Feb. 25, 2014, 12:09 p.m.
Russia: The Russian parliament has passed a political reform bill that includes a provision for the direct election of individual candidates to the State Duma. Starting in 2016, 225 members of the State Duma will be elected through closed party lists in a system of proportional representation (PR) and 225 will be elected directly by plurality vote in single-member constituencies. This move reverses the changes introduced in 2007 whereby all seats were allocated on the basis of proportional representation and the President became the only directly-elected figure at the federal level. Candidates will be allowed to run both as an individual candidate and as a member of a party list.
Additional changes include free air time for registered candidates to broadcast campaign messages, a new maximum budget for campaigning parties and candidates, raised to 700 million rubles ($20 million) for parties and 15 million rubles ($420,000) for individual candidates, the banning of electoral blocs, the lowering of the PR threshold from 7% to 5%, and the requirement that all parties submit 200,000 signatures (no more than 7,000 from a single federal region) and all individual candidates submit the signatures of at least 3% of voters in their constituency (no less than 3,000) to register. Parties that received at least 3% of the national vote in the previous election or have at least one seat in a regional legislature will be exempt from this requirement.
Opponents of the law claim it will benefit President PUTIN’s United Russia party at the expense of smaller parties who will not have enough signatures to compete and are now barred from uniting into blocs. Of the 75 parties currently active in Russia, only 12 comply with the new law without needing to present additional signatures.
Italy: New Prime Minister Matteo RENZI has won a vote of confidence in parliament and pledged to increase the speed of the ongoing reforms in Italy. In addition to investing in education, paying down the country’s debt, and working with small businesses and the unemployed, RENZI plans to tackle the long-term challenges of tax reform, justice sector reform, and electoral reform as well. Last month, RENZI and former PM Silvio BERLUSCONI struck a deal that paves the way for the passage of much-needed changes to the electoral system and institutional structure in Italy. While RENZI’s grand plans and quick tempo are refreshing for many who are weary of Italy’s political dysfunction and economic malaise, some in Italy feel it is over-ambitious given that he will face many of the same constraints as his predecessor.
Ukraine: The creation of a caretaker administration has been delayed until Thursday, 27 February, as Acting President Oleksander TURCHYNOV attempts to negotiate a unity government amid political infighting and economic collapse. While the parliament has voted in favor of trying former President Viktor YANUKOVYCH at the International Criminal Court, Acting President TURCHYNOV has warned of separatist activity in the east by those who support the ousted leader. Thousands of pro-Moscow demonstrators have already gathered in Crimean cities waving Russian flags. The presidential election on 25 May is likely to reflect this national division. Both Vitali KLITSCHKO, an opposition leader involved in the Euromaidan movement, and Mikhail DOBKIN, the governor of Kharkiv Oblast who has referred to the events in Kiev as a fascist attack on the Russian community, have announced their intention to run for the office. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, recently released from prison, has not yet made a decision on whether or not she will run.
(Image Credit: en.ria.ru)