The lower house of Russia’s Parliament, the State Duma, has taken its first step toward reforming the political system by adopting three presidential bills in the first reading.

The first bill facilitates the registration of political parties. The second bill allows the public to elect governors to five-year terms and permits parties to propose its candidates. Meanwhile, the third bill relieves parties of the need to gather signatures to participate in any elections except for the presidential election.

More parties

State Duma Deputy Speaker Andrei Vorobyov said that the initiatives were supported because they open prospects for developing political life in Russia.

Specifically, political parties will be able to register more easily, he said, as they will only need 500 members.

“Registration with the Justice Ministry will be nothing more than a formality,” Vorobyov said, noting that all developed countries use the same standard.

However, Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky believes that the new registration procedure will still have to be kept within reasonable limits.

“Won’t businessmen like Prokhorov and Khodorkovsky establish a hundred parties and won’t they try to buy our parliament?” he asked.

Right Cause Chairman Andrei Dunaev said failsafe measures must be taken to prevent the registration of fly-by-night parties. He suggests giving parties access to elections at different levels, depending on their membership. Parties with 4,000-5,000 members should be allowed to participate in elections at any level, he said.

Meanwhile, Yabloko party head Sergei Mitrokhin said the reform’s primary goal is to fragment the political framework to preserve the ruling United Russia party’s monopoly.

Sergei Glotov, the head of the Patriots of Russia party’s Moscow branch, envisages an explosive growth in the number of parties, which may soon reach 100.

Presidential filter

As for the bill on gubernatorial election reform, Vorobyov believes at least two issues need to be tak en care of first and for emost. First, a user-friendly, open mechanism should be ensured so the public can impeach unfair governors.

Second, the president should also be able to recall a negligent governor when necessary.

A Just Russia party leader Sergei Moronov is against any obligatory consultations with the president for gubernatorial elections. He also disagrees with any provision allowing courts to impeach governors.

On the contrary, Dunaev stressed that gubernatorial consultations between the parties and the president are vital. However, they should not be binding, he said.

Halfway reform

Opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov said the bills only deal with half of the issues that deserve resolution.

“What Medvedev has proposed is about half of what is required. Four or five new laws more are needed at a minimum,” he told journalists.

Ryzhkov has also stressed that the opposition is ready to actively partake in finalizing the president’s initiatives.