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17 Oct, 2007 17:37

14 parties join Russian Parliamentary race

Fourteen parties will battle it out in Russia's Parliamentary election in December, following the registration process. The Central Electoral Commission stopped accepting all documents at 6 pm Moscow time on Wednesday.

The official list of parties to take part in the election will be announced on October 28.

The election campaign hasn’t yet officially started but political parties are already fighting for the ball.  

At its basketball match with students in the Perm region at the foot of the Ural Mountains, members of the governing United Russia party prevailed by seven points, but to score the victory at the polling stations the party is going for a slam dunk.  

“The United Russia party has set up an award for teachers of physical education. We’ll hold a competition to give out 100 awards across the country,” Boris Gryzlov, the party’s leader says.  

Like many sports, Russian politics has its own initiation procedures.  

Parties that are not represented in the current parliament have to prove their trustworthiness by either enlisting 200,000 potential voters or paying a bail of almost $2.5 million. Some say it’s brutal.

Zinaida, a campaigner for the Democratic Party of Russia, complains that on a good day she gets up to 25 names and that – after a three-hour shift. Still, the leader of her party, Andrey Bogdanov, believes it’s better than paying a bail.  

“We are not a very rich party and taking $US 2.5 million dollars from our election budget would be a luxury. It’s easier to gather 200,000 signatures. And by the way, this gives us an opportunity to talk to potential voters,” he says.

Seven out ten parties opted for signatures, while the remaining three chose to pay the bail. They will get it back only if the party wins 4 % of the general vote. And it’s a real gamble.  

The Yabloko, Russian Democratic Party is taking this risk to avoid an even greater danger.  

“We would have preferred signatures, but this is a big risk. You never now how many of them will be cancelled by the election commission. The bail is a safer way to secure our right to participate in the elections,” Sergey Mitrokhin, a party member explains.  

Another party paying the bail is Fair Russia, but its head says such preconditions should be abolished altogether.  

“Gathering signatures is a big industry where signatures are bought and forged. As for the bail, it is too big. We have just 15 registered parties in Russia. They’ve all been checked by the Justice Ministry, and I think they should all be allowed to run without preconditions,” states Sergey Mironov.  

But this idea will have to wait for at least four years – until the next parliamentary elections.  

With documents submitted, signatures gathered and bails paid, the runners in the parliamentary race are over the first hurdle. Now they have two weeks to catch their breath before the next challenge – the start of the TV campaigns.