Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reports that it has collected over 100,000 signatures in support of dissolving the country's parliament – enough to turn the petition into a valid legislative initiative.
The demand to initiate the Lower House dissolution was given a hashtag that can be translated roughly as “come on, dissolve yourself” – a complex play of Russian internet memes that is supposed to appeal to a younger and more frustrated voters.
The petition seeks to launch a nationwide referendum in which citizens could express their confidence in the Lower House. The current State Duma, dominated by the pro-Putin United Russia Party was elected a year ago and soon after the polls the country saw a wave of rallies over alleged election violations. At the same time, the bravest of the opposition suggestions on the ‘real’ elections results still left United Russia in the lead and didn’t suggest a party balance.
The newspaper announced the collection of signatures on December 24 last year, but Russia was on a lengthy Christmas vacation and people were not as active as expected in supporting political causes. The organizers claim that their web-site suffered a hacker attack that also slowed their work.
The newspaper claimed that the petition is a reply to failure of the State Duma to react to another petition – the request to recall the amendment banning US citizens from adopting Russian orphans, passed as part of the so called Dima Yakovlev Law – Russia’s reply to the US Magnitsky Act. Novaya Gazeta journalists claimed they passed the petition with over 100 000 signatures to the State Duma staff, but then the documents were somehow “lost”. The State Duma press service replied that the papers had been duly received and registered and the parliament would take action on them in due course.
However, a short time later some reports claimed that a large part of Novaya Gazeta’s 100,000 signatures were fakes and duplicates. The newspaper refuted the idea, but set a new 500,000-signature goal for the fresh petition and introduced stricter security rules for signature submission.
The MPs have said they did not fear the newspaper’s initiative. In particular, the head of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, Vyacheslav Nikonov, told the press that he saw “neither reasons nor mechanisms” for the parliament’s dissolution.
He added that this was true that petitions with broad public support become legislative initiatives, but there were still no precise procedures fixed by the law.
Besides it should be noted that just like any initiatives, the public petitions they must pass all parliamentary instances and get the approval of the majority which is unlikely in Novaya Gazeta’s case.