Russia’s Supreme Court has asked the Constitutional Court to review the constitutionality of the electoral law’s requirement that party slates need a minimum of 5 percent of the votes cast in order to gain representation to the Duma. The initiative has been endorsed by Federation Council chairman Vladimir Shumeiko and Duma chairman Ivan Rybkin, who are calling for changing the electoral law to eliminate that barrier. The argument is that a Duma that would exclude smaller parties would not be fully representative. Considering the short time left until the scheduled election date, December 17, many parties across the spectrum suspect, or denounce outright, what they regard as yet another maneuver to derail the election. (2) Yabloko chairman Grigori Yavlinsky told a conference in Berlin over the weekend that any delay in holding parliamentary or presidential elections would undermine efforts to promote democracy and economic reforms and would create instability. (3)
The constitutional challenge has been promoted by several small parties fearing that they would be left out of the new Duma. But on the Duma’s floor, it was Vyacheslav Nikonov, a leading figure in Rybkin’s bloc, who submitted the relevant amendments to the electoral law. Rybkin and Shumeiko claim that they want the election to be held as scheduled, but at the same time, insist that changing the electoral law is a must. The highly controversial nature of the proposed change would almost guarantee lengthy debates and thus jeopardize the election itself. The sudden attempt to change the rules in the middle of the game, the close links of Shumeiko and Rybkin to Yeltsin and his circle, and that circle’s secretive modus operandi combine to feed concerns about the fate of the election.
Five More Nuclear Power Stations Under Consideration.