Former Russian Finance Minister calls for reform of political system, NGO laws

Alexei Kudrin file photo

(Interfax – November 21, 2015)

Former Russian Finance Minister and leader of the Civil Initiatives Forum (OGF) Aleksey Kudrin, has called for a series of initiatives to reform the Russian electoral and political system, privately-owned Russian news agency Interfax reported on 21 November.

Kudrin said the OGF was concentrating on working with civil society and was not ready to form a political party, Interfax reported.

“I’m not ready to set up something myself, I’m working with civil society at the moment,” Kudrin said. “I think that this is a base, a future foundation, in part for a structured platform and position which in the end will be represented by a party.”

Kudrin said he support the efforts of citizens who are ready to work in the political sphere and be engaged in creating their own parties.

“I think the current authorities are restricting political movement. This limits the possibilities of representation of certain forces in parliament. There should be political life, and I hope that in future, political activity will get more open,” he said.

“Our forum is not a political event, we are building our work on a non-party basis,” Kudrin said, state-owned TASS news agency reported the same day. “But we are not indifferent to the formation of our political system. We cannot agree with that viewpoint that there can only be one (viewpoint), and it is the most correct, exclusive position for all issues,” he said at the third OGF forum.

An initiative entitled “Proposals”, presented to forum representatives, says the OGF notes the “degradation of the Russian electoral system, reflected most of all in the restriction of citizens’ voting rights”.

The problem has got worse since the OGF’s last forum a year ago, the document said.

The OGF proposes changing the norms which have increased the number of signatures required for registration of candidates to 3 per cent of the number of voters in an electoral district, back to just 0.5 per cent as it was in 2012. It also called for the refunding of candidates’ cash deposits at elections at all levels, and either getting rid of, or at least lowering, the so-called municipal filter for the election of governors.

The OGF also called for a change in Russia’s legislation on non-governmental organizations, state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reported that day. In particular, it said the so-called “NGO foreign agent law”, should be changed, proposing such organizations should be re-classified as “foreign lobbying”, and a moratorium be introduced on use of the foreign agent law until changes are made in the legislation.