НовостиМненияАналитикаСервисыОбучениеО движенииСтать наблюдателемПоддержатьEn
Новость02 сентября 2019, 09:40

Table of contents 

This year’s elections of deputies to the representatives bodies of power and local government bodies demonstrate Russia’s deepening political crisis. Electoral procedures are increasingly replaced with repressive actions of security agencies aimed at suppressing the opposition. The system of election commissions clearly manifests its political bias and double standards. The political parties are also in deep crisis. Even parliamentary parties are not partaking in the majority of elections scheduled for the single voting day.

This is all happening against the backdrop of increasing protest sentiment and active peaceful assertion of the electoral rights on the part of the citizens using street protests.

This report contains the analysis of the stage of nomination and registration of candidates for the representative bodies of regional power and local government bodies. In the principal text of the report, we present brief descriptions of specific examples of electoral rights violations and campaign incidents. A more detailed description can be found in the Appendix.

Key conclusions

  1. In 2019, the country’s electoral system is facing its most serious crisis since the protests of 2011-2012. The degradation of the very institute of elections is accelerating. All of this is happening against the backdrop of society’s growing demand for inclusion into the decision-making process. De facto, none of the existing electoral system’s elements can satisfy this demand today as erosion of institutes affected the system of election commissions, political parties, and the established practice of law enforcement. Unlawful restriction of citizens’ electoral rights is happening on a large scale.
  2. The special feature of the current election campaign is the replacement of competition within the framework of electoral procedures by crackdown on the opposition. A whole number of well-known politicians who attempted to nominate themselves for the elections have been placed in detention along with their followers. The peaceful protests in defense of electoral rights and support of registering the candidates who attempted to protect those electoral rights together with their followers have ended with several thousand citizens in police custody. As a result, a sizable share of opposition groups was isolated from the public discussion. Moreover, the arrested candidates cannot even appeal the decisions to refuse them registration. This seriously impairs the compliance of the current election campaign with the standards of free and genuine elections. This results in the loss of trust in the institute of elections on the part of society.
  3. Under such circumstances, the destructive decline of political parties that proved to be unable to take advantage of the changing public sentiment has become even more noticeable. The contemporary Russian party system fails to perform its key function – express the society’s interests. There are no premises for positive changes in the citizens’ attitudes towards political parties. The destruction of mechanisms of political representation is deepening the long-term political crisis.
  4. The existing political parties are virtually absent on the local level and do not partake in the overwhelming majority of elections. This means that in the coming years situation with clearing the “municipal filter” won’t change as the nominally opposition parties will completely depend on United Russia party when nominating and registering their candidates for the governors.
  5. In such situation, the value of party brand identities has gone down drastically for the candidates. This is especially true for the “establishment” candidates who are trying to distance themselves from the establishment party’s brand that is associated with unpopular decisions in the minds of significant groups of voters. Often this is done by politicians occupying sufficiently high positions in the party hierarchy who seek to avoid electoral responsibility for the decisions that were made. During elections to the regional legislative assemblies this has led to significant (more than doubled) increase of the share of self-nominated candidates. United Russia was hit the hardest as its share of candidates went down from 18.65% to 13.5% (by almost a third). Results of the registration demonstrate the same thing. The share of registered independent candidates has grown by 2.5 times as compared with 2018. The share of independent candidates in the representative body elections taking place in the regional capitals is even greater and amounts to a quarter of all candidates.
  6. Situation with the remaining elections for the local governments is even worse. Having said that, a giant number of mandates is up for grabs: in 2019, almost 106,000 people including 95,000 single-mandate candidates, have nominated themselves to run in the local government elections (outside of the regional capitals). There is a noticeable imbalance in representation of party candidates in the local government ballots. While United Russia seeks to run its candidates in almost all the elections, the rest of the parties togethers (!) have nominated a third fewer candidates. Even KPRF, Russia’s second most popular party, could only nominate one fifth of the numbers put forward by the establishment party. Another 20,000 candidates are running as independents.
  7. This year, the system of election commissions has demonstrated the failure to observe the political neutrality principle on the part of the election commissions and the violation of the principle of equality in relation to the candidates with different political programs.

1. Crisis of the party system reflected in the elections

1.1. Decreasing value of party brand identities for the candidates

Political parties are the main institute of the representative democracy. According to the Federal law “On political parties,” they have four objectives: shaping public opinion; political education and guidance for the citizens; expressing the citizens’ opinions regarding any and all issues of the public life and communicating these opinions to the general public and government bodies; nomination of candidates and participation in the elections of all levels and subsequent work in the elected bodies. In this way, political parties’ regular participation in the elections is their key objective that differentiates them from all other civil groups.

According to the “Convention on Standards of Democratic Elections, Electoral Rights and Freedoms in the CIS Countries,” genuine elections imply the existence of a real multi-party system.

The Russian party system, however, is in an evident crisis – and has been for some years. According to the results of the poll published by Levada Center on 14 August, 2019, the parliamentary parties’ aggregate approval rating with the Russian public has fallen to 51% (Levada Center conducted the poll on 18-24 of July, 2019, using a representative all-Russian sampling of urban and village population of 1,605 persons aged 18 and older in 137 population centers of 50 Russian Federation constituents. The polling was done door-to-door by personal interview method. Distribution of answers is provided in percentages from the total number of respondents).

For its part, the Golos Movement has already pointed out that political parties that officially present themselves as the opponents of the “establishment party,” are forced to bargain with it so that they candidates can clear the so-called “municipal filter” in gubernatorial elections.

In analyzing the lists of candidates at elections to the regional parliaments nominated using proportional representations, this is less noticeable (see Chart 1).

Chart 1. Results of the nomination and registration of candidate lists at elections to the regional parliaments.

The chart demonstrates that the parliamentary parties had nominated their party lists in all of the regions where such opportunity was presented (with exception of Moscow where city assembly elections are run under “winner-takes-all” system). But even in this case, there have been attempts to refuse to register parliamentary party lists. For example, the KPRF met with problems in Karachay-Cherkessia, and was able to register the party list only after excluding two strong candidates (see. Appendix, card №1).

Among the “second-tier” parties, the parties with the most nominations and successful registrations of party lists were the Communists of Russia, Rodina, and the Russian Party of Pensioners for Social Justice (RPPSJ). The other parties, including the Patriots of Russia, the Civil Platform and Yabloko, take virtually no part in the elections, although if the party list clears the threshold in at least one regional election, it guarantees the party a so-called “parliamentary privilege” – the right to nominate its candidates during State Duma elections without collecting the signatures. This concerns not just the main elections that will happen in 2021, but also the by-elections of next year.

However, to determine the real scale of political parties’ participation in the elections, we analyzed information about more than 200,000 candidates taking part in elections on the single voting day in 2018 and 2019. The analysis was based on the candidates who were not running as part of the party lists, but in single-mandate and multi-mandate constituencies. The latter ones proved to be the overwhelming majority, especially on the local level: among the local government candidates, more than 85% of nominated candidates were or are trying to get elected under “winner-takes-all” system.

This indicator is obviously much lower for the federal or regional elections and also at elections in the regional capitals. Thus, in 2018, there were 9,046 candidates for elections (and by-elections) of the regional parliament deputies in 40 regions, including 2,215 single-mandate candidates (see Diagram 1). Having said that, the number of nominated candidates includes those who lost the candidate status after the nomination, because initially these candidates declared their intention to partake in the elections. Similarly, the numbers take into account the candidates who lost their registered status, but their share wasn’t that high and does not exceed 2% of all the registered candidates.

Diagram 1. Participation of the single-mandate candidates in the regional parliamentary elections during single voting day of 2018

Diagram 1 shows that in 2018, the share of single-mandate candidates nominated by the parliamentary parties during regional deputy elections was about 2/3 of the total number of nominated candidates and had grown to approximately ¾ after the registration stage. During registration stage, all of the parliamentary parties had slightly increased their share of participating candidates, because representatives of the small parties and independents were mostly barred from running. This is best seen with independent candidates, because their share among the nominated candidates was initially great (more than 10%) and was drastically reduced after the registration (5%).

In 2019, the situation is changing. There are 6,579 candidates nominated in 46 regions, including 2,183 single-mandate candidates whose share has grown radically. This is partially connected with changes to the legislation. The main elections of the regional parliament deputies are taking place in 13 constituents (in the rest of the regions it’s just by-election of one or two single-mandate deputies caused by their predecessors stepping down early). These 13 regions account for the majority of nominated candidates. In four of those regions, changes to the legislation were made prior to the start of the campaign, and the number of “winner-takes-all” mandates was increased while the number of party list mandates was reduced (see Chart 2).

Chart 2. Changes to the regional legislation regarding elections of the parliament deputies

In each of the four regions, representatives of the opposition parties criticized these amendments, calling them United Russia’s attempt to preserve its monopoly on power as the people’s trust in this party is declining. Nonetheless, the amendments were approved.

Such changes led to corruption of proportionality of representation of the voters’ interests as large groups of voters become underrepresented in the parliament. Instead, the campaign’s leading party receives additional seats.

Another important difference from last year’s elections is seen in Diagram 2. The share of nominated independent candidates has grown significantly (more than doubled). At the same time, the share of United Russia candidates has shrunk the most, from 18.65% to 13.5% (by almost a third). Situation is similar with the results of the registration. As compared with 2018, the share of registered independent candidates has grown by 2.5 times.

Diagram 2. Participation of the single-mandate candidates in the regional parliamentary elections during single voting day of 2019

The increasing share of candidates who prefer to run as independents, without tying themselves to the political parties that are losing their popularity, can be illustrated by the situation with elections of the Moscow City Duma deputies.

In Moscow, all of the “establishment” candidates are running their campaigns as independents. In the meantime, their close ties to the mayor’s office have already been proven on numerous occasions and leave no doubts.

This explains the fast growth of the share of independent candidates who successfully passed the registration stage as it would be difficult to explain this by their suddenly increased level of preparation. There’s no doubt that this is explained by the changed attitude towards such candidates on the part of the election commissions, which in turn indicates violation of the principle of objectivity and impartiality in the work of the election commissions.

It should be admitted that the parties themselves, even the largest of them, too often simply simulate their opposition to the authorities and in reality, are ready to bargain and negotiate during the election period. A shining example of this was KPRF’s decision to withdraw from its party list in Karachay-Cherkessia the well-known candidates Eduard Marshankulov and Alina Chikatueva. After the party recalled their candidacies, the KPRF party list was allowed to take part in the elections (see Appendix, card №1).

In this way, the value of the party brand identity has been drastically reduced for the candidates over the last year. This was especially true for the “establishment” candidates who are trying to distance themselves from the identity of the “party of power” that is associated for sizable groups of voters with unpopular decisions (pension and trash disposal reforms, inadequate use of force against peaceful protestors in different regions of the country, etc.) against the backdrop of the growing protest sentiments. Often this is done, among others, by the politicians with sufficiently high positions in the party hierarchy who are trying to shirk electoral responsibility for the decisions that they made.

1.2. Political parties’ rejection of local government elections

Political parties’ participation in local elections is one of the most important indicators of their maturity and strength. First, the majority of problems faced by the citizens on the daily basis are solved at the local level. Second, systemic participation in the local processes demands that the party possess a far-reaching organizational structure that enables it to follow the local problems, recruit new party members and followers, and canvass the citizens. Without such work, the party is more like a front that unites the people with political ambitions than an actual political organization.

The parties also have a strictly practical interest in local government elections – without sufficient numbers of municipal deputies and heads, the parties are incapable of independently overcoming the so-called “municipal filter” during gubernatorial elections. Instead, as studies show, they are forced to conspire with their nominal election opponents, and this puts them in a subordinate position.

At the level of the regional capital elections, the parties show a certain balance in terms of their participation. There are 4,543 candidates running in the elections of municipal deputies in the regional capitals, including 3,159 single-mandate candidates.

Just as with the regional parliaments, the parliamentary parties had no problem registering their candidates running under proportional electoral system. They had no difficulties with nominating single-mandate candidates either (see Diagram 3).

Diagram 3. Participation of single-mandate candidates in the elections of municipal deputies in the regional capitals

This diagram shows that the nature of nomination and registration of single-mandate candidates in the regional capitals’ elections is overall similar to the situation with the regional parliamentary elections of last year. Just as then, the four parties and independent candidates dominate at the stage of announcing their political ambitions, but after registration of the candidates, the number of remaining self-nominated candidates falls drastically. The difference is that this year, the number of independent candidates is much greater from the start as they account for a quarter of all the candidates.

The parties’ attention to this level of local governance is natural: the regional capitals are the places where this territory’s budgetary funds are concentrated, and the funds are allocated by the deputies. This is where many issues that affect the performance of large and medium businesses (such as the use of land) are resolved. Moreover, this is also where sizable numbers of voters that the parties will need during larger elections are concentrated.

For the rest of the municipal elections, the situation is strikingly different. Meanwhile, this is where a lot of mandates are allocated: in 2019, almost 106,000 people have been nominated in the local government elections (outside of the regional capitals), including 95,000 single-mandate candidates.

Diagram 4 shows that at this level of the local government elections, there’s a noticeable imbalance in representation of party-affiliated candidates. While United Russia seeks to nominate its candidates in almost all of the elections, the rest of parties together (!) nominate approximately one third fewer candidates. Even KPRF, Russia’s second largest party, was able to nominate only one fifth of the numbers put forward by the “establishment party.” Another 20,000 candidates are running as independents.

Diagram 4. Parties’ participation in the local government elections

There’s no doubt that among these self-nominees are a number of candidates who deliberately refused nomination by the parties, to which they are tied. But these are not the United Russia members but their opponents, who are running this way because on the local level self-nomination is generally less complicated than nomination by the parties. Still, a sizable share of the independent candidates has no connections to the existing party structures.

Among those running on behalf of the parties, a lot are “write-in” candidates. This is especially true of LDPR who often nominate for such elections the candidates who deliberately have no connection to the territory where they plan to run.

In such a way, the existing political parties are practically avoiding work at the local level and do not take part in the elections. This means that in the coming years the situation with overcoming the “municipal filter” won’t be any different as the nominally opposition parties will remain totally dependent on United Russia in terms of nominating and registering their candidates for the governors.

The elections of 2019 once again raise the question of political parties’ effectiveness. The truth is that contemporary Russian party system fails to perform its key functions: the parties, as rule, do not take part in the overwhelming majority of elections; recruitment is done poorly; they do not express the interests of specific population groups at the local level and are not helping in sustainable communication between the citizens and local public institutions and the authorities.

When all is said and done, there are no premises for changing the citizens’ attitude towards the political parties. All of this deepens the political crisis.

2. Abuse of administrative resource at the stage of candidate nomination and registration

2.1 Servile nature of election commissions and unlawful denials of registration

Impartiality in the work of election commissions is the cornerstone of fair elections. Violation of the principle of objectivity and equal treatment of candidates on the part of the election commissions may predetermine results of the voting at the very beginning of the election campaign. In such cases the very institute of elections appears in question as the final decision about who will represent the voters’ interests depends not on the citizens’ will but on the decision of the election commission members who refuse registration to specific candidates.

Traditionally, the greatest problems with registration are suffered by the opposition candidates who are forced to collect the voters’ signatures in support of their nomination. This is a problem faced by candidates all around the country. Most often, the election commissions refuse registration to the candidates who are forced to collect the signatures citing the discrepancies between the voter information submitted in the signature sheets and the data contained in the migration service’s database or using conclusions drawn by the handwriting experts.

This year, such cases happened in Irkutsk, Khabarovsk, Ulan-Ude, Ingushetia, Tatarstan, Bryansk and Moscow regions along with others (see Appendix, cards №2 - 10). For example, during elections to the municipal council of Karabulak (Ingushetia), the election commission annulled some of the signatures collected by Yabloko, and among those annulled were the signatures of the party’s regional chairman Mutsolgov, his sister and neighbors. The election commission decided that the signatures and dates were written by different people (see Appendix, card № 5).

The most resounding story with mass denials of registration to the well-known opposition candidates happened in Moscow with elections to the Moscow City Duma. This denial led to peaceful street protests that continued for several weeks and ended with detention of thousands of Russian citizens.

Overwhelming majority of Moscow candidates’ signatures were rejected for two reasons. One is a reference note from the Center of Addresses and References of the Directorate for Migration Affairs of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for Moscow (former Federal Migration Service). Using such reference notes, the election commissions ruled as invalid the signatures that contained supposedly incomplete or inaccurate information about the voters or signature collectors. At the same time, the candidates claim to have observed instances when election commissions sent the wrong information to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (see Appendix, card №11). In almost all of the cases, this accounted for about quarter of signatures that were “rejected” using the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ databases.

Such level of improper conclusions in the Interior Ministry’s resolutions can put in doubt the results of the whole review. But in the case of this argument, there’s another formal cause to do so and it involves a violation on the part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs that provided its references using a wrong template. This template was established in the protocol to the Agreement on Cooperation of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, signed on 2 September 2016. In particular, the protocol demands that in case of “rejecting” the signatures, the Ministry’s employees have to provide information that differs from the data contained in the candidates’ signature sheets. Not a single package of documents that we were able to review followed this norm.

Having said that, the members of the Central Election Commission’s working group have taken a stand that contradicts the said agreement. They claimed that the Ministry may provide information guided by its own internal documents and not the established template and that it may not provide voters’ personal data to third parties, although in other regions the Ministry’s employees are doing it left and right. From a legal point of view, it means that the election commissions shouldn’t have taken such resolutions from the Ministry of Internal Affairs because they didn’t follow a template established in the agreement of the Ministry and the Central Election Commission. When it comes to the candidates themselves, the election commissions demand rigorous compliance with all the formalities.

The second widespread reason for “rejecting” the voters’ signatures was to rule them inauthentic on the basis of the resolution of handwriting experts from the Interior Ministry’s Forensic Science Center. These specialists may reject almost any signature or the date it was made. At the same time, such specialists are not held liable for their “expertise” and do not substantiate their decisions in any way.

In present-day Russia, it’s very difficult to contest such “expert resolution” – practice shows that election commissions and courts refuse to take into account even the testimonies of the voters who put those signatures down.

The events surrounding elections of the Moscow City Duma deputies have demonstrated the obvious bias of the whole system of election commissions when it comes to reviewing the candidates’ documents. Even the Central Election Commission of Russia opted for legalistic nitpicking and formalist interpretations that emasculate the essence of the election process.

The documents submitted for registration of some candidates were formally reviewed in a very short period of time. In many district commissions, representatives of other candidates and independent members of the election commissions were not allowed to partake in the review of these candidates’ signatures sheets, making it practically impossible to contest decisions on their registration. The signature sheets of other candidates were subjected to scrutiny. Such reviews were to a great extent done in violation of the law: there are many testimonies saying that the reviews were taking place in the absence of the candidate who was being reviewed.

This was also true for the handling of complaints regarding denials of registration that were submitted by the candidates. Each item of the allegations that was contested by the candidates required detailed consideration, and when in doubt had to be interpreted in favor of the candidates. Only such approach would conform to the objectives of the very system of election commissions meant to protect the citizens’ electoral rights. In reality, it was all very different.

The corrupt approach of the election commissions that violates the principle of legal certainty also stands out like a sore thumb. In reviewing the candidates’ appeals against denials of registration, the higher-level commissions, instead of reviewing the allegations contained in the received complaints, engaged in the search and presentation of new grounds for denials of their own accord.

The election commissions’ public demonstration of non-compliance with the principle of political neutrality in the commissions’ work and violation of the principle of equality towards the candidates with different political programs leads to complete devaluation of the institute of elections for the public.

A separate mention should be given to the election commissions of St. Petersburg municipalities that brazenly and openly violated electoral and other legislation in the process of calling and organizing elections of deputies in several St. Petersburg municipalities.

In a number of districts, election commissions made significant efforts to restrict the citizens’ right to be elected. A whole set of measures was used for this purpose: calling elections within timeframes unspecified by the law, actual obstruction of the candidates in the process of submitting declarations of nomination, concealment of information about called elections. Often, such election commissions were under control of specific groups of St. Petersburg’s political elite that have no interest in organizing free and fair elections. This is explained by the fact that in the course of the current election campaign, the elected deputies are trying to lay the groundwork for the future elections to the Legislative Assembly and State Duma.

The system of St. Petersburg’s municipal election commissions has demonstrated a propensity for abuse of rights that violates legislation and citizens’ electoral rights. Even interference on the part of St. Petersburg City Election Commission and the Central Election Commission of Russia failed to protect the voters. Instead of organizing the elections, the members of the partisan election commissions were principal instrument of obstructing organization of genuine elections in the city. The activities of such election commissions and their members should be investigated by the law enforcement agencies under article 141 of the Criminal Code “Obstruction of exercise of electoral rights or the work of election commissions.”

Other cases when election commissions made groundless decisions to refuse candidates’ registration were also catalogued in different regions.

Thus, in Moscow region’s Zhukovsky, territorial election commission refused to register Andrey Lapshin as a candidate for the local council deputy. The commission and later the municipal court ruled that the passport agencies’ marks regarding annulment of the previously issued foreign travel documents that were found in Lapshin’s internal passport make the document invalid. The judge didn’t take into account several rulings by Russia’s Supreme Court on similar cases where internal passports with the same records were ruled to be valid, as well as the position on this issue, formulated by the Plenary session №5 of the Supreme Court back in 2011.

In Chita, the courts annulled several decisions on denial of registration (see Appendix, cards №12, 13). Despite the fact that the candidates’ rights were upheld, it should be noted that because of the commissions’ groundless decisions they found themselves facing an uneven playing field because they were forced to spend a significant part of the election campaign restoring their rights instead of canvassing the potential voters.

Unfortunately, such denials have become a widespread practice among the election commissions that consciously complicate election campaigns to certain candidates.

A prime example of this was the case of Moscow candidate Sergey Mitrokhin who wasn’t registered as a candidate by the district commission even after the ruling of the higher-level Moscow City Election Commission. The district commission simply disrupted a meeting. As a result, the candidate was registered for elections by court ruling, but by that time less than a month was left before the voting day (see Appendix, card №14).

In Karachay-Cherkessia, the court had to be used to restore the list of candidates from KPRF (see Appendix, card №1). There was a conundrum with the registration of representatives of the Party of Great Fatherland as candidates. The party lost its registration with the Ministry of Justice when the elections were already in full swing. As a result, the election commissions began annulling the registrations of its representatives although at the start of the campaign the party officially existed. Such was a situation in Novosibirsk, for example (see Appendix, card № 15). At the same time, it should be admitted that often the candidates or parties themselves prove to be unprepared for the proper execution of their nomination (see Appendix, cards № 16 — 18).

2.2 Administrative interference and pressure on the candidates

In the context of wide-scale unlawful restrictions of the citizens’ electoral rights and related public protests, this year, crackdown on the candidates and their followers loomed large. Often, this is a result of the repressive actions by the government law enforcement bodies.

This primarily concerns Moscow where a number of known opposition politicians were denied registration as candidates for the Moscow City Duma and this led to peaceful street protests. The protests were met with detentions and large fines, to which thousands of voters were subjected. The opposition leaders themselves are for the greater part under arrest, and it so happens that one administrative arrest is immediately replaced by a new detention as soon as the politician exits the special isolation unit where they served time.

The “Convention of Standards of Democratic Elections, Electoral Rights and Freedoms in the CIS Countries” states that genuine elections ensure the uncovering of the freely expressed will of the people and its direct performance. This requires real political diversity, ideological pluralism and a multi-party system, and the voters’ free access to the information about the candidates and the election process. The freedom of assembly, established in the Russian Constitution, serves as one of the guarantees of such diversity and freedom of political expression.

The signals about crackdown on the candidates or members of their campaign offices were received from the Bryansk, Tula, Nizhny Novgorod regions and the republics of Tatarstan, Mari El, Karachay-Cherkessia (see Appendix, cards №19 - 26).

Candidate for Tula regional Duma Yuri Koretsky accompanied by the police.

In St. Petersburg, there were a number of cases of artificially created lines [for submission of documents] where conflicts would flare up, all the way to physical assault. The facts of physical interference with the candidates were registered on 26 June at the election commission of the Rzhevka municipal district. On 29 June, at the election commission of Ekateringofsky municipal district, the candidates were detained by police under “false reports.” On 2 July, a candidate was beaten and had to be taken to the hospital next to the election commission of the Chernaya Rechka municipal district.

In the Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia, as KPRF reported, there have been attempts to prevent registration of KPRF party list at the elections to the People’s Assembly. The party’s representatives would not be allowed to enter the building where election commission meets. They were removed from the building, with their hands twisted behind their backs, by the Federal National Guard Troops servicemen (see Appendix, card №21).

In the Tula region, the police detained for the whole night four KPRF candidates: the acting deputy Alexey Lebedev, the editor-in-chief of Tulskaya Pravda newspaper Mikhail Fedorov, Svetlana Belous and animal rights’ advocate Yuri Koretsky (see Appendix, card №22).

In Novosibirsk, Tula and Nizhny Novgorod regions, the candidates received threats or have been shadowed (see Appendix, cards №24 - 26).

The replacement of electoral competition by crackdown on the opposition and detention of well-known politicians who attempted to nominate themselves for the elections, were unlawfully denied, and then, together with the followers, tried to defend their electoral rights, creates a situation when society no longer trusts the institute of elections.

Moreover, the authorities use article 141 of the Russian Criminal Code “Obstruction of exercise of electoral rights or the work of election commissions” to prosecute people who defend their electoral rights. On 24 July, the Main Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee for the city of Moscow opened a case under this article over the protests that were held next to Moscow City Election Commission.

Logically speaking, this article is supposed to protect voters from unlawful pressure and bribes and to guarantee the autonomy of election commissions’ actions. The article primarily concerns application of pressure on the part of the officials. However, in reality, there are almost no instances when this article was applied effectively.

This is explained by the fact that most persons violating the rights of the voters or interfering with the actions of officially independent election commissions are members of the commissions themselves or officials from the executive branch of power. In particular, this article could be used against the municipal and government officials who abuse administrative resource during elections. But most often this article is used against persons accused of bribing the voters or members of the commissions.

Apart from direct interference, the candidates also face administrative pressure and even threats on the part of the officials.

The regional administrations actively interfere in the process of drafting party lists and nomination of candidates for the representative bodies of different levels. Such incidents were reported in the Bryansk, Ivanovo and Tula regions and republics of Mari El and Karachay-Cherkessia.

All of the incidents are related to the nomination of candidates without prior approval from the regional administrations. Thus, high-profile scandals took place at the regional elections in the Bryansk region with the Rodina party list, and in the republic of Karachay-Cherkessia and Tula region – with KPRF party lists (see Appendix, cards №1, 27 - 30). In all cases, the party lists included the candidates inconvenient for the regional administration, and while KPRF lists preserved their registration, the Rodina party list failed to make it to the elections. Pressure on the candidates was also applied in the Tula region and republic of Mari El.

A case in point happened in August in Moscow where communist Vladislav Kolmogorov, running in the 45th single-mandate district, withdrew from the elections. This happened right after Ilya Yashin, who was not allowed to run, called on his followers to vote on 8 September for Kolmogorov.

Kolmogorov claims that right after that the election commission received information about his expunged criminal record that he didn’t mention in his nomination application. According to the candidate, he “was offered to withdraw right away or face a big scandal in the media that will still result in dismissal, plus the party’s reputation will be tarnished.”

Having said that, the list of single-mandate candidates from KPRF was authenticated in mid-June. After the application was submitted, the election commission had to send a request for information to the law enforcement agencies, including the existence of candidates’ criminal records. According to the law, the Ministry of Internal Affairs had 10 days to run the background check. This means that information about Kolmogorov’s criminal record had to be available to the election commission at the end of June or beginning of July, but the decision to make this information public was made only after the possibility of this candidate’s victory arose.

For all intents and purposes, elections to the regional representative assemblies and local government bodies are controlled by the regional administrations at the stage of nomination and registration of candidates. For their part, the election commissions fail to be an independent player in this process and instead serve as convenient instruments of unlawful screening of the authorities’ strong opponents.

About Golos Movement’s long-term monitoring program

More than 5,000 elections will take place in all of Russia’s regions on the single voting day of 8 September 2019. About 47,000 mandates and elected positions are up for elections. About 56 million citizens will be able to vote.

In 2019, the Golos Movement for Protection of Voters’ Rights is running a program of long-term monitoring that includes selecting monitoring of the regional and municipal election campaigns for compliance with the principles and standards of free and fair democratic elections. The following most important elections are called for 8 September 2019:

  • off-year elections of State Duma deputies in the four constituents of the Russian Federation;
  • elections of the highest officials in 16 regions of the Russian Federation;
  • elections of deputies of regional legislative assemblies in 13 constituents of the Russian Federation;
  • municipal elections at 22 regional capitals, including elections of mayors in Anadyr, Novosibirsk and Ulan-Ude.

Important election campaigns are happening in 39 regions. The Golos Movement is doing systematic public monitoring of 2019 elections in 35 regions. In addition to this, the analysis also includes information from the other regions that was submitted to the Map of Violations information resource and published in the media.

The Golos Movement is guided in its work by the international standards of election monitoring and remains strictly politically neutral, which is an essential precondition of independent and objective election monitoring.

Expert group that worked on the report: Stanislav Andreichuk, Vitaly Kovin, Alexey Petrov, Denis Shadrin.

Regional long-term observers: Anna Bochilo, Artur Asafiev, Arslang Tavkhaev, Dina Grigorieva, Mikhail Tikhonov, Andrey Gusev, Ekaterina Ponomarenko, Andrey Kalinichenko, Sofia Ivanova, Kirill Kruglikov, Irina Maltseva, Dmitry Krayukhin, Mikhail Kuzovkov, Ksenia Cherepanova, Valery Korolev, Alexey Golubkov, Alexander Grezev, Alexey Vlasov, Daniil Maltsev, Dmitry Nesterov, Natalia Menkova.