Tagged with "election"
Presidential bill to stamp out illegal political fundraising Tags: Election Law Politics Russia

A woman votes at a polling station during the elections. (RIA Novosti / Konstantin Chalabov)

A woman votes at a polling station during the elections. (RIA Novosti / Konstantin Chalabov)

A fresh Russian bill introduces fines for illegal sponsoring of political organizations and expands obligatory reporting on sources and spending on election campaigns for regional and municipal polls.

The bill has been initiated in accordance with recommendations of the Group of States Against Corruption – the major anti-corruption monitoring group associated with the Council of Europe. It is also supported by leading Russian MPs.

The amendments touch upon a number of existing laws and introduce several changes. For example, all parties would have to report on funds spent on regional and municipal elections and referendums. The norm already existed for federal level elections, but the new amendments lower the maximum amount of donation that does not require a report from the current 400,000 rubles to 200,000 rubles (US$5700-$11400).

The new bill also requires that candidates in federal polls report all transfers over 100,000 rubles ($2850) from their election funds. The current maximum allowed unreported payment in 200,000 rubles ($5700).

Parties that fail to report their financial transactions on time will be punished by fines – from 5,000 to 10,000 rubles ($140-$285) for first time offenders and from 10,000 to 30,000 rubles ($285 - $860) for repeated violation within one year.

Those responsible for illegal sponsorship of political groups will also be fined – private persons will have to pay 1,000–1,500 rubles ($28-$43) and legal entities – between 20 000 and 30 000 rubles ($570-$860).

Another new restriction is the ban on sponsorship of political parties and organizations via intermediaries.

Russian politicians and experts noted in comments that the new amendments can be used by the authorities to target smaller opposition parties, but they also acknowledged that the parliamentary majority United Russia party would also lose the opportunity to use its numerous support funds.

Business daily Kommersant quoted an unnamed source in United Russia as saying that such funds are often very independent organizations, especially in the provinces, and the changes would jeopardize their projects, including those in the social sphere.

The new bill will also put an end to the current ambiguity surrounding donations on political purposes via the internet. The method was pioneered by anti-corruption blogger Aleksey Navalny when he took part in the mayoral elections in Moscow last August – several people from his elections HQ made large donations for the campaign from their personal funds and asked other supporters to compensate them.

However, law enforcers have claimed that the enthusiasts collected much more money than they actually paid and never returned the margin to the original donors. In late May, three people, including a municipal deputy, were charged with violating the rules of financing an election campaign and a large-scale fraud committed by an organized group. If convicted, the suspects could face up to 10 years in prison.

Ron Paul on Obama’s foreign policy: ‘Disobey us and we will bomb you’ Tags: Election Obama Politics Syria USA Ukraine

Ron Paul on Obama’s foreign policy: ‘Disobey us and we will bomb you’Ron Paul (Reuters/Mark Makela)

Former White House hopeful and longtime lawmaker Ron Paul says United State President Barack Obama’s recent major foreign policy speech was a “disappointment” to anyone holding out for change from the current administration.

Responding to the president’s recent address at the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, the former congressman for Texas wrote on his website this week that Obama has refused to acknowledge any precedents concerning the impact of American interventionism, and instead plans on continuing a policy that attempts to extend Washington’s reach over the rest of the world, notwithstanding neither hypocrisy nor consequences.

Paul, a staunch anti-interventionist, was reflecting Sunday about the president’s remarks from late last month in which Obama applauded the idea of American exceptionalism and insisted that,“because of American diplomacy and foreign assistance, as well as the sacrifices of our military -- more people live under elected governments today than at any time in human history.”

“[W]hat makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions,” Obama said at the military’s academy’s May 28 graduation ceremony.

Paul, however, said the Obama administration picks and chooses when and where to flout those norms and otherwise involve itself in foreign affairs.

“It’s funny he would mention elections. Last week the Syrians held their first multi-candidate presidential election in 50 years. Almost three-quarters of Syrian voters participated, giving President Assad 88 percent of the vote. After three years fighting a foreign-backed insurgency, voting conditions were not optimal. However, despite State Department claims to the contrary, it can no longer be stated that Assad enjoys no popularity in his country,” he wrote in an op-edpublished Sunday on the website for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. “But the US government completely rejected the vote in Syria, with Secretary of State John Kerry calling it ‘a great big zero," because, as he put it, ‘you can't have an election where millions of your people don't even have an ability to vote.’”

Indeed, voters were only allowed to cast ballots during the recent Syrian election in locations controlled by Assad’s government. The election marked the first one in four decades to include the name of a candidate not in the Assad family, but the incumbent’s opponents were approved by his administration and consisted of two challengers largely unheard of until now.

Likewise, Paul added, the Obama administration condemned a recent referendum in Crimea as “illegal” yet endorsed the overthrow of Ukraine’s then-president, Viktor Yanukovich, only weeks earlier. “For Washington, it was ‘illegal’ for Crimea to vote to secede from Ukraine, but it was not illegal for a mob in the street to overthrow an elected government in Kiev,” he wrote.

“President Obama spoke at length about the US role in promoting democracy around the world, but why does it seem that the US government only recognizes elections as free and fair when the US-favored candidate wins?” asked Paul, who challenged Obama in both the 2004 and 2008 US presidential elections.

“There is much to disappoint in Obama’s big foreign policy speech. It represents a continuation of the policy of ‘do what we say and we will subsidize you, disobey us and we will bomb you.’ That approach is a failure, but the neocons who back it show no sign of falling out of favor,” added Paul.

The former congressman’s latest remarks come on the heels of other recent editorials that have challenged the Obama administration’s handling of foreign affairs. In an op-ed published in March, Paul said that White House-endorsed efforts launched as “democracy spreading” endeavors have instead simply support regime changes beneficial to the White House.

“It isn’t democracy to send in the NGOs to re-write laws and the constitution in places like Ukraine. It is none of our business,” he wrote.

“Why does the US care which flag will be hoisted on a small piece of land thousands of miles away?” he asked earlier amid the crisis in Crimea. “Where were these people when an election held in an Iraq occupied by US troops was called a ‘triumph of democracy’?” he asked.

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Syrian election not to prevent Geneva talks from resuming - Russian diplomat Tags: Syria Geneva talks presidential elections peace talks World

Syrian election not to prevent Geneva talks from resuming - Russian diplomat
Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_06_03/Syrian-election-not-to-prevent-Geneva-talks-from-resuming-Russian-diplomat-4117/

Syrian election not to prevent Geneva talks from resuming - Russian diplomat © Photo: REUTERS/ Omar Sanadiki

Presidential election in Syria is not an obstacle for resuming the Geneva talks, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and president's Middle East envoy Mikhail Bogdanov said on Tuesday, according to Itar-Tass news agency.

"We hope these elections will not be an obstacle. The talks should have been resumed long ago," he said.

Syria election organized properly, voter turnout is high - Russian CEC member

A Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) member, Anton Lopatin, who has already visited several polling stations in Damascus and is now preparing to leave for Latakia, has noted that the presidential election in Syria has already drawn a high voter turnout and has been organized properly.

"All of the necessary arrangements have been made. Voters activity is very high. At the moment, we are at the airport, where a polling station is working as well. People are coming there, including from abroad, to cast their ballots. There is a feeling that it is a major holiday for the people here," Lopatin told Interfax over the phone on Tuesday.

Lopatin is working within a delegation of Russian State Duma deputies and senators monitoring the Syrian polls.

According to the Russian CEC member, he was leaving for Latakia, Syria's key port city, while Russia's parliamentarians are staying in the Syrian capital.

"They may travel to the outskirts of Damascus," he said.

Presidential election kicks off in Syria

Syrians began voting on Tuesday in an election expected to deliver an overwhelming victory to President Bashar al-Assad. Polling stations opened at 7 am (04:00 GMT) in Syria. This is Syria's first election in nearly 50 years, with Assad and his father Hafez renewing their mandates in successive referendums.

More than 15 million Syrians will be able to cast their vote in 11,000 ballot boxes distributed in more than 9,000 offices, which will be open from 7:00 am (04:00 GMT) to 7:00 pm (16:00 GMT).

"We hope for security and stability," said Hussam al-Din al Aws, an Arabic teacher who was the first person to vote at one polling station at a Damascus secondary school. Asked who would win, he responded: "God willing, President Bashar al-Assad."

Observers from countries allied to the Assad regime - North Korea, Iran and Russia - are to oversee the voting, while a security plan has reportedly been put in place in Syrian cities to prevent possible attacks against voters and polling stations.

For some time, rumours have swirled that polling stations in Damascus would be targeted by insurgents positioned in the nearby countryside.

Assad faces two competitors - Maher al-Hajjad and Hassan al-Nuri.

Nuri, who studied in the United States and speaks English, told AFP he expects to come second after Assad, who is sure to win.

The United States has called the vote "a parody of democracy".

Arab Spring in Syria must be averted so that US does not export same methods to Russia - Russia's MP

Russia is keen on restoring peace in Syria because it wants to prove to the United States that the methods utilized in Middle East countries cannot reach Moscow, Syrian presidential election observer, Federation Council member Igor Morozov said, according to Interfax reports.

"I do not want the US to be under the illusion it may bring such methods to half of the world and reach Russia. Therefore, we are working on long distances. Syria is an outpost of statehood in the fight against armed revolts," Morozov said in an interview published by Izvestia on Monday.

Russia cannot help but be concerned about the trend of the armed opposition fighting the legitimate president and parliament with massive support from radicalized governments, the parliamentarian said.

"Russia cannot help but be concerned about this trend, which we regard as the continuation of Operation Arab Spring the United States launched in the Middle East three years ago. The scenario was implemented in Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt. It is alarming that the White House is beginning to apply these tested technologies in Eastern Europe. We can see by the example of Ukraine that Maidan has copied the Middle East's techniques," he emphasized.

Morozov said he was confident that the armed opposition supported by many countries, among them the United States and the European Union, would do everything in its power to thwart the June 3 presidential election.

"Our primary objective on the day of the vote, June 3, is to control the compliance with international standards of voting rights in Syria. When the ballot is over, we will participate in the drawing up of a report about the election legitimacy," the parliamentarian said.

In his opinion, the presidential election is a good occasion for the Syrian government to demonstrate that it is in control of the situation. As to the election prospects of President Bashar al-Assad, Morozov said he might gain overwhelming support.

"Many [people] understand that al-Assad is not being fought by the opposition, he is being fought by the United States and its NATO partners who are manipulating the extremists and who are not above al-Qaeda jihadists. So, his re-election chances are very high," he said.

"His [al-Assad's] victory will symbolize the triumph of statehood and presidential authority over the jihadist evil, the American hegemony and the one-polar world," Morozov said.
Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_06_03/Syrian-election-not-to-prevent-Geneva-talks-from-resuming-Russian-diplomat-4117/



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