Russia’s State Duma unanimously votes to bar ‘foreign agents’ from running for office

Russia’s State Duma has approved a new bill disqualifying anyone who has been named a “foreign agent” from standing as a candidate in federal, regional and local elections, state-owned news outlet TASS reported on Monday.

According to the legislation, anyone already holding elected office who is labelled a “foreign agent” will be required to leave office if their names remain on the register 180 days after the new law comes into force. The bill will also prohibit “foreign agents” from acting as election observers or from representing election candidates.

The State Duma unanimously approved both the second and third readings of the bill, which must now be approved by Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, before going to Russian President Vladimir Putin for his signature.

Lawmakers proposed the bill in early April after several well-known figures who have been deemed “foreign agents”, including TV presenter Tatyana Lazareva, economist Vladislav Inozemtsev and journalist Sergei Markelov, announced their plans to run in Moscow’s local elections, which are due to be held in September.

First introduced in 2012, Russia’s foreign agent label can be applied to anyone deemed subject to “foreign influence” and has been widely employed by the Kremlin to suppress opposition. This latest legal amendment would follow a law signed in March banning advertisers from working with designated “foreign agents”, limiting funding for independent media outlets.

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