19 avr. 2011

ECHR gives second life to about 33 Russian political parties

In December 2004 the Russian State Duma amended the law and gave 1 year and 2 weeks to political parties to increase the number of their members until 50 000, as well as the number of regional branches with 500 members until 45. The registration of those unable to meet this requirement was annulled. This policy reduced the number of political parties from 48 to 15 (§ 117).

In case Republican Party of Russia v Russia, 12976/07, the ECHR found that this measure violated the freedom of association (Article 11 of the Convention). The Court gave the following reasons to overcome the formal requirement on 50 000 members:

1) Only those parties that get 3 % of votes receive State funding. Thus, the existence of small parties was not a considerable financial burden on the State treasury (§ 112).
2) Only those parties that get 5 % of votes obtain a parliamentary representation. Only a party that is represented in the State Duma or collected 150 000 signatures is permitted to present its candidates. Thus, according to the judges, the existence of those 33 parties could not provoke an excessive parliamentary fragmentation (§ 112).
3) Small minority groups have the right to a party (§ 113).
4) This reform was a manipulation of electoral laws to the advantage of the parties in power (§§ 35 and 116, Venice Commission).
5) The ban on the existence of the 33 parties affected pluralism (§ 117).
6) The Republican Party was established in 1990, and abolished in 2007 – it existed for too long to be banned due to its inability to get 50 000 members during the year.

The Court gave several arguments to overcome the formal requirement to have 45 regional branches:

1) There is a consensus on the right of regional parties to existence: only 6 of 47 Council of Europe States do not allow regional parties.
2) The Venice Commission is in favor of regions.
3) The requirement of a certain number of regional branches entered in force in 2001, and not in 1991 – too long waited.

The Russian judge joined other 6 colleagues and voted for the declaration of violation.

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