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Golos suggests legislatures empower NGOs to delegate election observers

Public chambers should appoint observers of regional and local elections. This idea is in focus of a draft law prepared by senator Andrei Klishas, already passed in the first reading by the State Duma. This provision was already in force during presidential elections. 

During one of the discussions, the secretary of the Central Electoral Commission of Russia Maya Grishina noted that this amendment is impossible to enforce before the regional elections to be held on 9 September. She proposed regional authorities to make appropriate amendments to their regional legislations autonomously. 

For example, the Moscow City Duma passed the motion introduced by the city mayor in a fast-track manner. It secured a right to the Public Chamber of Moscow to appoint observers to regional and local elections in Moscow. However, this opportunity is not yet included in the appropriate federal law, thus making it available only at presidential elections at the national level. The Moscow City Prosecutor’s Office brought the inconsistency to public notice and protested against the amendments to Moscow’s Electoral Code. 

On the other hand, Andrei Klishas, the Head of the Committee on State-Building of the Council of Federation, asked Yury Chaika, the Prosecutor General, to support amending regional legislations for authorising public chambers to appoint observers at regional elections without amending the federal law, with a reference to the expansion of guarantees. 

As regional legislations must be in line with federal law by the Russian Constitution, initiatives of regional parliaments are debatable. 

Golos offers a simple and consistent way to regional legislators. According to the federal law, regions are free to empower NGOs to delegate observers to polling stations (Article 29.4 of the Law 67). Along with helping regional MPs to avoid hectic adoption of a law challenged by prosecutors, it could create real possibilities for observation by the civil society, free of redundant intermediaries or filters. 

This procedure for federal elections was in place before 2005; for regional elections, many legislatures made steps to exclude it from their regional legislations year after year. It is a good time to reintroduce it.