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17 Oct, 2007 01:35

Registration for Duma race down to the wire

Registration of political parties for December's Parliamentary elections ends on Wednesday evening. Fourteen parties are expected to compete for seats in the lower chamber, but to qualify for the run they need either proof of public support, or a lot of m

All the incumbent parties need to qualify for the election is to submit their registration papers. And that involves heavy lifting: the list of candidates and copies of their tax declarations that the parties have to submit, are by no means light.

While the registration procedure may seem simple, some players have been waiting for the final bell. Four parties are expected to submit their papers on Wednesday, so members of the election commission had to cancel their plans for the evening.

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

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

The leader of the Democratic Party of Russia, Andrey Bogdanov, says collecting signatures is better than paying a bail: “We are not a very rich party and taking 2.4 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 believes.

Meanwhile, the Yabloko party is opting for the bail to avoid an even greater danger, says the party’s Moscow branch leader, Sergey Mitrokhin: “We would have preferred signatures but this is a big risk. You never know 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.”

Another party paying the bail is Fair Russia, but its head says such preconditions should be abolished altogether: “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,” explains the party head, Sergey Mironov.

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

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