Justice Ministry tables party registration reforms

RIA Novosti / Aleksandr Utkin
The Russian Ministry of Justice has prepared a package of legislation amendments that will transfer the powers to register various organizations, including NGOs and political parties to the Federal Tax Service.

The Russian Ministry of Justice has prepared a package of legislation amendments that will transfer the powers to register various organizations, including NGOs and political parties to the Federal Tax Service under supervision of the Prosecutor’s Office.

Kommersant, the Russian daily and the affiliated internet newspaper Gazeta.ru reported on Friday that they received the draft of the package and described it on their pages.

The document reads that the Justice Ministry would no longer execute the functions related to registration, coordination and liquidation on non-commercial organizations, public alliances, religious organizations and political parties. The ministry would also cease to maintain a list of extremist materials.

It suggests that the powers of registration will be transferred to the Federal Tax Service and made much easier; for some organizations, like trade unions, the registration must be performed on a declaratory basis. The coordination and liquidation functions will be transferred to the Prosecutor General’s Office.

According to the draft, the authorities must register new organizations within five days after receiving a request together with the necessary documents.

The letter enclosed with the document reads that the draft was prepared by the order of first deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and is aimed at unification of registration procedures for commercial and non-commercial organizations.

As politicians expressed surprise over the news, some experts said that the move could hurt the NGOs who could simply not survive the bureaucratic re-registration procedure.

At the same time, the chairperson of the “Lawyers for Civil Society” NGO and a member of the Russian Public Chamber, Darya Miloslavskaya warned that the law on the NGOs is still imperfect and the changes could cause confusion.

Miloslavkaya said Tax Service officials are not qualified to handle NGOs that seek registration. And given that many public activists lack professional training in law this could lead to many mistakes and potential closings for such organizations.

Other experts noted that the law still provides no protection if regional or federal officials give the unwritten instructions not to register some organizations.

The head of the law service of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation said that the move was strange as it replaced experienced professionals from the Justice Ministry with economists from the tax service and this means total changes in the whole working system.

Vadim Solovyov suggested that the amendments were only beneficial for the Justice Ministry, which will lose a lot of paper work if the package of drafts is passed into law.