Russian Election Commission chief: 2003 parliamentary race's to be tough one

Alexander Veshnyakov, head of Russia's Central Election Commission, predicts a tough campaign ahead of the December 7 parliamentary polls.

The forthcoming election will be fundamentally different from all previous polls, Veshnyakov told a Moscow press conference Wednesday. The main difference is the price that contenders will have to pay for their victory, he said. The forty-four parties ready to start off are all equal now. Further down the road, however, those strong enough to exceed the 5% vote threshold will gain well-deserved advantages over weaker hopefuls.

As the Election Commission chief said, the parties that will make it into parliament's lower house will become entitled to public financing in amounts proportionate to the number of votes they have garnered. They will also get the right to advance their candidates for elections of any level - presidential all the way down to local - without having to submit nomination signatures or pay filing fees.

Lack of voter support will bring parties to political and financial bankruptcy, Veshnyakov believes. As he pointed out, voting for a party will, in fact, be about choosing a political course for the nation. He spoke out in favor of open discussion of nominee rolls at party congresses. "Everything should be clear and transparent here," he said. "Otherwise, a lot of questions will be put to political parties, as to why this or that name has been put on the list."

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