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New party financing bill favors United Russia

MOSCOW, July 5 (RIA Novosti) - State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, passed on Saturday a bill quadrupling government funding for major political parties, which gives a significant financial backing to the ruling United Russia party.

Pending approval by the upper house, the Federation Council, United Russia, which won 64.3% of the votes during December 2007 parliamentary elections, will be entitled for billions of dollars of additional government funding when the new law comes into effect in January 2009.

The bill stipulates that the annual federal financing of the parties supported by more than 3% of voters in the 2007 parliamentary elections will be increased from 5 rubles (about 20 cents) to 20 rubles (87 cents) per vote.

The same measure applies to political parties that put forward presidential candidates during March 2008 elections and whose candidates won over 3% of the national vote.

While the United Russia, according to the proposed law, will receive annually about 65% of the additional amount of 957 million rubles ($41.6 million), liberal democratic opposition parties will get zero financing from the government because they failed to gain over 3% of votes during the election.

In December elections, the Union of Right Forces (SPS) party received about 1% of the vote, the Yabloko party - 1.59%, and the Russian Social Justice party - 0.22%.

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