Over the last year regional electoral legislation hasn’t been subject to any substantial transformation. It still does not guarantee equal access to all candidates and fails to conform to the standards of free and honest elections. This was discovered by Golos Movement’s experts, who prepared an analytical review of the regional legislation on the eve of the elections of regional heads and parliaments.
In the regions where revisions to the legislation were made, they were contingent on disingenuous motives – the changes were made in order to help the acting authorities. For example, seven regions have added the option of self-nomination in the gubernatorial races. This was done so that the region’s acting heads could distance themselves from the establishment party, which is losing its prestige with the general public.
The infamous “municipal filter” whose harmfulness is constantly denounced by experts and the Central Election Commission’s chairwoman Ella Pamfilova was slightly alleviated in just two of the regions, Kurgan and Lipetsk. However, this measure had no meaningful effect on the situation: the reduction was so small that even after the revisions, the candidates can overcome the threshold only with the help of United Russia party.
Golos Movement’s program of long-term election monitoring entails monitoring of election campaigns for the single voting day of September 8, 2019 for compliance with principles and standards of free and fair elections.
The present analytical review presents the changes that affect electoral legislation for the governor races and regional parliamentary elections as it pertains to the municipal filter, the nominating entities and the balance of mandates between the majority and proportional voting systems.
1. The analysis of changes to the regional electoral legislation on the eve of the elections of regional governors and parliaments demonstrates that the process of enhancing the election’s legal framework that was discussed throughout last year has not led to any meaningful results. There hasn’t been any significant improvement in implementing the citizens’ electoral rights.
2. Legislation’s stability was sacrificed in favor of immediate circumstances. Almost all of the revisions were approved immediately prior to the start of the campaign, and in some cases less than two weeks before its official start. The changing of “game rules” on the very eve of the campaign has a negative effect on the ability of the regime’s opponents to systematically prepare for the race and creates unreasonable advantage for the certain political forces that initiate such legislation changes.
3. Revisions regarding the numbers of deputies elected using proportional (one man, one vote) and majority voting systems were enacted in four regions. In all cases it was done by the majority party in disagreement with the opposition parties. As a result, the number of single-mandate districts and their “plotting” have been changed. The changes in the number of single-mandate districts and their territories could not be predicted by anyone expect for initiators, giving them an advantage in preparation for the race, because they were the only ones who could canvass these territories ahead of time. The increase in the share of single-mandate deputies also increases the chances of the establishment party to preserve its majority despite the negatively affected polling numbers of United Russia party.
4. An option of self-nomination in the regional governor races was introduced to the legislation of seven constituents of the federation on the basis of opportunistic wishes of specific future candidates who want to distance themselves from the establishment party’s anti-rating.
5. Self-nomination could be viewed as a positive step that expands opportunities for the citizens’ participation in the races if it was followed by cancellation or significant alleviation of the so-called “municipal filter” that serves the function of selecting convenient opponents for the administrative candidates. However, just two of the regions introduced nominal alleviation of “municipal filters,” and even there it was purely “cosmetic,” as none of the candidates won’t be able to pass the filter without support from United Russia representatives. Suggestions to reduce the threshold of municipal filter at the elections of regional heads were rejected by the majority party in a number of regions (Astrakhan, Murmansk, Sakhalin regions, St. Petersburg and others).
Elections of the deputies to the legislative (representative) bodies of the Russian Federation constituents: the balance of mandates allocated through majority and proportional representation systems
On September 8, 2019, elections to the regional parliaments will be held at 13 regions: republics of Altai, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachaevo-Cherkesia, Crimea, Mary El, Tatarstan and Tyva; Bryansk, Volgograd, Tula and Khabarovsk regions; cities of Moscow and Sevastopol.
At four of the regions (republics of Altai and Mary El, Khabarovsk and Tula regions), revisions were made to the regional legislation, reducing the share of deputies elected using proportional representation system.
At all four regions the number of majority mandates was increased, while the number of mandates allocated by “one man, one vote” rule was reduced. Such changes pervert the proportionality of representation of the voters’ interests as large groups of voters are underrepresented in the parliaments. Instead, the already leading party receives additional mandates.
Changes to the regional legislation regarding election of deputies
In all four of the regions, representatives of United Russia party argued for the need to change the electoral legislation by stating that increasing the number of single-mandate deputies while simultaneously reducing the number of deputies from the party lists will force the parties to pay more attention to the voters by nominating the candidates familiar to the voters in each single-mandate district.
In each of the four regions representatives of the opposition parties criticized the position of United Russia party. They called it United Russia’s attempt to preserve its monopoly on power while the party is losing people’s trust. At the Khabarovsk region, even the region’s governor Sergey Furgal spoke against the changes to the regional electoral legislation. Through his representative at the regional Duma the regional head insisted that the 18/18 arrangement is preserved. Nonetheless, the governor’s suggestions found no support (Sergey Furgal was elected the region’s governor with support from LDPR).
In nine other regions there have been no changes in legislation with the shift of proportional system in favor of majority. In this case, the regional legislation remained the same:
Elections of highest officials of the Russian Federation constituents: nomination procedure and municipal filter
On September 8, 2019, 16 regions will elect new heads (Astrakhan, Vologda, Volgograd, Sakhalin, Kurgan, Kursk, Lipetsk, Chelyabinsk, Murmansk, Orenburg regions; republics of Altai, Bashkortostan, Kalmykia; Transbaikal and Stavropol regions, and the city of St. Petersburg).
In seven regions (Astrakhan, Kurgan, Sakhalin, Chelyabinsk, Murmansk, Transbaikal regions and St. Petersburg), revisions to the regional legislation on elections of the highest officials of the Russian Federation constituents were made, allowing self-nominated candidates to take part in the elections. These regions also set the number of voter signatures required for such candidates’ registration in the races: 0.5% at the Kurgan, Sakhalin, Chelyabinsk, Murmansk and Transbaikal regions; 1% at the Astrakhan region and 2% at St. Petersburg.
Introduction of changes to the regional electoral legislation regarding the possibility of self-nomination for the gubernatorial races is connected with the wishes of the acting heads of the regions to take part in elections as self-nominated candidates.
In this vein, the appointed acting head of the Sakhalin region Valery Limarenko announced his intention to take part in the elections of Sakhalin region governor back in December 2018. He noted that he plans to take part in the race as a self-nominated candidate. At the moment of that statement, Sakhalin region’s legislation prevented self-nominated candidates from taking part in the gubernatorial race. Relevant revisions were enacted only in the spring of 2019.
In late March of 2019, the Legislative Assembly of Chelyabinsk region removed from the agenda and delayed the review of revisions to the law on gubernatorial elections that would allow participation of self-nominated candidates in order to pre-approve the revisions with the acting head of the region Alexey Teksler. Following consultations, the relevant revisions were approved on May 8.
At present moment, in six regions (Astrakhan, Kurgan, Sakhalin, Chelyabinsk, Transbaikal regions and St. Petersburg) that provide for self-nomination at gubernatorial races, the acting heads of regions are taking part in the elections as self-nominated candidates. Only in the Murmansk region the acting head of the region Andrey Chibis was nominated by United Russia party, although when the changes were introduced to the electoral legislation, opinions were expressed that provisions for self-nomination are made in his interests.
Entities nominating “administrative” candidates for governors in 2018 and 2019
Nomination by party Self-nomination
In this way, self-nomination at the elections of regional heads is envisioned by the regional legislation proceeding from the wishes of the future candidate who in majority of cases is the acting head of the region.
Such legislative activity is in sharp dissonance with the rejection of any serious changes to the parameters of the so called “municipal filter,” the need to alleviate which was announced by the chairwoman of the Central Election Commission Ella Pamfilova back in 2017. On February 19, 2019, news outlets had published information that based on results of the meeting, members of the working group under the Presidential Administration, including representatives of the United Russia party, agreed with the feasibility of slashing the upper threshold of the “municipal filter” twofold.
In reality, no changes were made on the federal level. Among the regions where gubernatorial elections will be held, alleviation was attempted in just two regions – Kurgan and Lipetsk. In the Kurgan Region, the required share of municipal deputies signatures for registration of the candidate for gubernatorial race was reduced from 6% to 5%, and in the Lipetsk region – from 7% to 6%. These changes had no consequences that will actually expand the citizens’ electoral rights, as in both regions even the reduced filter can only be overcome with the help of United Russia party.
Changes in the regional legislation regarding gubernatorial elections
Eight regions (Volgograd, Vologda, Kursk, Orenburg, Stavropol regions and republics of Altai, Bashkortostan and Kalmykia) introduced no changes to the electoral legislation regarding elections of regional heads that would make provisions for self-nomination or reduction of the municipal filter.
Regions where the laws on gubernatorial elections remained unchanged
In this way, the highest municipal filter at the upcoming elections of regional heads is envisioned in the Sakhalin region and the city of St. Petersburg – 10%; it will by 9% in the republic of Kalmykia, 8% - in the Transbaikal region; 7% in the Astrakhan, Chelyabinsk, Murmansk, Vologda regions and republic of Altai;
6% in the Lipetsk, Kursk and Stavropol regions; and 5% in the Kurgan, Orenburg, Volgograd regions and republic of Bashkortostan.
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Analytical report prepared by Golos Movement’s expert Denis Shadrin