Duma scraps voter turnout requirement, absentee ballot

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Russia's lower house of parliament has adopted on a second reading an amendment abolishing the minimum voter turnout requirement and absentee ballots, a RIA Novosti correspondent said Wednesday.

MOSCOW, November 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's lower house of parliament has adopted on a second reading an amendment abolishing the minimum voter turnout requirement and absentee ballots, a RIA Novosti correspondent said Wednesday.

The amendments were passed by a 336-92 vote, against a required minimum of 226, with no abstentions.

The minimum turnout requirement (20%) amendment was sponsored by Alexander Moskalets, a member of the pro-presidential United Russia faction, and the absentee ballot amendment was initiated by Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov.

The State Duma Committee on Constitutional Law and State Development said earlier that the bill is designed to prevent "extremist practices" during election campaigning.

In particular, in addition to the provision barring persons convicted of felonies or extremist activities from running in elections, it also bars persons who have incurred administrative penalties for propagating Nazi slogans and regalia.

But the Russian Communist Party said the abolition of the turnout requirement will make the country's electoral system "not viable."

"That will be the final blow from the governing authorities, rendering the term 'election system' utterly meaningless," said Ivan Melnikov, deputy chairman of the Communist Party Central Committee.

He said the amendments will distort election results, making the voters themselves irrelevant.

"Under this system, the State Duma will reflect the position of 'ballot-casting individuals,' but not the will of society nor even the position of the majority," Melnikov said.

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