30 parties can take part in December 2003 parliamentary elections

Alexander Veshnyakov, Chairman of the Russian Central Electoral Commission, or the CEC, thinks the number of parties contending for seats in the State Duma, or the lower house of the Russian parliament, in 2003 parliamentary elections will be about 30.

In the meantime, only 18 parties have so far registered their regional branches and therefore fully comply with all provisions of the Law of Political Parties, he told journalists on Monday.

He said the parties still had six months to form and register their regional branches. July 14, 2003 is the last day of the two-year transit period - the day when the Law on Political Parties comes into full force.

He reminded the journalists that political parties that took part in the previous parliamentary elections and failed to gather 2% of the votes must compensate for expenses run by state-owned TV and radio companies that aired their election campaigns. If they don't do this, they will still be able to join in the election race but will not be able to get free on-air broadcasting.

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