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Golos and St. Petersburg Observers Announce Artificial Restraints on Political Competition for Elections of St. Petersburg Governor

On September 8, 2019, St. Petersburg will elect a new governor. The city legislation stipulates one of Russia’s toughest “municipal filters”: a candidate for the position must collect the signatures of at least 10% of the municipal deputies. 

The Golos Movement in Support of the Voters’ Rights and St. Petersburg Observers public association declare that at the start of campaign, the “municipal filter” in St. Petersburg has become an instrument for denying a place on the ballot to the candidates who have the voters’ support. This “filter” destroys political competition and prevents the appearance of strong regional politicians. Most importantly, it de facto deprives the city’s residents of choice. 

The barrier set in St. Petersburg means that the future candidates for the position have to collect 158 signatures of deputies representing ¾ of municipal districts. According to our calculations, at this moment, only United Russia party has a sufficient number of representatives to overcome the “municipal filter”: it has 1,066 active municipal deputies. It is important to note that United Russia’s charter allows influence of the deputies, compelling them to support the candidates in accordance with decisions of the party bodies. The other parties, represented in St. Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly, have the following number of deputies: LDPR – 46 municipal deputies, Just Russia – 40, KPRF – 24, Party of Growth – 1, and Yabloko – 0. Meanwhile, at the regional elections of 2016, each of these parties had a significant support from the city residents, receiving over 100,000 votes. There are 182 deputies who were elected as self-nominated candidates. 

Table. Distribution of municipal deputies’ mandates in St. Petersburg by nominating entities (from the data published on the website of St. Petersburg Election Commission)

Nominating entity

Number of mandates received

Left elected office

Total number of mandates as of April 24, 2019

United Russia












Just Russia








Communists of Russia



Great Fatherland



Labor Party




Civilian Platform



Party of Growth



Rodina / Motherland




Out of 1,575 municipal deputies elected in St. Petersburg, 190 left their elected office for various reasons, but due to the law adopted by the regional parliament and later contested by the prosecutor’s office, there were no additional elections held for the vacant mandates. Considering the dropout deputies, the candidates for the governor’s seat will have to collect the same number of signatures but only among those still active. As a result, the “municipal filter” will actually exceed the 10% specified by law. 

The given conditions of St. Petersburg’s “municipal filter” significantly limit the possibility of realizing the passive right to vote and contradict the political neutrality, constitutional norms and common sense. In the end, the voters themselves should have the last word in conferring the authority in this or that candidate. 

This contradicts the generally accepted standards of democratic elections and Russian Federation’s international obligations. Thus, article 9 of the Convention on the Standards of Democratic Election, Suffrage and Freedoms in Members of the CIS states that the authentic elections guarantee the reveal of the freely expressed will of the people and its direct consummation. This requires actual political pluralism, ideological diversity, and multi-party system. 

Appraising constitutionality of the “municipal filter,” the Constitutional Court of Russia admitted that the federal legislator has a right to make additional provisions for the registration of the candidate for the position of the highest official of the Russian Federation subject, but only in order to “exclude from the election process persons without sufficient support from the voters.” At the same time, evaluating the existing mechanism, the Court obligated the legislators to exclude the possibility of creating artificial barriers for nomination of other candidates. 

The federal legislation makes it possible to lower the “municipal filter” to 5% prior to the start of campaign. For St. Petersburg, such 5% would mean 79 signatures. However, the city has 111 municipal districts. As was mentioned earlier, the law also requires that the signatures are collected from deputies in at least ¾ of all municipal districts. This means that the number of signatures cannot be less than 84. 

If the decision to lower the “municipal filter” to 5.5% is made, the problem of overcoming this barrier remains. Even the largest political parties won’t have sufficient resources of their own: LDPR will need 41 additional votes, Just Russia – 47, KPRF – 63, Party of Growth – 86, and Yabloko – 87 signatures from other parties or self-nominated candidates. The task of overcoming the “filter” will only be solvable with support from the United Russia party. 

The Golos Movement and St. Petersburg Observers proceed from the understanding of people as the only source of power in the country, enshrined in the Russian Constitution, and believe that the highest expression of this power is in the form of the fair elections. 

Before the elections of St. Petersburg governor are called, we urge:

  • the Federal Assembly and the President of Russia to approve the draft law from April 2, 2019 № 679381-7, that relaxes conditions of the “municipal filter,” and augment this law by remission of demand that the candidates collect municipal deputies’ signatures in at least ¾ of municipal districts;
  • the Federal Assembly and the President of Russia to permit municipal deputies to sign in support of the nomination of more than one candidate for the governor;
  • the Legislative Assembly and the Governor of St. Petersburg to adopt the amendments to the city law “On the Elections of the Highest Official of St. Petersburg – the Governor of St. Petersburg,” lowering the “municipal filter” to the minimum. Right now, it can be lowered to 5.5%. 

We call on all the municipal deputies of St. Petersburg to sign in support of the maximum number of candidates for the elections of city governor. 

Such decisions will be in the interest of voters and will conform to the democratic traditions of St. Petersburg.