Proposed amendment on ‘political activities’ rejected

The Presidential Administration did not approve the proposal from the HRC to clarify the concept of ‘political activities’

Moscow 16/05/2016

The state-legal department of the Presidential Administration, in particular, felt that the exceptions proposed to the Presidential Council are unfounded, since the current legislative norms were approved by the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation.

The Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights (HRC) has received a critical review from the state-legal department of the Presidential Administration on its proposals to clarify the concept of ‘political activity’ in the law ‘On foreign agents.’ Earlier, human rights activists made a number of recommendations for changes to the draft law, developed by the Ministry of Justice, stating that not only does the document not narrow the scope for non-profit organisations to be recognised ‘foreign agents’ but it actually extends it.

One of the Council’s proposals lay in the fact that, the only possible form of ‘political activity’ has been indicated as ‘NGO participation in activities aimed at obtaining a specific result in the elections, a referendum, in the formation of election commissions, referendum commissions in political parties’. The President’s Administration studied the HRC’s proposals and stated that the Council’s proposed wording contains internal contradictions and is in conflict with applicable law.

“Linking political activity with participation in the interests of foreign sources in elections and referenda, as well as the activities of political parties is in conflict with the provisions of the Federal Law ‘On Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the right of citizens to participate in a referendum of the Russian Federation’ and ‘On political parties’, which prohibits foreign citizens, agencies and organisations directly or indirectly financing political parties, election campaigns, referendum campaigns, in any other form except as expressly provided by law to participate in these campaigns,” the response says.

In addition, the state-legal department of the Presidential Administration considered that the HRC’s proposed change for activities, which cannot be classified as a ‘political’ is not justified, as the current wording was confirmed by the legal positions of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation. The Presidential Council, in particular, offered not to recognise the ‘participation in the activity of consultative, advisory and other bodies under state authorities and local self-government’ as a ‘political activity’.

HRC Chairman Mikhail Fedotov assured that the critical review of the Presidential Administration – is ‘not the end of the story’, according to “Kommersant”. The Council will appeal to the President, “over and over again,” he said, as he considers the presidential order, directed at overcoming the legal uncertainty that emerged with the aim at not expanding but narrowing the scope of the application of the law ‘on foreign agents’, as unfulfilled.

The draft law, which has raised fears in the Presidential Council, the non-profit community and among charitable funds, has successfully passed its first reading in the State Duma. On 17 May, Deputies will consider the draft law on second reading. For the second reading of the draft law, amendments to the text were proposed that are designed to exclude the possibility of recognising organisations engaged in charitable activities as ‘foreign agents’. The HRC considered that even taking into account the proposed amendments, any public activity can be recognised as ‘political’.

Author: Grigory Ivanushkin



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