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15 May, 2024 19:40

‘Foreign agents’ banned from Russian elections

Current office-holders who hold the designation can also be sacked after 180 days if they are not removed from the register
‘Foreign agents’ banned from Russian elections

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signed a federal law prohibiting individuals deemed foreign agents from taking part in elections at any level. The law took effect upon publication.

The bill was approved on Tuesday by the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian legislature. It amends the foreign agents law first adopted in 2012.

According to Senator Irina Rukavishnikova, the new rules will be in effect for federal and regional elections, as well as local self-governments.

A candidate registered to take part in an election cannot be on the list of foreign agents. If an individual deemed a foreign agent decides to run for office, the foreign agent label must be removed by the deadline for filing the candidacy to the election commission. A designated foreign agent cannot become a senator.

The law also allows for the revocation of the powers of any current senator, deputy of federal or regional legislatures, member of local governments, regional governor or mayor who is designated a foreign agent.

Sitting public officials have a 180-day window to be removed from the foreign agent registry or be removed from their posts. 

Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin has described the updated law as “humane, democratic and liberal,” noting that it allows foreign agents to have the label removed by cutting their ties with foreign funding. According to Volodin, there are currently ten foreign agents in the legislative bodies of Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian regions. 

Individuals and groups designated as foreign agents, terrorists or extremists will not be allowed to serve as election observers, proxies, authorized representatives, or donors to candidates or political parties.

The amendments are the latest update to the Russian foreign agents law, first adopted in 2012. In 2022, the legislation was expanded to prohibit foreign agents from holding state office, taking part in electoral campaigns, engaging in educational activities, or receiving state funds. In March, advertising on platforms belonging to foreign agents was outlawed.

The law does not ban persons designated as agents of outside powers from operating in Russia, but requires them to disclose their status and makes them subject to a range of additional restrictions. Those found in violation of the law can face fines of up to 5 million rubles ($55,000) and up to six years in prison.

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