Medvedev promises more changes in electoral law

(RIA Novosti / STF)
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has met with leaders from all the political parties currently holding seats in the Lower House as he promises to improve the law in view of December’s parliamentary elections.

­The meeting which was held on Tuesday had initially been scheduled to take place in Russia’s westernmost region of Kaliningrad, but plans had to be changed in light of Sunday’s tragedy in Tatarstan, whereby a passenger ship sank in the Volga river killing dozens. The meeting between Medvedev and the party leaders was moved to the presidential residence of Gorki near Moscow. 

As Tuesday has been declared the day of mourning the meeting started with a minute of silence.

At the beginning of the conference, the president said that the Russian political system has started to change, though further improvement was still needed.  He named decentralization as a top priority in accomplishing this goal. “Our country is excessively centralized. There are about one thousand federal structures in the regions and each of these structures is looking for work. It is obvious that a significant part of economic and social tasks must be solved not in the Kremlin, the parliament, or even the government, but in the regions,” Medvedev said.

The president also thanked party leaders for their work in the spring session of the lower house. “The political season was quite productive, I would like to thank you for your active work,” he said, noting that the State Duma had approved a number of key legislative acts concerning police reform, the struggle against corruption and changes in the Russian Criminal Code.

Medvedev said he hoped that the December elections would be open, honest and fair. He added that if these conditions are met, Russia would get a modern and responsible parliament that could solve the manifold tasks the country is currently facing.

The president said that he was preparing new changes to the election law apart from those already submitted in a draft on lowering the election threshold. “In late June, I submitted a bill to the State Duma that provides for the lowering of the election threshold in the lower house to five percent. But I want to tell you that, most probably, my recommendations in this field will not be limited to this move only,” Medvedev told the politicians.

As the meeting concluded, leaders from the varying parties went on to speak to the press.

However, the leader of the Fair Russia party Sergey Mironov chose to tell reporters about his own plans to run for governor in Petersburg. He said that in the event that his party takes a plurality in the elections for the St. Petersburg legislature set for December 4, they will offer the president three candidates for the gubernatorial post, with one of those candidates being Mironov. 

Boris Gryzlov, the leader of the United Russia faction in the State Duma, said that the president and party officials had discussed the problem of transportation safety and agreed that the investigation of the Tatarstan shipwreck must be strictly monitored.  Gryzlov also went on to propose changes to the law that would provide for stricter punishment for violations committed by common carriers.

The leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation said that he had suggested new measures to support “the children of the war” – people who were either born during or after the Great Patriotic War after and had contributed greatly to the country’s restoration. He also passed a letter to the president from aircraft designers who had developed a new aircraft engine and needed state support to start production.