(TheLibertyRevolution.com)- In what critics are calling an attempt to outlaw political opposition, on Friday Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed a law that bars members of “extremist” organizations from running for office for up to three to five years.
It did not go unnoticed that Putin signed this law on the birthday of imprisoned opposition candidate Alexi Navalny. In a tweet on Friday, Navalny’s chief of staff Leonid Volkov expressed his belief that the timing was not an accident.
If any organization is designated by a judge to be “extremist” or “terrorist,” no founder or leader of the group will be permitted to run for office for five years after such a designation is made. For employees or financial backers, the ban would remain in place for three years.
A Russian court is currently reviewing whether or not Navalny’s political and anti-corruption organizations fall under the “extremist” designation.
With the passage of this law, Navalany’s supporters would quite possibly be prevented from running in the upcoming parliamentary elections in September.
But worse, being designated an “extremist” organization also subjects Navalny and his team to much more severe legal consequences than they’ve already faced.
Currently, Russia’s “anti-extremism” laws have clamped down on press freedoms and the freedom of Russian citizens to engage in public protests or donate to opposition groups.
In January, Navalny was apprehended returning from Germany where he was recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning he blamed on the Russian government. He was sentenced to two and a half years to prison ostensibly for violating the terms of a suspended sentence for a 2014 embezzlement conviction.
As the September parliamentary elections grow closer, Russia is cracking down on other opposition leaders as well. Andrei Pivovarov, the head of the now-disbanded Open Russia movement, was removed from a plane at the St. Petersburg airport on May 31 as part of a criminal investigation against him.
On June 1, police raided the home of Dmitry Gudkov, a former lawmaker who considered running for parliament as an opposition candidate. Gudkov was held for two days before being released.