Statement of The Movement for Defence of Voters' Rights "Golos" on voting on Amendments to the Constitution of Russia.
President Vladimir Putin addressed an annual message to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation on January 15, 2020. He announced the adoption of amendments package to the Constitution of the country, which as he said "relate to significant changes in the political system, the activities of the executive, the legislative and the judiciary." He also stated that despite the legal opportunity to adopt the amendments by a vote in Parliament, he considered it necessary to hold a national voting on the whole package of proposed amendments, as the decisive in their adoption should still be "the opinion of people, our citizens, as the holder of sovereignty and the main source of power."
The Golos movement is positive about the idea of identifying the will of people of the country in making important political decisions. The drafting and adoption of the Constitution, the modification of its important provisions, must certainly be the common business of the nation.
However, Russian laws cannot provide the proposed voting. Rather, it seems to be like a manipulative and propaganda approach aimed at legitimizing situational solutions to specific political forces.
The Golos movement considers that results of the voting may identify the will of citizens only if the next four principles will be observed.
- The voting of citizens on such an important issue should be preceded by the beforehand adoption of clear and sustainable rules for such voting at the law level. Such rules should not be established by decree and should not be situational and opportunistic. It is a matter of the legislative (Federal Assembly) to develop such rules, which should create understandable conditions for identifying the opinion of citizens and equal opportunities for all political actors (political parties and other public associations and initiative groups).
- The only proper form for identifying the will of citizens of the adoption of amendments to the Constitution is a referendum. It is obvious now that the announced voting on amendments to the Constitution will not be a referendum in the sense of the federal constitutional law "About the Referendum of the Russian Federation." The Golos movement considers that the refusal to use the legal mechanism of the referendum is an attempt to circumvent the guarantees of the citizens’ rights to participate in the referendum enshrined in the law, as well as the norms enshrined in the procedural codes guaranteeing judicial protection of these rights and sanctions for their violation. We believe that such decisions as the holding of a so called "non-referendum voting" which is not provided by law - lead to the destruction of the law. Such decisions show that any legal prohibition can be circumvented by inventing a new quasi-legal mechanism.
- The identification of the informed will of the people is possible only after a broad, sufficiently lengthy and meaningful discussion, during which different views on the proposals can be formulated and discussed. Civil rights to receive information and to campaign under these conditions should be at least as high as those provided on elections and referendums in the current legislation. In particular, there are should be ensured a meaningful discussion of issues put to the vote, including the right to form campaign groups which can have theirown funds. They should be given sufficient time to spread their views to the voters. The national voting should only sum up the logical, legitimate and legal outcome of such a public discussion.
- There should be different voting on every amendment as there is a large package of amendments put to the vote but not the single document of the Constitution. One voter may have opposing position on different amendments, and those who support one amendment may not support the other. We believe the proposal to vote directly for the whole package of amendments will not allow to identify the citizens' opinion on each issues. We consider so called "package voting" a completely unacceptable approach.
From our point of view non-compliance of these four principles discredits the very idea of appealing to the citizens' opinion when solving such important issues of state structure, fixed in the Constitution, and proposes instead of identifying the will of citizens its surrogate.