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Russian human rights official criticized Thursday a new election law which significantly limits public control over the election process
A top Russian human rights official criticized Thursday a new election law which significantly limits public control over the election process. Russia recently abolished the 20% threshold for voter turnout, and canceled early voting and the "against all candidates" option on election ballots at all levels. The Kremlin claims these changes are needed to safeguard the development of Russian democracy from irresponsible marginal parties. "This law has in practice limited public control over elections to a bare minimum," said Ella Pamfilova, chairman of the Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights Council under the Russian president. During a Thursday Council meeting attended by President Vladimir Putin, she stressed the importance of civil society in the election process and monitoring of elections, adding that her Council would safeguard political rights of the electorate during the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. Parliamentary elections in Russia are set for December 2007, to be followed by presidential polls in March 2008. Pamfilova also said human rights activists were concerned over restrictions on rallies and marches in the country which could only radicalize and marginalize certain groups, instead of letting them openly express their political views. "We are concerned about the trend toward restricting rallies and marches," she said. "It is easier for regional authorities to ban a public rally than to ensure its security." Last year, protestors against the G8 summit applied for permission to hold a number of rallies and marches in St. Petersburg while the summit took place in July 2006, but all were turned down except for a Communist Party-sponsored rally. Pamfilova said at the time she had received written reports of detentions and harassment from 12 would-be participants, and had asked the prosecutor general to launch a probe into protester detentions. On November 4, 2006, authorities in Moscow, St. Petersburg and some other Russian cities banned the so-called Russian March planned by far ultra-nationalist groups to commemorate National Unity Day, citing public security concerns.
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