime was not serious and therefore convicts with suspended sentences should retain the right to participate in elections. Notably, in the same statement Aranovsky wrote that his opinion did not apply to Kazakov’s case, because this person was convicted and sentenced for bribery after winning an election.

This last part of the minority report made many legal experts and reporters suggest that Aranovsky’s minority report related not to the case it was issued over, but rather to the situation with the prominent anti-corruption blogger-turned-opposition candidate Aleksey Navalny. Navalny has announced his intention to run for the presidency in March 2018, but cannot legally do so because in late 2014 he was handed a five-year suspended sentence for embezzling about $500,000 from the international cosmetics company Yves Rocher.

On Wednesday this week, a district court in Moscow ordered Navalny’s allies to return 50,100 rubles (about $860) to a man who claimed he had donated the money to Navalny’s presidential campaign, but after the transfer was completed he learned that Russian law bans the activist from becoming a presidential candidate.