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#2 - JRL 7172
May 7, 2003
Elections boss draws new map of Russia
By Maria Tsvetkova

In the run-up to the December parliamentary elections Russian electoral authorities are set to readjust the borders between single-mandate constituencies and to change the number of such in certain regions. The latter may prove especially painful for authorities of those regions, for the new scheme is likely to reduce their representation in the lower house.

Among those whose interests will be damaged by any change of borders of single-mandate electoral districts are deputies representing such constituencies. As the chairman of the Central Election Commission Alexander Veshnyakov reported on Tuesday, his agency regularly receives letters from regional authorities urging CEC to set up additional constituencies on their territories. CEC has received at least ten such letters, the official said, adding that so far no-one has asked for the opposite.

At the forthcoming parliamentary elections lucky will be deputies representing single-mandate constituencies in the Krasnodar Region and in the Republic of Dagestan. CEC holds that, given the increase in population, the 7-constituency Krasnodar Region and the 2-constituency Dagestan each need an additional electoral district.

Since the total number of constituencies will remained unchanged (by law, single-mandate deputies hold 225 seats in the lower house), additional constituencies in Russian south will be formed at the expense of the northern Murmansk and Siberian Irkutsk regions.

Presently, Murmansk and Irkutsk are divided into 2 and 4 constituencies respectively. Under the new scheme in both regions there will be 1 district less. Veshnyakov has rejected all possible objections in advance: We are not at a marketplace, we cannot sell or buy anything in this matter, and are acting in strict compliance with the provisions of the law.

Russian electoral legislation envisages a complicated scheme for dividing the countrys territory into single-mandate constituencies. In theory, the size of each such district is strictly dependent on the number of eligible voters, residing in the area. According to the law on election of the deputies of the State Duma the acceptable deviation from the average rate is 10 per cent. However, in some remote, difficult of access areas, where the number of voters is not enough to form a full-fledged constituency, the number of eligible voters may be 15 per cent less, than generally required. Finally, indigenous peoples of Russian Far North are allowed to elect their representative to the State Duma even if the number of voters is 30 per cent less than generally required.

In their time, the rightists strongly objected to such unfair distribution. In the heat of debates on the bill Boris Nadezhdin, a deputy from the Union of Rightist Forces party, told Veshnyakov: It turns out so, that instead of national minorities we will see representatives of the St.Petersburg team (Vladimir Putins prot?g?s. Gazeta.Ru) in the State Duma. An amendment proposed by Nadezdhin was rejected.

A CEC official has explained to Gazeta.Ru correspondent that the existing map of single-mandate constituencies undergoes revision every four years, before parliamentary elections. Regional authorities provide Moscow with fresh data on the number of registered voters, and on the basis of which CEC readjusts the borders of constituencies.

For instance, the decision to set up additional constituencies in Dagestan and Krasnodar was prompted by the increased migration of population from the northern regions to the south.

At first, the changes of borders of single-mandate constituencies are to be officially endorsed by CEC at its session due on May 14. In June the draft bill to the effect will be submitted to the State Duma. However, if the deputies fail to pass the document before their summer break and it does not come into force on August 15, CEC has the power adopt the new scheme on its own, without the deputies approval.

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