Sunday, 13 May 2012

United Russia proposes tougher rally laws

In the name of a normal life for local residents, United Russia’s latest legislative initiative could see protest organizers have to fork over 1.5 million rubles if there is public disorder at their rallies. The United Russia faction in the State Duma suggested raising the fine for organizers of illegal demonstrations by 750 times. The bill, which proposes increasing fines for organizers of rallies where disorderly behavior takes place to 1.5 million rubles, was presented to the parliament by deputy chairman of housing politics and management committee, United Russia member Alexander Sidyakin. “Riots on the streets of Russian cities are unacceptable, no one can interfere with residents’ normal lives,” said head of faction Andrei Vorobyov. He argued that the move does not limit democracy. “Our colleague’s initiative does not deny citizens the right to express their civil position and take part in public campaigns, but introduces adequate responsibility for illegal, provocative actions,” He argued that the fines were nowhere near similar punishments in the United States and European countries, where organizers pay 100,000 and more in dollars and euro in case they cause disorders at mass events. Sidyakin also wants to stop using administrative arrests for violations, and replace it with 240 hours of community service as a punishment instead. “We must move away from administrative arrest – we are turning opposition members into martyrs, who are jailed for 15 days, and then they say that “the regime throws them behind bars,” Vorobyov said. The law would also have those who force people into taking part in rallies and marches fined 1 million rubles, and there would be a higher punishment for not allowing people take part in mass rallies. The law has been discussed in the State Duma since April, and the Communist Party has expressed dissatisfaction with it, arguing that it violated constitutional rights. The discussions restarted after the March of Millions on May 6 ended in public disorder and fights with police on Bolotnaya Ploshchad. Moscow City Hall supported the initiative. LDPR and A Just Russia deputies criticized the bill. The former said they considered existing punishment enough and noted that the All-Russia People’s Front also allowed violations at their rallies, not just the opposition. A Just Russia also did not like the bill, State Duma deputy speaker from the party Nikolai Levichev told Interfax. “Amid the events developing on the streets, this proposal looks provocative,” he said. However, one A Just Russia member voted for the bill – a member of the State Duma defense committee, Igor Zotov. Opposition figure Boris Nemtsov called the bill anti-constitutional. “He [Alexander Sidyakin] must understand that he wants to bankrupt all the people who disagree with the authorities. He has one aim – to bankrupt, make them lose their flat, their possessions. It is the right way, the North Korean way, the way of Lukashenko. Everything is clear,” he informed. The Public Chamber also criticized the proposals, calling them “absurd.” “It will not lead to anything but the radicalizing of the protest movement and outrage,” said chairman of the PC committee on social politics, labor relations and quality of life Elena Topoleva. Political analyst Mikhail Vinogradov called the step repressive, and said it was aimed at taking all responsibility off law enforcement officers who work at rallies. “This law could limit the constitutional right of citizens for freedom of assembly,” he said.

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