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    MOSCOW, March 3, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent) - At its plenary session on Wednesday the Russian State Duma turned down in the first reading the bill "On introduction of changes and amendments to the federal law 'On the status of a Federation Council member and the status of a State Duma deputy'" [that is, members of the parliament's upper and lower chambers]. The bill was rejected by 240 votes, with 82 votes for it, and three abstained.

    The bill was introduced three years ago by a few LDPR deputies and proposed a disciplinary sanction of depriving deputies elected by party lists of their mandates.

    According to Duma deputy speaker and LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who presented the bill, a deputy may lose his mandate for truancy, bad work with voters and for actions that discredit the status of a deputy. However, the main "crime" in his opinion is deputies' move from one faction to another.

    "We should stop changing political banners," Zhirinovsky pointed out. "If a deputy leaves his faction, he should give in his mandate and the party will appoint a new person," he believes.

    Another deputy speaker, United Russia member Georgy Boos argues that the bill proposed by Liberal Democrats aims at preventing them from "losing people". "It is LDPR that may be threatened with loss of members. A serious party with a clear structure and understandable program will not face withdrawal of deputies," he believes.

    At the same time, it is necessary to amend the law On Elections, points out independent deputy Viktor Pokhmelkin. "Now people completely unknown to voters may get to the Duma by party lists," he says. He believes that a deputy should be elected to the parliament due only to his merits and to be personally responsible to voters for his activities.

    The Russian President's representative to the State Duma Alexander Kotenkov believes that the subject is definitely important and needs further discussion. "Argument on whether the mandate should be free or imperative has been going on for a long time," he recalled. However, it is unacceptable to change the status of the already elected deputies. "Parliamentarians have an opportunity to introduce amendments to legislation before the end of this Duma's term," Kotenkov added.

    He believes that such a bill is necessary and an appropriate committee should engage in working it out.

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