By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a new measure that allows elections at all levels and referendums to be conducted by mail and via the Internet, according to the Kremlin’s website.
The law was rushed through all three readings in the State Duma on May 13 and approved by the Federation Council, the upper house of the legislature, one week later.
Although the bill was introduced by lawmakers from the ruling United Russia party, media reports have asserted that it was drafted by the presidential administration.
The new law will not apply to the planned national vote on proposed constitutional amendments — including a provision that would allow Putin to seek two more terms as president. That vote was set for April 22, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The new law allows the Central Election Commission to organize voting by mail or via the Internet. Lawmakers said the bill was necessary because of the restrictions on public gatherings imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Under the new law, the gathering of signatures needed to qualify for elections can be conducted through a special government website.
Putin also signed a law that would bar people convicted of “moderate” crimes from seeking public office for a period of five years after their sentence is completed. Previously, only those with “serious” felony convictions were barred.
The new law would block anyone convicted under a law criminalizing multiple violations of the laws on public protests or of making public calls for “extremism.”