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Analytical Report of the First Stage of Election Campaign to the Moscow City Duma of the Sixth Convocation for the Period from March 17 to July 11, 2014

1. Previous Elections to the Moscow City Duma on October 11, 2009

Elections were held on party lists and single-mandate constituencies. 18 out of 35 deputies were elected by party lists, another 17 – by single-mandate constituencies. To get into the City Duma it was required to overcome the 7% threshold. The term of the office of the last Moscow City Duma was extended from four to five years. On June 16, 2009 the system of vote counting was changed – complicated mathematical Imperiali method was introduced [1], establishing an advantage for the leader of the election race [2].

Parliamentary parties were able to nominate lists and candidates without additional requirements. The other parties were required to collect 1% of voters’ signatures (not less than 71 000 signatures) for the registration of the list [3]. Candidates from single-mandate constituencies were required to collect 4000–5000 signatures. Eventually election commissions rejected signatures to seven representatives of the «Solidarity» movement, and also to three out of four nominees of the «Right Cause» party.

2. Legislative Changes Before the Election 2014

Legislative changes began in 2010 with the adoption of new legislative norms on the representative bodies in regional parliaments. Since August 1, 2011 in the regions with over 2 000 000 voters there should have been from 45 to 110 deputies [5]. Before the adoption of the new law, Moscow, comparable to the population of the Czech Republic or Portugal, had one of the smallest regional parliaments, consisting of 35 members. Candidates competed in the districts with up to 400 000 voters. Eventually the number of the seats in Moscow City Duma has grown from 35 to 45. Although, according to experts, mathematically optimal number in such a large city should be around 190 deputies [6].

2.1.Full Transition to Majority System

Federal law as of November 2, 2013 № 303-F3 «Regarding amendments to certain legislative acts of Russian Federation» (the so-called «law of Klishas») reduced the mandatory share of deputies of regional parliaments (except for Moscow and St. Petersburg), elected according to the proportional system, from 50% to 25%.

Mandatory application of proportional system was completely abolished in Moscow and St. Petersburg [7].

During the session of Moscow City Duma in January 2014, based on the adopted federal law, deputies from the «United Russia» submitted a proposal regarding elections only in a single-mandate constituencies. Reluctance of the «United Russia» to be elected from the party list was interpreted by the representatives of the opposition as an attempt of its functionaries to dissociate from its own brand. According to critics of the given initiative, when the actual support is less than half of the voters, the ruling party can get up to 100% seats in the City Parliament.

During the transition to the majority system and increase in the number of the seats to 45, the districts decreased. From the medium 400 000 voters to 160 000 voters in the district.

2.2. New Barrier to the Registration of Party Candidates

Another change in the federal legislation, as amended by law as of May 5, 2014 № 95-F3 became the requirement to collect signatures for party candidates in majority districts.

Privilege under the registration of candidates to Moscow City Duma is given to parliamentary parties: «United Russia», «Communist Party», «Just Russia», «Liberal Democratic Party», and «Yabloko», which gained above 3% of the votes in the election to the State Duma in 2011. While the total number of parties entitled to participate in the elections reached 69.

Moreover, in the election to Moscow City Duma the number of signatures required for the registration of candidates was increased to 3% from the number of voters of the respective constituency. Thus, after reducing the number of voters in the district nearly in three times, the number of signatures required for the registration increased from 4000 to 5000.

2.3. Initiation of Early Voting

Moreover, the law № 95-FЗ in accordance to the decree of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation as of March 15, 2014 ordered to use either absentee ballots in the elections, or early voting. In the election to Moscow City Duma early voting will be used.

2.4. Gerrymandering

The boundaries of electoral districts were redistributed twice during this year in Moscow. And only on April 30, 2014 the new law of Moscow city № 22 «Regarding the scheme of single-mandate constituencies for the election of the deputies to the Moscow City Duma» was adopted, according to which 45 constituencies were formed.

The majority of the districts (29) include not only the entire counties, but also their parts, many of which are distributed between different districts. In some cases this results in more territorially compact districts. However, a number of districts was still very far from the compact form and their appearance may establish political advantage for particular candidates.

For instance, the reasonableness of the boundaries of the following districts raise doubts: № 2 (Kurkino, Molzhaninovskiy, Severnoe Tushino, Yuzhnoe Tushino), № 3 (Mitino, Pokrovskoe-Streshnevo, part of Shukino county), № 9 (Begovoi, Savelovskiy, Timiriazevskiy, Horoshevskiy, part of Beskudnikovskiy county), № 38 and № 39 (these two districts cover territories of «new Moscow»).

Claims have been made to the distribution of Ziuzino county between two districts (one part was connected to Yasenevo and Severniy Butovo, the other one – to Chertanovo Severniy and Nagorniy) [8].

Experts specializing in the mathematical models of elections, sharply criticized the actions of Moscow City Election Commission. According to them, they are directed against the strongest opposition candidates. In the most of the cases – they are well-known in their districts municipal deputies.

2.5. Delayed Return of the Graph «Against All»

Among other changes – limited and delayed return of the graph «against all». According to the federal law as of June 4, 2014 № 146-FЗ [9] the graph is valid only in the municipal election and only at the request of regional legislator. However, enactment of this provision is planned only from January 1, 2015. Thus, despite the popularity of the graph among the population, there will be no voting «against all» in the September 14 election.

Among positive changes it can be noted that the above mentioned law № 95-FЗ as of May 5, 2014 reduced the threshold from 7% to 5%. However, the general tightening of the rules of candidate and party lists registration is directed towards preventing new political parties from the participation in the electoral process.

Inadequately inflated barrier of up to 3% of signatures for the candidates to Moscow City Duma became the most rigid norm in the registration of candidates throughout the entire modern history of the country. In fact, this is injunction, especially considering extremely compressed period of time to collect the signatures, coinciding with the time of summer holidays.

Registration of the candidates from the political parties that do not have privileges and also self-promoted candidates, under this system becomes registration by taking «political decisions» in the regime of manual informal control.

3. Primaries «My Moscow»

Traditionally lower rating of the «United Russia» in Moscow stimulated the search for new formats of positioning of the candidates for the participation in the election. This is how emerged the idea of primaries not on behalf of «United Russia», which did not conduct its own primaries, but as formally independent project «Citizen Initiative» «My Moscow». The project was proposed by the prominent people such as the chief editor of «Nezavisimaya Gazeta» Konstantin Remchukov, doctor Leonid Roshal and deputy Lyudmila Shvetsova [10]. On the official website of the project (москва2014.рф) among its’ participants one can find city branch of the «United Russia» party together with traditional pool of pro-authorities public organizations (labor unions of public education and health care workers, war veterans committee, community of the deaf, community of the blind, confederation of industrialists and entrepreneurs, etc.) [11]. Moscow Federation of Trade Unions, Moscow Chamber of Commerce, Moscow Union of Afghan Veterans, and even Russian Public Institute of Suffrage, whose chairman of the board is the former CEC member Igor Borisov, were among the project participants.

Theoretically anyone could participate in the project, and among 1033 applicants from 45 districts were not only members of the «United Russia», but also «Civic Platform», «Alliance of Greens and Social Democrats» and «Just Russia».

Several independent candidates decided to participate in the primaries organized by the Mayor’s Office. Former adviser to the Deputy Mayor Leonid Pechatnikov, Maria Gaidar has been nominated in the primaries. She was the one who reported about the violations in her district. Representatives of «My Moscow» near the registries of policlinics in the 43d constituency agitated to vote for Vera Shastina, member of the «United Russia» and head physician of joint policlinics № 220 [12].

Candidates actively placed billboards, organized pickets, meetings with voters, etc. The campaign also took place on the election day.

Campaigning in support of the project and its main candidates, obviously, has been conducted with administrative assistance. It was not removed by utility employees, what usually happens with any unsanctioned outdoor advertising, and it was widely publicized by Moscow media (TV channels «Moscow 24″ and TVC, the newspaper «Moskovskaya Pravda»). There were many reports about the attempts of forced voting of employees of governmental entities, SMS text messages with addresses of the nearest polling stations being massively sent to subscribers. This means that the access to personal data of mobile subscribers has been obtained, including address of registration.

Before the primaries on June 8 Muscovites received SMS text messages calling to vote. The company «Front Line» sent SMS messages to 2 000 000 Muscovites, who reached 18 years [13]. Municipal deputy from Otradnoe district Mikhail Velmakin told about forcing state employees to participate in the primaries [14]. Students were chased to the election campaign, while employees of state and municipal institutions – to the early voting. Observers reported cases of requests of official confirmation of the participation [15] and cases of mass bussing [16].

Despite the mobilization of administrative resource, only 258 000 voters arrived to the polling stations [17]. It makes up around 3% of voters of the city. The turnout varied in different districts. Officially organizers of «My Moscow» did not promise any support in collection of signatures for the winners of the project. However, they declared that they were prepared to place two billboards with the image of the winning candidate in each of 45 districts and to place information about the winning candidates in 28 000 porches. This will be done at the expense of the funds collected by the organizers and not from the election funds of the candidates – that is, before the registration, so it will not be considered as official external agitation [18].

Among winners were 29 members of the «United Russia» – 16 acting deputies of Moscow City Duma, 6 representatives of education field, 7 doctors.

Maria Gaidar and the member of the «Progress Party» of Alexey Navalny, Vladislav Naganov lost the primaries. Gaidar ran in the Central Administrative District, which is one of the most complicated in terms of competition of the districts. She gained 363 out of 2983 votes, and lost to the artist Leonid Yarmolnik from the «Civic Platform», who gained 1091 votes. Two other candidates from the «Civic Platform» lost the primaries. Quite unexpected was the victory of the municipal deputy from the «Just Russia» party Ilya Sviridov over the leader of the project Probok.net Aleksandr Shumskiy. The latter conducted one of the most active election campaigns using the slogan «We have returned Crimea, and we will return parking for cars». His image together with «patriotic» slogan was placed on the billboards of the capital. The cost of such action, by some estimates, could reach tens of millions of rubles [19]. At the end Shumskiy gained 856 votes, while Sviridov – 1050 out of 3540 votes in the district.

Chairman of the Moscow branch of the «Green Alliance» party Alexander Zakondyrin bypassed the head of district executive committee of the «United Russia» Sergey Ladochkin, gaining a thousand votes more. Thus, three opposition candidates won the primaries «My Moscow»: municipal deputy from the «Just Russia» party Ilya Sviridov, Leonid Yarmolnik from the «Civic Platform " party and representative of the «Alliance of Greens and Social Democrats» Alexander Zakondyrin.

However, primaries showed that in the most cases «national candidates» from the ruling party gained far fewer votes in the districts than independent candidates and representatives of parliamentary parties (plus party of «Yabloko»).

Billboards and other symbolics of «national candidates» were not removed after the early voting. Candidate Oleg Mitvol reported about illegal campaigning in the district № 9 in Timiryazevskiy county [20]. In the district № 17 in Ivanovskoe county Vladislav Naganov complained about the billboard of doctor Alexander Smetanov. District Election Commission in five days replied to the candidate that the banner of his pro-government opponent was placed legally. However, it was soon dismantled [21].

The project «My Moscow» actually means that the «ruling party» will be replaced by the «party of administration», possessing maximum administrative resource and performing more as a regional political unit.

4. Pre-Election Alliances

Besides «My Moscow» primaries, two alliances emerged at the start of the campaign. Activists of the oppositional parties «RPR-PARNAS», «Progress Party» and «5 December Party» formed a coalition «For Moscow» [22]. It includes Ilya Yashin, Maria Gaidar, Nikolay Liaskin, Konstantin Yankauskas, Olga Romanova and other prominent activists. «Civic Platform» and «Alliance of Greens and Social Democrats» also concluded cooperation agreement [23]. Alexander Zakondyrin and Mikhail Vyshegorodtsev agreed not to compete in the districts, where candidates are nominated. However, Zakondyrin violated the agreement later and was nominated in the district № 8, where the agreed candidate was Denis Konstantinov from the «Civic Platform» party. As a result, after collection of signatures Zakondyrin decided to refuse the registration in the election and competition with Konstantinov [24].

5. Criminal Cases Against Candidates

The most prominent story of this election campaign was initiation of the case against supporters of Alexey Navalny, who were preparing to participate in the elections. Criminal case regarding fraud during the election campaign of Alexey Navalny in Moscow mayoral election was initiated against Konstantin Yankauskas, Nikolai Liaskin and Vladimir Ashurkov. Head of Navalny’s headquarters Leonid Volkov emphasizes that there are no legal grounds for the persecution of the oppositionists. Moscow City Election Commission considered legitimate the scheme of donations, which has been used during Moscow mayoral election by Alexey Navalny, and none of the donors made no claims [25].

On June 11 Investigative Committee raided and accused under part 4, article 159 of the Criminal Code of Russian Federation (fraud committed by an organized group on a large scale) [26].

Vladimir Ashurkov was announced wanted. Nikolai Liaskin was released on his own recognizance, while Konstantin Yankauskas was placed under house arrest. Due to his arrest he was first banned to visit election commission and to submit the documents for his nomination [27], and after submission of the documents by his wife Olga Gorelik, representatives of election commission tried to return them during unexpected night visit [28]. Long time after this Konstantin’s wife was denied opening an account for her husband in Sberbank [29]. Due to smaller districts, predicted low turnout and popularity of Yankauskas in his county of Ziuzino, where in 2012 he ran for municipal deputy, Konstantin had high chances for victory. The initiated case was used at the end of the election campaign against Nikolai Liaskin. On the last day of signature collection investigator of Investigative Committee of RF called Nikolai for questioning, preventing him from completing the collection of signatures [30].

6. Obstacles to Collect Signatures

Most of the candidates when collecting the signatures were faced with attempts to stop them. For example, County Councils ordered not to let in the houses signature collectors [31]. In some of the cases representatives of the County Councils were physically preventing collectors from entering the buildings and communicating with residents [32]. Candidates reported about regular video surveillance of the collection spots [33], [34].

Signature collector for Olga Romanova was detained by police patrol [35]. Other collectors for Romanova were prevented by security guards, who were using physical force. The most notorious case with the involvement of security guards was an assault against the candidate and municipal deputy Vera Kichanova. One of the attackers, the senior inspector of the shopping centre «Kaleidoscope» Alexey Bulychev tore up 40 signatures, grabbed hair of Kichanova, claimed that the metro area belongs to him [36], [37]. Police is permissive to all similar cases and actually covers actions of security guards.

7. Obstructing Barrier

As already mentioned before, due to a sharp decrease in the size of constituencies, Moscow City Duma increased the barrier for registration from 1% to 3% of voters’ signatures. From average 4000 required in 2009, in 2014 the barrier rose to 5000. At the same time, for the collection of signatures only 30 days were given. Candidates were able to register only on the fifth day of the campaign, as the first four days fell on the weekend. In order to collect 5000 signatures in 25 days, candidate had to collect 200 signatures on a daily basis. Due to traditional captiousness of election commissions to the formalization of signature sheets, it was necessary to collect one-third more than announced. The last days were dedicated to thorough verification and notary certification. Each candidate had to dedicate one day to personal verification of many hundreds of signature sheets. Despite the participation of volunteers in the campaign, all the candidates had to employ paid collectors. Average price per signature ranged from 100 to 200 rubles. Therefore, there was an additional property qualification for admission to participate in the elections. Only at this stage of the campaign candidate needed from 1 500 000 to 2 000 000 rubles.

In fact, all independent candidates were in notoriously difficult conditions. In order to collect required number of signatures, they needed significant financial or administrative resource.

Principle of free elections require equal conditions for the participation of candidates. Privileges granted to certain party candidates violate this principle, especially when elections are held in single-mandate constituencies. In case of elections in single-mandate constituencies, either uniform standard of signature collection for all candidates, or paying certain amount of deposit is necessary.

Discriminatory principle of signature collection is clearly visible when comparing with the results of the primaries «My Moscow». Around 258 000 Muscovites attended the primaries. For example, take a few constituencies where prominent independent candidates were nominted. In the district № 37 3543 persons, residing in the Akademicheskiy, Gagarinskiy, Lomonosovskiy and Prospekt Verganskogo counties, attended the primaries. The winner was the deputy chief physician of the City Clinical Hospital № 1 named after N.I. Pirogov Marina Oleneva, who gained 575 votes. Oppositionist Ilya Yashyn collected 4436 signatures in the same district [38]. It was required to collect 4989 signatures in the district № 34, while in the primaries participated 4490 persons. The leader of the «Democratic Choice» Vladimir Milov collected 3850 signatures, while the winner of the primaries, acting deputy of Moscow City Duma from the «United Russia» Alexander Semennikov collected a half times less votes in the primaries – 2670 votes [39]. Almost in all districts oppositionists gained higher support than the winners of the initiative «My Moscow». Nikolai Liaskin, who is under investigation, collected over 4400 signatures, while the head of veteran organization Andrei Shibaev – 2921 votes in the primaries [40].

8. Media Campaign against Candidates

In addition to legislative obstacles, criminal cases and physical resistance, independent candidates faced the so-called «black PR». TV channel NTV in the night from June 29 to June 30 showed film about friendship and enmity between human rights defenders and criminal world. The candidate to Moscow City Duma Olga Romanova became the hero of the investigation. Authors argued that Romanova is closely connected to the Ukrainian nationalist organization «Right Sector». Moreover, in one of the episodes criminal boss threatened to kill the human rights activist [41]. Later it became clear that the role of «criminal boss» was performed by Oleg Protasov – actor with a criminal past, who starred in TV series «Zone» [42].

Another notable scandal was the publication of the records of private conversations between Maxim Kats and Nikolai Liaskin by Life News [43]. It was pointed out in the materials that oppositionists were aware of the facts of illegal signature collection, and Kats was recommended to conduct illegal actions by Alexey Navalny. Firstly, it should be noted that the given record has been made illegally, and, secondly, the record proves that Kats and Liaskin did not participate in the illegal actions. The candidates said that the published pieces of conversations were taken out of the context of conversation and mounted by Life News [44].

The publication of Life News has become one of the stages of the media campaign against independent candidates. The campaign aimed at sowing doubts about the honesty of signature collection by independent candidates. Unidentified people were regularly recording spots of signature collection, and afterwards videos demonstrating a complete lack of interest in people to collectors were published on Youtube. Maxim Motin, Vladimir Milov and Maxim Kats declared about the ongoing campaign against them [45]. In addition to these stories, posts and publications in the blogs and media directed against candidates have been published [46], [47].

Sources

[1] Vedomosti. Imperiali Method.
[2] Moskovskiy Komsomolets. Moscow City Duma Betrayed Itself. 17.07.2009
[3] Kommersant. «Yabloko» and «Patriots of Russia» Collected Signatures. 24.08.2009
[4] Gazeta.ru Moscow Six 04.09.2009
[5] Rossiyskaya Gazeta Federal Law of Russian Federation as of April 5, 2010 № 42-FZ
[6] Forbes. Alexander Kynev The End of the System: What Will Be the New Moscow City Duma 31.10.2013
[7] Radio Ekho Moskvy The Procedure for the Election of Moscow and St. Petersburg Parliaments Will Be Changed. 22.10.2013
[8]Zhyvoy Zhurnal. «Ziuzino Headquarters» Considers Redistribution of Electoral Districts as Pre-Electoral Manipulation 29.04.2014
[9] Federal Law of Russian Federation as of June 4, 2014 № 146-FZ
[10] Kommersant Public Beginning of Moscow Elections. 25.03.2014
[11] Website of the Civic Initiative «My Moscow»
[12] Live Journal of Maria Gaidar How «Volunteers» of the Primaries «My Moscow» Are Agitating for the Candidates from the «United Russia» in Policlinics
[13] Vedomosti. How Organizers of the «Civic Primaries» Treated Personal Data of Voters
[14] Website of radiostation Ekho Moskvy Blog of Mikhail Velmakin. Primaries or General Repetition of Falsifications?
[15] Twitter of Tatyana Volkova
[16] Twitter of Vladislav Naganov
[17] Interfax. Preliminary Results of the Primaries to Moscow City Duma Published. 09.06.2014
[18] PBK. Almost as Elections: Primaries to the City Parliament Were Held for the First Time in Moscow 08.06.2014
[19] Bolshoy Gorod. How a Little-Known Activist Seized the Billboards in Moscow? 06.06.2014
[20] Twitter of Oleg Mitvol
[21] Live Journal of Vladislav Naganov. 27.06.2014
[22] Website of the Coallition «For Moscow»
[23] Website of the political party «Alliance of Greens and Social Democrats»
[24] Twitter of Alexander Zakondyrin 11.07.2014
[25] Live Jounral of Leonid Volkov. A Little Bit About Yandex Wallets and the Case of Liaskin-Yankauskas-Ashurkov. 16.06.2014
[26] Official Website of the Investigative Committee of RF. Allies of Alexey Navalny Charged With Fraud 11.06.2014
[27] Facebook of Konstantin Yankauskas. 20.06.2014
[28] Live Journal of Konstantin Yankauskas. Appeal to the Night Visitors. 21.06.2014
[29] Facebook of Konstantin Yankauskas 02.07.2014
[30] Newsru.com. Independent Candidate to Moscow City Duma Nikolai Liaskin Summoned to Investigative Committee After He Collected the Necessary Signatures 09.07.2014
[31] Facebook of Kirill Shuliki. 20.06.2014
[32] Live Journal of Vladimir Milov. First Appeal to the Investigative Committee Regarding Obstruction of My Agitation. 05.07.2014
[33] Live Journal of Maxim Kats Political Strategists Are Attacking. 30.06.2014
[34] Live Journal of Vladimir Milov. About Spying on Opposition Candidates to Moscow City Duma. 01.07.2014
[35] Facebook of Evgeniy Levkovich. 30.06.2014
[36] Live Journal of Denis Styazhkin. Attack on Signature Collectors for Vera Kichanova. 05.07.2014
[37] Radio station Ekho Moskvy Attack on the Municipal Deputy Vera Kichanova. 05.07.2014
[38] Live Journal of Ilya Yashin Signature Collection: Results. 10.06.2014
[39] Live Journal of the community «Democratic Choice». Vladimir Milov. Signatures: Bad News. 10.07.2014
[40] Website of Nikolai Liaskin. Complicated Decision. 10.07.2014
[41] Novayia Gazeta. Olga Romanova. They Promised to Kill Me 02.07.2014
[42] Facebook of Olga Romanova
[43] LifeNews. Candidates to Moscow City Duma Admitted Buying Signatures. 09.07.2014
[44] Besttoday. Moscow City Wiretapping. 09.07.2014
[45] Kommersant. Campaign Against Moscow Opposition. 20.06.2014
[46] Live Journal of Lena Miro. How Kats Has Been Collecting Signatures. 24.06.2014
[47] Svobodnayia Pressa. Fraudulent Election Maneuver. 07.07.2014