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Новость31 августа 2020, 18:53
Collage: Ksenia Telmanova

Contents

Key Findings

1. The state of party system before the start of election campaign

2. The results of candidate nomination and registration for regional and local government representatives elections

2.1. Political parties nominating candidates and lists

2.2. The results of party list registration in regional parliament elections

2.3. The results of candidate registration in single-member constituencies in regional parliament elections

2.4. The results of party list registration in elections to representative bodies of administrative centers

2.5. The results of candidate registration in single-member constituencies in elections to representative bodies of administrative centers

3. Cases of administrative resource misuse during nomination and registration of candidates

3.1. Interior Ministry members "scrapping" signatures

3.2. Using insubstantial claims to reject candidates registration

3.3. Pressuring of election commissions and candidates

3.4. Interfering with candidate registration as a passive suffrage deprivation technique

3.5. The influence of COVID-19 on nomination and registration processes

3.6. The issues of using Gosuslugi website to collect signatures for candidates

3.7. Using "spoilers" to interfere with voters making a conscious choice

On September 13, 2020, residents of certain Russian regions will vote on deputies for their legislative assemblies and local government bodies. These elections will also present the final opportunity for both political figures and election “administrators” of all ranks to prepare for the 2021 State Duma election.

This is the chance for the federal election managers to try out various campaign scenarios, where they evaluate election results based on participants and protest potential, decide on the most desirable scenario and on whether new parties should be allowed to participate in the federal election.

These elections will be the first to see the electoral legislation innovations, some of which were introduced by the controversial constitutional reform vote.

Innovation did not escape candidate registration process either. A modified signature collection procedure reduces the allowed rate of invalid signatures to 5%, allows partial collecting of signatures via the Gosuslugi (Public Services Portal of the Russian Federation) website, establishes a unified signature sheet format, requires voters to write down their full name by themselves, etc.

The September 13 election will become the last opportunity for the smaller parties to get “party privilege” for running in the 2021 legislative election, which is the right to nominate candidates without having to collect signatures. To get this right, a party list has to pass the 5% vote margin in at least one regional election.

This is the third report compiled by Golos as part of the long-term observation project focused on the September 13 elections. The report describes the results of candidate nomination and registration for regional and local legislature elections. Previous reports detailed the legal aspects of the elections as well as the results of gubernatorial candidate nomination and registration. Golos also made a special report on municipal filter procedures in Perm Krai.

An overall of 9071 campaigns will take place on September 13. These include by-elections to the Russian State Duma in four constituencies (considered as one campaign), gubernatorial elections in 18 regions, local legislative elections in 11 regions and city council elections in 22 administrative centers. Over 78,000 deputy seats and elective offices are to be replaced.

The main report provides only a brief description of cases of electoral fraud and electoral rights violation. For more detailed description and examples, refer to the Appendix.



Key Findings

  1. There was no qualitative improvement in the legislation and law enforcement practice in terms of candidate registration and rights protection as compared to the 2019 election, when rejection of opposition candidates in Moscow and Saint Petersburg triggered mass protests. The level of rejection clearly shows how difficult it is for candidates to register through signature collection when they are not endorsed by the administration office. In major elections (to regional parliaments and city councils), the level of rejection is only 2% for parties with privileges and ⅔ for independent candidates, while for parties without privileges it goes up to nearly 90%. The exceptions usually include “technical” candidates and spoiler parties.
  2. The most common reasons for rejection have not changed since the previous year. These include mismatching voter data in signature sheets and in the databases of either Interior Ministry or State Automated System "Vybory" (Rus. for “elections”) as well as graphologists rendering voter signatures invalid (as in affixed by other person). At the same time, suspicion of electoral fraud often falls on those who are supposed to check the validity of signatures. Just like the year before, there were cases when the voters whose signatures had been rendered invalid were later able to prove their validity in court.
  3. A candidate’s inability to register through collecting signatures without the approval of the Central Election Commission (CEC) produces the following effect: in major elections, the number of candidates nominated by parties with the right to nominate on a no-signature basis amounts to ⅔, while in regional elections this number may go as high as ¾.
  4. Election commissions and candidates often find themselves under pressure from administration and other sources. They are exposed to unlawful conduct from administration offices, employers, law-enforcement authorities and even their fellow party members.
  5. Collecting signatures proved especially difficult due to the COVID-19 prevention and control measures. Several candidates pointed out voters’ fear of contacting the virus as a significant issue. As a result, voters did not hand out their passports to signature collectors, dictating or filling in their data themselves instead, which made it difficult to avoid mistakes in signature sheets and only added to the issue of getting people to open their doors to signature collectors.
  6. The new digitalized way of collecting signatures—via the Gosuslugi website—is hardly being used. In electing deputies, it was used only once in Chelyabinsk Oblast. Besides, the system was simply not ready: not before the official start of the campaign, not even before the validation of early lists. The system experienced serious malfunction throughout the entire collection process. It was unable to protect the voters from invalid data issues found in the databases of either Interior Ministry or the CEC. Furthermore, the Election commission for Chelyabinsk Oblast barely did any promotion of the function in question. As a result, the “input” of digital signature collection was insignificant as the system was unable to handle the tasks it was designed for.
  7. Election commissions continue resorting to formal insubstantial nitpicking when refusing to register undesirable candidates. This time, the candidates were informed of documentation errors much later than it is required. Although the law states that the candidates are allowed at least three days to deal with errors, the reality was that commissions reported errors when there was no time to deal with them even in theory.
  8. A situation where a rival party interferes with a candidate’s registration by claiming he or she belongs to this party may be considered as an example of unfair electoral competition. The law forbids a member of one party to run as a candidate from another party. However, parties keep membership documents close and may misuse them by pressuring citizens into remaining members of said parties.
  9. As compared to previous years, the formal competition factor between party lists in regional elections has increased. This is directly related to the upcoming elections for the State Duma, as parties need to secure their “party privilege” and the Presidential Executive Office needs to test various party configurations. This is precisely why the “new” parties went through all the necessary registration procedures so quickly. At the same time, the formal competition level among regional contenders for single-seat constituencies is one of the lowest for the past few years.
  10. New parties receive preferential advantages during list registration. Out of the four new parties (which had to collect signatures at all levels), two went through registration loss-free: “For Truth” (in 8 regions) and “Green Alternative” (in 2 regions). The party “New People” nominated lists in 6 regions, ending up with 4 registered; Direct Democracy Party was able to register its lists in 3 regions out of 4. Some of the traditional spoiler parties (like Communist Party of Social Justice, abbreviated in Russian as “KPSS”) go through registration with relative ease as well. Out of the veteran smaller parties, registration in the regions went well for Party of Pensioners (lists registered in 9 regions), Party of Growth (5 regions) and KPSS (4 regions, signature-based).
  11. Out of the “new” parties, two (“Green Alternative” and Direct Democracy Party) showed little activity. The parties “For Truth” and “New People” in particular show significant activity. However, even with these two parties there are doubts concerning strong local support. “New People” does stand out, but only a little, which nevertheless puts it among the six most active smaller parties (along with Communists of Russia, Rodina, Russian Party of Pensioners for Social Justice, Party of Growth and Yabloko). The party placed fifth (right behind the “parliament four”) in the number of nominated candidates. At the same time, in contrast to the rest of the “new” parties, “New People” show active engagement in local elections (administrative centers), which is a sign of ambition as well as having minimum necessary operational framework and financial resources.



1. The state of party system before the start of election campaign

There is a lot of evidence  pointing to weak party activity in the elections. Golos has conducted an analysis of regional and local election results from the past five years. Provided below is the pooled data on the deputies elected between 13 September 2015 and 8 June 2020 sourced from the website of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Russia (starting from July 1, the CEC is attempting to restrain data sourcing from their website). Although minor errors in said data are naturally unavoidable, it still paints a detailed enough picture of party participation on local and regional levels. 

During that period, a total of 3806 deputies were elected on the regional level, with 2698 (70.9%) representing United Russia, 437 (11.5%) representing CPRF, 306 (8%) representing LDPR and 203 (5.3%) representing A Just Russia. All the remaining deputies take up a little over 4% of the seats, or 162, with 91 seats occupied by independent candidates. Out of the "second tier" parties, only two were able to secure a two-digit number of seats over that period: Patriots of Russia and Yabloko won 22 and 10 seats respectively in the regional election. 

The situation was very similar in the elections held in administrative centers. A total of 2704 seats were allocated in regional capitals over the said period, with 1960 (72.5%) going to United Russia, 276 (10.2%) to CPRF, 176 (6.5%) to LDPR and 136 (5%) to A Just Russia. The remaining parties took up 156 seats (5.8%), with 97 occupied by independents and 13 by Patriots of Russia (the rest won less than 10 seats each). 

These ratios become seriously distorted in the more small-scale elections, where the number of elected seats amounted to 231,042. United Russia and CPRF took up 76.5% and 4.2% respectively, with LDPR and A Just Russia gaining 2% each. At the same time, 14% went to independent candidates. No other party was able to secure more than 0.2% from the overall number of seats in the local elections. 

Electoral and party legislation manipulation, along with orchestrated party activity, has effectively created a system of unfair political competition. Naturally, United Russia dominates the said system. On the municipal level, the party holds absolute monopoly. There is an absolute lack of local-level parties that at the very least have the ability to nominate candidates. We believe that this situation is engineered and in no way a reflection of the full spectrum of voters' political preferences. The contrived rejection of the few candidates who do try to break through leads to whole political and ideological segments lacking not only legislative, but also electoral representation.

The number of officially registered political parties in Russia is in continued decline. The changed registration procedure for candidates and party lists, which came into force in 2014, has taken away existing candidate registration privileges from most parties as well as tightened the regulations for signature-based registration of candidates. Several parties effectively lost the motivation behind their existence as a result. Stricter requirements on reporting procedures for parties complicated the situation further.

The maximum number of parties allowed to participate in elections (74) was recorded in 2015–2016. After that, the number began to drop. The right to participate in the elections held on 8 September 2019 was granted to 59 parties (as of June 2019, the number of registered parties equalled 61; however, one party had suspended its activity at the time while the other was going through dissolution procedures). The number of parties has dropped significantly over the past year.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the right to run in the 23 June 2020 election (the start of the State Duma by-election campaign) was granted to 42 parties, but the number changed to 41 as of June 17.

The main factor that caused the reduction was the dissolution of parties by decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation due to insufficient electoral participation. Let us recall that the 2012 surge in party-building activity was a consequence of changing the law on political parties, which reduced the minimum member count from 40 thousand to 500. As a result of this surge, 67 parties were registered between July 2012 and June 2013. Only 42 parties made it to the summer of 2019—10 lost their registration after failing to register offices in more than half regions while 15 were dissolved for various reasons.

The law prescribes dissolution if a party fails to run a required number of election campaigns in seven years. Simply put, a party has to "score" one of the following nominations over the course of seven years:

1) running in the State Duma (legislative) election;

2) running in the presidential election;

3) running in gubernatorial election in at least 9 regions;

4) running in the legislative assembly elections in at least 17 regions;

5) running in the municipal elections in at least 43 regions.

That said, the campaign counts if a candidate or a party list has been put to the vote.

As a result, in 2019, the Ministry of Justice was to verify electoral participation of parties created in 2012, while in the first half of 2020 it was to verify electoral participation of the parties created in the first half of 2013.

According to our own data, 24 parties showed sufficient electoral participation, including all 8 parties that had existed by May of 2012 (United Russia, CPRF, LDPR, A Just Russia, Yabloko, Patriots of Russia, Party of Growth and PARNAS, all of which ran in the 2016 legislative election) as well as 16 out of the 42 parties created between May 2012 and May 2013 that made it to May 2019. Six more parties ran in the 2016 legislative election (Communists of Russia, Rodina, Russian Party of Pensioners for Social Justice, REP "The Greens". Civic Platform and Civilian Power), two parties ran in the 2018 presidential election (Russian All-People's Union and Civic Initiative), four parties "scored" for running in regional parliament elections (CPSJ, Democratic Party of Russia, Party for Justice! and Progress Party, also "Civic Position" earlier on and Social Media Party before that) and four more parties "scored" for running in municipal elections (Political Party for Social Security, Party of Business, Party of Russia's Rebirth and Cossack Party of Russian Federation).

The law therefore exacted that 26 parties are dissolved due to insufficient electoral activity.

In view of this, the Ministry of Justice filed first dissolution suits with the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in May of 2019. Between 11 and 14 June 2019, the Supreme Court ruled to dissolve seven parties. However, 17 June 2019 was the official start of the State Duma by-election campaign in four single-member constituencies, so the dissolution process had been suspended pursuant to the law from that day on.

After the campaign came to an end, the dissolution process continued. Between June 2019 and July 2020, the Supreme Court ruled to dissolve a total of 23 parties. By August 5, the dissolution process was over for all 23 parties and they were removed from the party register. The parties in question are "For the Women of Russia", "Green Alliance", "Citizen Union", People's Party of Russia, Social-Democratic Party of Russia, Party of Pensioners of Russia, "Cities of Russia", Agricultural Party of Russia, "People's Alliance", Monarchist Party of Russia, "CHESTNO" (Rus. for "with integrity"), Labour Party of Russia, "None of the Above", Socialist Party of Russia, Party of Veterans of Russia, "Labour Union", "Women's Dialogue", Party for Rebirth of Villages, "Defenders of the Fatherland", "Development of Russia", Great Fatherland Party, "Russian United Labour Front" and "Democratic and Lawful Russia" (the last two were still on the party register  as of 17 July 2020).

The Ministry of Justice filed three more party dissolution suits. The first suit is against "Russia of the Future" (filed on 18 February 2020, suspended on 17 April 2020 and resumed on 9 June 2020), which was called Party of the Free People before but renamed in 2019 to prevent registration of Alexey Navalny's party which goes under the same name. The party was registered on 9 June 2012, meaning the Ministry of Justice was actually supposed to file a dissolution suit in 2019. The reasons for such a delay remain unclear. Two remaining suits are against Russian Party of Gardeners (filed on 2 June 2020) and "National Course" (filed on 3 June 2020). However, the dissolution process for these three parties has been suspended till September in view of the State Duma by-election campaign.

As a result, the party register kept by the Ministry of Justice contained 61 parties in June 2019, 23 parties were dissolved in a little more than a year, yet four new parties were created. The current register totals to 42 parties. Of these, one party—Civic Initiative—has no right to run in the elections as its activity has been suspended by the ruling of the Supreme Court.

The four new parties are:

● "For Truth" headed by Yevgenii (Zakhar) Prilepin, the founding congress was held on 1 February 2020, the party was registered on 25 March 2020;

● "New People" headed by Irena Lukiyanova, the founding congress was held on 1 March 2020, the party was registered on 24 March 2020;

● Direct Democracy Party headed by Vyacheslav Makarov, the founding congress was held on 5 March 2020, the party was registered on 1 April 2020;

● "Green Alternative" headed by Ruslan Khvostov, the founding congress was held on 10 March 2020, the party was registered on 1 April 2020.

All four parties were granted the right to run in the elections (meaning they have offices in at least 43 regions) no later than 1 June 2020. We have no knowledge of the exact date, although a Vedomosti article dated May 26 states that "For Truth" and "Green Alternative" have already been put on the corresponding list .

Quite conspicuous is the speed at which these parties went through all the required procedures. Such speed compares only to the June–July 2012 situation, when dozens of newly-created parties had to make it in time for July, which was the start of the 2012 Election Day campaign (back then, the Election Day was in October). The Ministry of Justice and its departments were very quick with registering parties at the time. The registration process slowed down starting the fall of 2012, however. Between October 2012 and early 2019, only two parties managed to go all the way from the founding congress to receiving the right to run in the elections in less than 120 days. These are Russian Party of Gardeners (86 days, 40 from congress to registration plus 46 from registration to receiving the right to run in the election) and Cossack Party of Russian Federation (117 days, 62+55).

Now, even if we suppose that it was not until June 1 that all four parties received the right to run in the election, 83 days (22+61) passed between the congress and this event for "Green Alternative", 88 days (27+61) for Direct Democracy Party, 92 days (23+69) for "New People" and 121 days (53+68) for "For Truth". Such quick pacing may only be a testament of an incredibly friendly disposition towards these parties on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, as compared to half a hundred parties that were registered between 2013 and 2019. The speed at which three parties were registered in the Ministry of Justice itself (22–27 days) is especially impressive, considering that the law prescribes a month for this procedure to be completed, starting from the date the paperwork was filed. Preparing paperwork after the founding congress also takes a certain amount of time (at least a week according to estimates of party representatives). Since October 2013, only one party (Russia's Athletic Party "Vital Forces") managed to do it in 28 days.

As there is no objective reason for such imbalanced registration periods, this is indicative of unequal treatment of various new parties.  Such statement does not go unsupported, as there are widely acknowledged cases of delaying registration procedures for Alexey Navalny's party projects (the delays gave existing parties an opportunity to change their names, which in turn led to organizations with opposing views being denied registration). Such "disposition" may only be explained by the executive government's desire to have a chance at "testing" the four new parties before federal election.



2. The results of candidate nomination and registration for regional and local government representatives elections

2.1. Political parties nominating candidates and lists

Table 1 shows the results of candidate and party list nomination and registration for the more prominent elections (State Duma by-election, gubernatorial election, regional parliament election and election of representatives in regional centers) as of August 3. The parties in the table are sorted by the decreasing number of nominated lists first and then by decreasing number of nominated candidates. All data was sourced from the CEC of Russia.

Table 1. Political parties nominating candidates and lists for the more prominent 2020 elections

Party

Lists

Candidates

region

adm. center

Duma

govern

!

single-seat in LA

single-seat in adm. c.

United Russia

11

14

3

12

239

596

LDPR

11

14

4

16

224

578

CPRF

11

14

4

16

219

564

A Just Russia

11

14

4

16

215

539

Party of Pensioners

9

8

2

4

41

150

Communists of Russia

8

8

4

2

26

169

Rodina

8

8

0

3

69

92

Yabloko

4

10

1

2

24

139

"New People"

6

5

0

0

128

252

Party of Growth

5

5

0

4

6

124

"For Truth"

8

1

0

0

17

35

CPSJ

4

2

2

6

2

32

Patriots of Russia

1

4

0

6

3

32

Party of Russia's Rebirth

4

0

0

0

0

0

Direct Democracy Party

4

0

0

0

0

0

Civic Platform

0

3

1

4

6

27

REP "The Greens"

1

2

0

1

0

22

Small Business Party of Russia

2

1

0

0

0

5

"Green Alternative"

2

1

0

2

0

0

"Good deeds..."

3

0

0

1

0

0

International Party of Russia

2

0

0

1

0

0

Party of Social Reforms

2

0

0

0

0

0

"Social Security"

1

0

0

3

4

16

Democratic Party of Russia

0

1

0

4

4

0

"People Against Corruption"

1

0

0

1

0

1

"Russian All-People's Union"

1

0

0

1

0

0

PARNAS

1

0

0

0

0

0

"Party for Justice!"

0

0

0

3

4

0

Progress Party

0

0

0

4

3

0

Cossack Party of Russian Federation

0

0

0

4

0

1

Homeland Party

0

0

0

0

0

3

Party of Action

0

0

0

0

0

1

Party of Parents of the Future

0

0

0

0

0

1

"Russia of the Future"

0

0

0

0

0

0

"Civilian Power"

0

0

0

0

0

0

Russian Party of Gardeners

0

0

0

0

0

0

"National Course"

0

0

0

0

0

0

"OPLOT of Russia"

0

0

0

0

0

0

"Revival of Agricultural Russia"

0

0

0

0

0

0

"Alternative for Russia"

0

0

0

0

0

0

"Power to the People"

0

0

0

0

0

0


Based on nominating activity, we have divided all parties into six groups. The first group includes four parliamentary parties that nominated lists in all 25 prominent elections held under mixed electoral system and over 700 candidates in first-past-the-post constituencies.

The second group includes six parties (Communists of Russia, Rodina, Russian Party of Pensioners for Social Justice, Party of Growth, Yabloko and "New People") that nominated 10-17 lists and 100-400 candidates.

The third group includes five parties ("For Truth", CPSJ, Patriots of Russia, Civic Platform and REP "The Greens") that nominated 3-9 lists and 23-52 candidates.

The fourth group includes parties that nominated 1-4 lists and no more than 23 candidates. These are Party of Russia's Rebirth, Direct Democracy Party, Small Business Party, "Green Alternative", the party of "Good Deeds...", International Party of Russia, Party of Social Reforms, Party of Social Security, Democratic Party of Russia, "People Against Corruption", Russian All-People's Union and PARNAS (a total of 12 parties).

The fifth group includes parties that did not nominate any lists and nominated 1-7 candidates. There were six such parties: "Party for Justice!", Party of Progress, Cossack Party of Russian Federation, Homeland Party, Party of Business and Party of Parents of the Future.

The sixth and final group includes parties that did not nominate any lists or candidates. There were eight such parties: Civilian Power, "Russia of the Future", Russian Party of Gardeners, "National Course", OPLOT of Russia, "Revival of Agricultural Russia", "Alternative for Russia" and "Power to the People".

The pattern remains almost the same as in the years before. None of the non-parliamentary parties even comes close to parliament parties in terms of activity. 

However, only six non-parliamentary parties (five of which ran in the 2016 State Duma election) were able to generate even a moderate level of activity (within the second group, meaning nominating lists in at least 40% of regions and regional centers and at for at least 10% seats).

It should be reminded that 14 parties ran with registration privilege ran in that election. In the years that followed, PARNAS and Civilian Power lost the privilege, all while Communist Party for Social Justice (CPSJ) gained it instead. Now we see that not only Civilian Power is no longer active, but also PARNAS has become one of the low-activity parties. Out of the 2016 election participants, Patriots of Russia, REP "The Greens" and Civic Platform remain quite inactive.

Nine more parties show little activity as well, namely those that were able to reach the required level of electoral participation in 2012–2019: CPSJ, Democratic Party of Russia, "For Justice!", Party of Progress, Russian All-People's Union, Party of Business, Party of Social Security and Party of Russia's Rebirth (we remind that Civic Initiative, which is also part of this set, had its activity suspended).

As for the 14 parties that had been created before 2018 and have been unable to reach the required level of electoral participation, they are likely to be dissolved. As we pointed out in section 1, dissolution suits have already been filed against "Russia of the Future", Russian Party of Gardeners and "National Course", and these parties are no longer active. By the end of this year, "People Against Corruption" and Homeland Party is due for dissolution. Party of Social Reforms, OPLOT of Russia and "Good Deeds..." are due in 2021; "Revival of Agricultural Russia", Party of Parents of the Future and "Alternative for Russia" are due in 2022; Small Business Party is due in 2023; "Power to the People" is due in 2025. Some of these parties still have a chance at escaping dissolution, yet it would require them to step their activity game up, of which there is actually no sign.

The activity of four parties in particular demands closer attention. As we can see, two of them ("Green Alternative" and Direct Democracy Party) are in the low-activity group. "Green Alternative" nominated two lists to regional parliaments (in Komi Republic and Chelyabinsk Oblast), along with a list in Syktykvkar and two gubernatorial candidates (once again in Komi Republic and in Arkhangelsk Oblast). Direct Democracy Party nominated four lists to regional parliaments (in Voronezh, Kaluga, Novosibirsk and Ryazan Oblasts) and no candidates in first-past-the-post constituencies. This means that these parties have no existing local leadership.

"For Truth" and "New People" especially are the parties that generate the most activity. However, even with these two parties there are doubts concerning strong local support. For example, "For Truth" nominated its lists in 8 regions. However, seven lists are headed by the party's leader Yevgenii (Zakhar) Prilepin, who is also the head of regional group No. 1 in Kostroma Oblast where the lists have no heartland. Second positions in Kaluga, Novisibirsk and Ryazan Oblast are also occupied by ciizens of Moscow.

"New People" nominated its lists in six regions. The lists are headed as follows: combat sports club "Gladiator" director Aleksei Stoyan in Belgorod Oblast, Anton Tkachyov (born 1994), head of the executive committee for the party's regional office in Voronezh Oblast, OOO Gardarika's managing director Dmitry Artamonov (Moscow citizen) in Kaluga Oblast (is there a bet on him sharing his last name with the former governor of Kaluga Oblast?), a student at Plekhanov Russian Univerity of Economics Daria Karasyova (born 1997) in Novosibirsk Oblast and OOO PERNIK KOFE's managing director Vadim Polyevtov (born 1995) in Ryazan Oblast. They can actually be called "new people" from the political standpoint, but it is clearly not enough to enlist voter support. At the same time, we have to indicate that the founders of the party are somewhat experienced in public and political work. The party's founders and leaders are affiliated with Faberlic, a Russian company that launched "Russia's Green Movement ECA" in 2010. The movement was headed by Maria Kokorina, former commissioner for NASHI youth movement and advisor to Vasily Yakemenko, head of Rosmolodyozh (Rus. for "the youth of Russia"; Federal Agency for Youth Affairs). 

Following the registration, the number of parties running in the more prominent elections dropped from 33 to 22. The following parties were unable to register either lists or candidates: PARNAS, Russian All-People's Union, Party of Business, Party of Russia's Rebirth, "People Against Corruption", Homeland Party, Party of Social Reforms, International Party of Russia, "Good Deeds...", Party of Parent of the Future and Small Business Party. 



2.2. The results of party list registration in regional parliament elections

In 11 regions, a total of 125 lists (11.5 per region) were nominated to regional parliament elections. The number of registered lists is 93 (8.5 per region). The dropout rate stands at 26%.

The number of nominated lists per region turned out to be higher than in 2016–2019 (8.7–9.5 at the time), but lower than in 2015, when the elections were held in the same regions (12.8 at the time). The highest number of registered lists is still in 2014–2019 (the 2014 peak of 8.4). The dropout rate is still lower than in 2015, 2016 and 2019, but higher than in 2014 and 2017, and equal to 2018.

However, tracking the difference in registration results produced by parties with or without privilege (meaning those registered on either signature or no-signature basis) proves to be a more interesting endeavour. Each region has a register of parties with privilege based on the results of previously held federal, regional and municipal elections, starting from 4 such parties in several regions to 7 in Belgorod Oblast.

Registration was granted to all 54 lists nominated by parties with privilege. Parties without privilege nominated 71 lists in corresponding regions, but only 39 were registered. As a result, the dropout rate for non-privileged parties at registration stage stands at 45%. This number is lower than in 2015–2019, but higher than in 2014.

Signature-based registration was granted to the following lists: CPSJ and "Green Alternative" in Komi Republic; "For Truth" in Belgorod Oblast; Russian Party of Pensioners for Social Justice (RPPSJ), "For Truth" and Direct Democracy Party in Voronezh Oblast; Party of Growth, CPSJ, RPPSJ, "New People", "For Truth" and Direct Democracy Party in Kaluga Oblast; Party of Social Security, RPPSJ, Rodina, "New People" and "For Truth" in Kostroma Oblast; RPPSJ in Kurgan Oblast; CPSJ and "For Truth" in Magadan Oblast; Party of Growth, REP "The Greens", RPPSJ, "New People" and "For Truth" in Novosibirsk Oblast; Party of Growth, Communists of Russia, RPPSJ, "New People", "For Truth" and Direct Democracy Party in Ryazan Oblast; Party of Growth, RPPSJ, Rodina, "For Truth" and "Green Alternative" in Chelyabinsk Oblast; Party of Growth, CPSJ and Rodina in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (YaNAO).

Four out of 32 lists that dropped out at nomination and registration stage are cases of rejecting list validation. These rejections included Russian All-People's Union in Chelyabinsk Oblast, Party of Russia's Rebirth in Magadan Oblast and YaNAO as well as "Good Deeds..." in YaNAO.

Regional election commissions denied registration to the following 28 lists: PARNAS, Party of Russia's Rebirth and "Good Deeds..." in Komi Republic; Communists of Russia, Russian All-People's Union, Rodina, International Party of Russia and "New People" in Belgorod Oblast; Communists of Russia, International Party of Russia and "New People" in Voronezh Oblast; Rodina and "Good Deeds..." in Kaluga Oblast; Party of Russia's Rebirth, "People Against Corruption" and Party of Social Reforms in Kostroma Oblast; Yabloko in Kurgan Oblast; Party of Social Reforms, "Good Deeds..." and Small Business Party of Russia in Magadan Oblast; Communists of Russia and Direct Democracy Party in Novosibirsk Oblast; Yabloko, Party of Russia's Rebirth and Small Business Party of Russia in Ryazan Oblast; Yabloko, Communists of Russia and Party of Russia's Rebirth in Chelyabinsk Oblast. 

Table 2. The results of non-parliamentary party list registration in elections to regional representative bodies

Subject of nomination (no. of registered lists)

Komi Republic

Belgorod Oblast

Voronezh Oblast

Kaluga Oblast

Kostroma Oblast

Kurgan Oblast

Magadan Oblast

Novosibirsk Oblast

Ryazan Oblast

Chelyabinsk Oblast

YaNAO

Party of Pensioners (9)

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

"For Truth" (8)

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

+

Rodina (6)

+

+

+

+

+

+

Party of Growth (5)

+

+

+

+

+

Communists of Russia (4)

+

+

+

+

CPSJ (4)

+

+

+

+

"New People" (4)

+

+

+

+

Direct Democracy Party (3)

+

+

+

Green Alternative (2)

+

+

Social Security

+

Patriots of Russia (1)

+

Yabloko (1)

+

The Greens (1)

+

Total (49)

4

3

4

7

7

1

3

6

6

5

3


As a result, the party situation is the following. Four parliamentary parties were able to register their lists in all 11 regions. The following parties were able to register all nominated lists: RPPSJ (9, 2 at privilege and 7 signature-based), Party of Growth (5, all signature-based) and CPSJ (4, all signature-based). Patriots of Russia, REP "The Greens" and Party of Social Security nominated one list each, all lists were registered (registration at privilege for Patriots of Russia, signature-based for the remaining two).

Out of the four new parties (which had to collect signatures at all levels), two went through registration loss-free: “For Truth” (8 lists) and “Green Alternative” (2 lists). "New People" nominated 6 lists, having registered 4; Direct Democracy Party was able to register 3 out of 4.

The situation turned out worse for some of the veteran parties. Communists of Russia nominated 8 lists, having registered 4 (3 at privilege and only one signature-based). Rodina also nominated 8 lists, having registered 6 (3 at privilege and 3 signature-based). Yabloko nominated 4 lists, having registered only one (at privilege). The only list nomitated by PARNAS was rejected.

The following parties were unable to register their lists: Russian All-People's Union (2 lists), Party of Russia's Rebirth (6 lists), People Against Corruption (1 list), Party of Social Reforms (2 lists), International Party of Russia (2 lists), "Good Deeds..." (4 lists) and Small Business Party of Russia (2 lists).

The lesser-known parties successfully passing through the signature filter (Communist Party of Social Justice (CPSJ) specifically as well as a few new parties) and the high signature-based dropout rate for the veteran parties that have already enlisted a certain level of voter support (Yabloko, Rodina, Communists of Russia) may be considered as yet another confirmation of a dysfunctional signature filter and election commisstions' unequal treatment of different parties.



2.3. The results of candidate registration in single-member constituencies in regional parliament elections

The contrast between parties with privilege and parties without one is especially apparent in the case of candidate nomination and registration in single-member constituencies (see Table 3).

Table 3. Candidate nomination and registration by different subjects of nomination in single-member constituencies in regional parliament elections

Region

Candidates

Nominated

Registered

As of August 17, 2020

Dropout

Competition

Komi Republic

total

85

77

77

9%

5.1

parties with privilege

76

72

72

5%

4.8

parties w/o privilege

5

3

3

40%

0.2

independents

4

2

2

50%

0.1

Belgorod Oblast

total

147

122

122

17%

4.9

parties with privilege

116

116

116

0%

4.6

parties w/o privilege

21

1

1

95%

0.0

independents

10

5

5

50%

0.2

Voronezh Oblast

total

167

135

135

19%

4.8

parties with privilege

132

131

131

1%

4.7

parties w/o privilege

26

4

4

85%

0.1

independents

9

0

0

100%

0.0

Kaluga Oblast

total

108

79

78

28%

3.9

parties with privilege

77

76

75

3%

3.8

parties w/o privilege

23

3

3

87%

0.2

independents

8

0

0

100%

0.0

Kostroma Oblast

total

162

131

131

19%

5.2

parties with privilege

124

119

119

4%

4.8

parties w/o privilege

33

10

10

70%

0.4

independents

5

2

2

60%

0.1

Kurgan Oblast

total

74

68

68

8%

4.0

parties with privilege

68

67

67

1%

3.9

parties w/o privilege

5

1

1

80%

0.1

independents

1

0

0

100%

0.0

Magadan Oblast

total

45

42

42

7%

4.2

parties with privilege

38

38

38

0%

3.8

parties w/o privilege

1

1

1

0%

0.1

independents

6

3

3

50%

0.3

Novosibirsk Oblast

total

220

172

172

22%

4.5

parties with privilege

166

165

165

1%

4.3

parties w/o privilege

37

0

0

100%

0.0

independents

17

7

7

59%

0.2

Ryazan Oblast

total

116

86

84

28%

4.2

parties with privilege

80

80

78

3%

3.9

parties w/o privilege

25

4

4

84%

0.2

independents

11

2

2

82%

0.1

Chelyabinsk Oblast

total

180

120

120

33%

4.0

parties with privilege

117

117

117

0%

3.9

parties w/o privilege

43

0

0

100%

0.0

independents

20

3

3

85%

0.1

Yamalo-Nenets AO

total

53

50

50

6%

4.5

parties with privilege

39

39

39

0%

3.5

parties w/o privilege

0

0

0

0.0

independents

14

11

11

21%

1.0

TOTAL

total

1357

1082

1079

20%

4.5

parties with privilege

1033

1020

1017

2%

4.3

parties w/o privilege

219

27

27

88%

0.1

independents

105

35

35

67%

0.1


Parties without privilege nominated a total of 219 candidates for 239 seats. The number of independent candidates is even smaller (105). Understanding the fact that signature-based registration is nearly impossible without being in the election commission's good graces creates a situation where there are extremely few candidates who need to collect signatures as early as the nomination stage. The dropout level is a clear sign of that. While the dropout rate for privileged parties is only at 2%, it stands at two thirds for independent candidates and at a weighty 88% for parties without privilege.

The higher registration percentage for independent candidates as compared to parties without privilege has been a continued trend. We believe there are several reasons: there are just as many "technical" candidates among independents as there are real contenders for the seats. Besides, independent candidates are required to file less paperwork, which makes the list of potential reasons for rejection shorter.

No candidates from parties without privilege were able to register in Novosibirsk and Chelyabinsk Oblasts (there were no such candidates in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug to begin with). No independent candidates were able to register in Voronezh, Kaluga and Kurgan Oblasts.

The level of competition (4.5 candidates per seat) is one of the lowest in 2014–2020. It was lower (4.4) in 2015 only, but this is where it stood on the election day. As of 17 August 2015, it stood at 4.5 as well.

The overall candidate dropout rate is higher than in 2017 and 2018, but still lower than in 2014–2016 and 2019. For now, the dropout rate for candidates from parties without privilege is the same as in 2015 and higher than in 2014, 2016–2019. The dropout rate for independents is the highest for the period of 2012–2020.

We assume that such high dropout rate among candidate who needed to collect voter signatures is partially connected with stricter requirements on signature collection and validation (such as a voter having to personally write down their full name and reducing the allowed rate of invalid signatures to 5%).



2.4. The results of party list registration in elections to representative bodies of administrative centers

A total of 116 lists (8.3 lists per city) were nominated in the administrative center elections. Registration was granted to 99 lists (7.1 lists per city). The dropout rate amounted to 15%.

The number of nominated lists per city turned out to be higher than in 2016, 2018 and 2019, but lower than in 2014, 2015 and 2017. The number of registered lists per city is still higher than in 2015–2019, but lower than in 2014. The dropout rate is also lower than in 2015–2019, but higher than in 2014.

However, tracking the difference in registration results produced by parties with or without privilege (meaning those registered on either signature or no-signature basis) proves to be a more interesting endeavour. Each city has a register of parties with privilege based on the results of previously held federal, regional and municipal elections, starting from 4 such parties in several cities to 7 in Vladimir.

Out of 116 nominated lists, 68 were privileged and registered. Registration was granted to 31 out of 48 non-privileged nominated lists.

As a result, the dropout rate for privileged lists is 0%, while for non-privileged is stands at 35%. This number is also the lowest since 2015 (but higher than in 2014).

Only privileged lists were registered in Rostov-on-Don. In Kazan, only the privileged parties nominated lists in the first place.

Signature-based registration was granted to the following lists: Rodina in Syktyvkar; Communists of Russia and Rodina in Izhevsk; Patriots of Russia, Yabloko, Party of Growth, Communists of Russia, Civic Platform and Rodina in Cheboksary; "New People" in Krasnodar; Yabloko and Rodina in Voronezh; REP "The Greens" and Rodina in Ivanovo; Party of Growth, CPSJ, RPPSJ and "New People" in Kaluga; Patriots of Russia and RPPSJ in Orenburg; Patriots of Russia, Yabloko, Democratic Party of Russia, REP "The Greens" and RPPSJ in Oryol; Party of Growth, Communists of Russia and Rodina in Smolensk; "For Truth" in Tambov; Party of Growth and "New People" in Tomsk.

One rejection case (Yabloko in Tambov) out of 17 was withdrawn, so 16 lists were rejected. The rejected lists are the following: "Green Alternative" in Syktyvkar; RPPSJ in Izhevsk; Yabloko, Civic Platform and Small Business Party of Russia in Krasnodar; Communists of Russia and "New People" in Voronezh; Yabloko in Ivanovo; Rodina in Kaluga; CPSJ and Civic Platform in Orenburg; Yabloko, Party of Growth and "New People" in Rostov-on-Don; Yabloko in Smolensk; RPPSJ in Tomsk.

The party situation is more levelled than in the case of regional elections. Four parliamentary parties were able to register their lists in all 14 cities. Patriots of Russia suffered no losses either (all 4 lists registered, 1 at privilege and 3 signature-based), as did REP "The Greens" (2 lists), Democratic Party of Russia and "For Truth" (one list each).

Communists of Russia registered 8 lists out of 9 (5 at privilege and 3 signature-based), Rodina registered 7 out of 8 (1 at privilege and 6 signature-based), Party of Growth registered 4 out of 5 (all signature-based), RPPSJ registered 6 out of 8 (3 at privilege and 3 signature-based), "New People" registered 3 out of 5 (all signature-based), Yaboko registered 5 out of 10 (2 at privilege and 3 signature-based), CPSJ registered one out of two (signature-based), Civic Platform registered one out of three (signature-based). Small Businesses Party of Russia and "Green Alternative" were unable to register their sole lists.

There is a marked contrast in nomination results for four new parties on regional and local levels. For example, "For Truth!" was able to nominate (and register) its list only in Tambov, although the party is an active participant of regional elections, including the regions where it had candidate lists registered for legislative assembly elections (for example, Voronezh, Kaluga, Kostroma, Magadan and Novosibrisk Oblasts). Direct Democracy Party did not nominate any candidate lists whatsoever. "Green Alternative" nominated its list in Syktyvkar, but it was denied registration, although the party's candidate was able to go through the "municipal filter" in gubernatorial elections in Komi Republic and the party list was registered in the regional deputy elections in the same region. "New People" is the only party that shows at least some enthusiasm in local elections: they nominated their lists in five cities, obtaining registration in three.

Such facts once again cast doubt on these parties having any genuinely active members who would be willing to run in the elections. "New People" seems to be the only party with actual human resource (at least in quantitative terms).



2.5. The results of candidate registration in single-member constituencies in elections to representative bodies of administrative centers

Table 4 shows the data on candidate nomination and registration from parties with and without privilege as well as from independent candidates in single-member constituencies in elections to representative bodies of regional centers.

Table 4. Candidate nomination and registration by different subjects of nomination in first-past-the-post constituencies in elections to representative bodies of regional centers 

City

Candidates

Nominated

Registered

As of August 17, 2020

Dropout

Competition

Syktyvkar

Total

77

73

73

5%

4.9

parties with privilege

58

58

58

0%

3.9

parties w/o privilege

13

13

13

0%

0.9

Independents

6

2

2

67%

0.1

Kazan

Total

170

114

114

33%

4.6

parties with privilege

91

90

90

1%

3.6

parties w/o privilege

2

1

1

50%

0.0

Independents

77

23

23

70%

0.9

Izhevsk

Total

144

119

119

17%

4.8

parties with privilege

103

100

100

3%

4.0

parties w/o privilege

7

4

4

43%

0.2

Independents

34

15

15

56%

0.6

Cheboksary

Total

172

132

131

24%

6.2

parties with privilege

106

101

100

6%

4.8

parties w/o privilege

16

7

7

56%

0.3

Independents

50

24

24

52%

1.1

Krasnodar

Total

342

229

226

34%

5.8

parties with privilege

153

149

146

5%

3.7

parties w/o privilege

72

4

4

94%

0.1

Independents

117

76

76

35%

1.9

Astrakhan

Total

233

164

163

30%

4.5

parties with privilege

133

133

132

1%

3.7

parties w/o privilege

25

7

7

72%

0.2

Independents

75

24

24

68%

0.7

Vladimir

Total

214

162

161

25%

6.4

parties with privilege

151

147

146

3%

5.8

parties w/o privilege

23

8

8

65%

0.3

Independents

40

7

7

83%

0.3

Voronezh

Total

219

130

130

41%

5.4

parties with privilege

93

92

92

1%

3.8

parties w/o privilege

54

17

17

69%

0.7

Independents

72

21

21

71%

0.9

Ivanovo

Total

145

112

112

23%

5.6

parties with privilege

100

96

96

4%

4.8

parties w/o privilege

18

7

7

61%

0.4

Independents

27

9

9

67%

0.5

Kaluga

Total

195

143

142

27%

5.7

parties with privilege

116

114

113

3%

4.5

parties w/o privilege

38

4

4

89%

0.2

Independents

41

25

25

39%

1.0

Kostroma

Total

211

176

175

17%

5.3

parties with privilege

161

156

155

4%

4.7

parties w/o privilege

39

16

16

59%

0.5

Independents

11

4

4

64%

0.1

Lipetsk

Total

251

201

200

20%

5.6

parties with privilege

174

173

172

1%

4.8

parties w/o privilege

25

2

2

92%

0.1

Independents

52

26

26

50%

0.7

Magadan

Total

138

108

107

22%

5.1

parties with privilege

83

79

78

6%

3.7

parties w/o privilege

25

16

16

36%

0.8

Independents

30

13

13

57%

0.6

Nizhny Novgorod

Total

304

242

242

20%

6.9

parties with privilege

156

154

154

1%

4.4

parties w/o privilege

84

46

46

45%

1.3

Independents

64

42

42

34%

1.2

Novosibirsk

Total

400

260

258

36%

5.2

parties with privilege

170

165

164

4%

3.3

parties w/o privilege

101

15

15

85%

0.3

Independents

129

80

79

39%

1.6

Orenburg

Total

122

108

108

11%

5.4

parties with privilege

79

79

79

0%

4.0

parties w/o privilege

19

11

11

42%

0.6

Independents

24

18

18

25%

0.9

Oryol

Total

205

147

146

29%

5.2

parties with privilege

111

110

110

1%

3.9

parties w/o privilege

40

9

9

78%

0.3

Independents

54

28

27

50%

1.0

Rostov-on-Don

Total

210

153

153

27%

5.1

parties with privilege

142

142

142

0%

4.7

parties w/o privilege

44

5

5

89%

0.2

Independents

24

6

6

75%

0.2

Smolensk

Total

148

133

132

11%

6.6

parties with privilege

100

99

98

2%

4.9

parties w/o privilege

34

30

30

12%

1.5

Independents

14

4

4

71%

0.2

Tambov

Total

100

85

84

16%

4.7

parties with privilege

88

85

84

5%

4.7

parties w/o privilege

8

0

0

100%

0.0

Independents

4

0

0

100%

0.0

Tomsk

Total

167

156

156

7%

5.8

parties with privilege

115

115

115

0%

4.3

parties w/o privilege

30

23

23

23%

0.9

Independents

22

18

18

18%

0.7

Ulyanovsk

Total

380

346

345

9%

8.6

parties with privilege

197

194

193

2%

4.8

parties w/o privilege

97

88

88

9%

2.2

Independents

86

64

64

26%

1.6

TOTAL

Total

4547

3493

3477

24%

5.7

parties with privilege

2680

2631

2617

2%

4.3

parties w/o privilege

814

333

333

59%

0.5

Independents

1053

529

527

50%

0.9


In this case, the situation looks a little better than in the regional elections, likely for two reasons. First, the number of required signatures in a municipal election amounts to 0.5% from the number of voters in a constituency, while in a regional election this number amounts to 3%. Second, the constituencies themselves are smaller in this case, so the absolute required number of signatures is substantively lower.

The dropout rate for candidates from privileged parties stands at a mere 2%. The dropout rate for independent candidates stands at 50%, with 59% for candidates from non-privileged parties. Only candidates from privileged parties were registered in Tambov; all candidates from other parties and independents failed to go through the registration filter.

The overall dropout rate is higher than in 2018 and 2019, but still lower than in 2014–2017. Candidates from non-privileged parties indicated a dropout rate higher than in 2014, but lower than in 2015–2019. Independent candidates indicated a dropout rate higher than in 2014 and 2019 (49% at the time), the same as in 2016 and still lower than in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

The average number of candidates per seat (5.7) turned out to be the highest for the period of 2014–2020.

Just like with party list nomination and registration, analysis of single-seat candidate lineups indicates that the new parties lack people with political ambition at the local level. "Green Alternative" and Direct Democracy Party did not nominate any single-seat candidates in regional centers. "For Truth" nominated 35 single-seat candidates in five cities, but only 12 obtained registration.  "New People" is the only party that stands out in this situation by nominating 252 candidates in nine regional capitals and being able to collect signatures and obtain registration for 67. Granted, 24 out of 67 were registered in Nizhny Novgorod, while a similar number—21—were registered in Tomsk. The remaining cases are sole candidate cases. 



3. Cases of administrative resource misuse during nomination and registration of candidates

3.1. Interior Ministry members "scrapping" signatures

Golos movement has already pointed out that citizens' demands to make verification process of signatures in support of nominees more transparent, to hold graphologists accountable for the quality of verification and to make the process of nomination through signatures easier in general were ignored by both legislators and election administrators. 

In reality, the demands were turned on their head, as the allowed rate of invalid signatures was reduced instead of being raised, and a requirement was placed for voters to personally write down their full name in signature sheets. These measures effectively do nothing to prevent electoral fraud. There will be other ways to forge signatures, yet it gives graphologists more room for arbitrary conduct, as there is still no obligation for them to justify their conclusions and they still cannot be held accountable for said conclusions.

This was the trend in 2019, and it continues in this year's election. Signature-based registration still relies on the goodwill of the election commission and other electoral managers for the most part than it does on actual electoral support and party and candidate activity.

Reasons for rejection are the exact same as in the years before. The main reasons are: 1) voter data mismatching that in the databases of either Interior Ministry or State Automated System (SAS) "Vybory"; 2) graphologists rendering voter signatures invalid (see Appendix, cards no. 1-13). 

For example, only one independent candidate out of 43 was able to register for Balashikha (a city near Moscow with a population of half a million) City Council election—Nikita Anashkin, managing director of "Blagoustroistvo-Balashikha" (Rus. for "improvement"), a municipal publicly-funded institution. All the other candidates were rejected based on rendering voter signatures invalid. As can be seen from before, this is a typical developmet for both regional elections and administrative center elections—the first candidates to drop out are independents and those from non-privileged parties. 

At the same time, suspicions of forgery arise regarding persons who are supposed to verify signatures, including members of election commissions. There are well-known facts of backdating commission's decisions (see Appendix, cards no. 1, 2, 5), visible differences in signatures of allegedly one and the same law enforcement official (see Appendix, cards no. 4, 5). Just like the year before, there were cases when the voters whose signatures had been rendered invalid were later able to prove their validity in court (see Appendix, card no. 11).

Here is an example from the city of Sochi: a municipal deputy candidate Roman Bugaichuk noticed that the note of signature verification issued on the official form of Forensic Department of the Sochi Internal Affairs Directorate and dated July 6 was signed by the experts who were not part of the signature verification work group at the time. Later, during court proceedings, election commission representatives petitioned for entering the commission decision of July 4 and its appendix of July 7 as evidence to the case. These documents stated that the expert in question was in fact part of the work group. However, according to those present during the meeting, the issue was not considered on neither July 4, nor July 7 (see Appendix, card no. 1). A similar story unfolded in Vladimir (see Appendix, card no. 2). During the election in Balashikha, candidates noticed that the signature affixed by one and the same expert looks different in two different notes (see Appendix, cards no. 4, 5). Representatives of Yabloko's office in Nizhny Novgorod accuse the election commission of making corrections in the already filed signature sheets of Denis Anatolyev, a candidate nominated for a Nizhny Novgorod City Duma deputy seat. According to Anatolyev, Members of Regional Election Commission No. 19 falsified either addresses or names of voters on the signature sheets while checking and entering the data into SAS "Vybory" (see  Appendix, card no. 10).

Such actions once again provoke strong protest among candidates and voters. For example, around 100 complaints were filed to Nizhny Novgorod election commission in one day, on August 8. In order to hand in their letters of complaint, voters personally came to the city administration building where the election commission is located. The complaints stated that district election commissions violate their rights as voters by denying candidates (see Appendix, card no. 11).

Election commission for Leninsky District of the city of Ivanovo deserves a special mention. This commission apparently decided to check the voters' penmanship through their signature instead of the will it expresses. At any rate, in order to explain why certain names or passport data had been enters into SAS "Vybory" incorrectly at verification stage, commission members provided the court with an alphabet with supposedly the only proper way to spell letters. If such an approach persists, bad handwriting will soon become the primary reason for stripping citizens of their right to vote.


As part of the same case, the judge reviewing the claim by Yabloko's candidate Andrei Avtoneyev had to recuse himself from the case after he accidentally called the candidate and, for the record, thinking that he was speaking to election commission representative told him which additional information was needed to consider candidate rejection legitimate. Subsequently, even despite the recusal and attorney's support for the candidate's cause, the court rejected the claim.



3.2. Using insubstantial claims to reject candidates registration

In spring, a number of amendments were adopted into the electoral legislation, among which is one that requires the signature sheet format to be approved by the corresponding election commission. Despite this fact, the issues of candidates facing rejection based on an incorrect sheet format persist. The most notorious case occurred in Voronezh Oblast, where the Electoral Code had not been changed to reflect the amended federal law. As a result, an independent candidate Dmitry Krivonosov was rejected. He appealed the rejection in Voronezh Election Commission, but with no luck (see resolution of 14 August 2020). It turned out he was collecting signatures on the three-line signature sheet, as was stated in the appendix to the current edition of the Electoral Code of Voronezh Oblast, instead of a five-line sheet stipulated by Federal Law No. 67-FZ as amended on 23 May 2020. 

There is no denying that federal legislation has higher status. However, the situation when local laws do not have time to change because federal legislation is amended right before the start of election campaign gives rise to cases like that. Although introducing such "urgent" amendments has long been considered a bad practice on the level of universally accepted international standards, it is still used extensively among Russian legislators and election managers in order to create unfair advantages for administrative candidates.

Moreover, there are still many cases of election commissions rejecting candidates based on minor mistakes in filling out signature sheets and other documents. For example, the municipal election commission for the city of Tomsk made claims against the header of the signature sheets filed by Party of Growth, as candidates' party affiliation was not specified (as required by the signature sheet format). The party's Federal Council sent a document stating candidates in question were no longer members of the party as they were expelled on June 18 (before the signature sheets were printed), but still nominated by the party. In this case, the list was registered successfully, although there are known cases of candidates encountering problems (for example, education, name of constituency, occupation or unemployed status, etc. are not stated in full; see Appendix, cards no. 14-18).

That said, one of the techniques that took away a candidate's chance at correcting the errors was informing them of said errors much later than it is required. Although the law states that the candidates are allowed at least three days to deal with errors, the reality was that commissions reported errors when there was no time to deal with them even in theory (see Appendix, cards no. 19-20).



3.3. Pressuring of election commissions and candidates

Election commissions should operate independent from federal, regional or local government authorities and other parties while candidates should not be subjected to unjust pressure over the course of the campaign. Unfortunately, both are often put under pressure by various levels of authority. CPRF and "United Democrats" reported of the pressure put on their candidates (see Appendix, cards no. 21-25). Daniil Markelov, a candidate from "Novosibirsk 2020" coalition in Novosibirsk municipal election reported that personal data of people who supported his nomination with their signatures became available to third parties, who in turn threatened voters (see Appendix, card no. 24). 

It is a known fact that in Samara Oblast, members of Krasnoyarsk District Territorical Election Commission (TEC) were put under administrative pressure for registering an undesirable candidate. Two members (including the chairperson) had to leave the TEC as a result. One of them also had to resign from the district's administration office (see Appendix, card no. 25).

CPRF representatives claimed that their members in the election commissions were denied document access in Lipetsk, Novosibirsk and Ulyanovsk Oblasts (see Appendix, cards no. 26-28).



3.4. Interfering with candidate registration as a passive suffrage deprivation technique 

A situation where a rival party interferes with a candidate’s registration by claiming he or she belongs to this party may be considered as an example of unfair electoral competition. The law forbids a member of one party to run as a candidate from another party. However, parties keep membership documents close and may, in fact, misuse them. That said, some parties effectively force citizens who would like to leave the party to remain members, which does not comply with the provision on voluntary membership.

The following is an example from Kurgan Oblast: A Just Russia member Aleksandr Klochkov (constituency no. 16 in Kurgan Oblast Duma election) was denied registration as United Russia provided a certificate confirming his status as a member of the latter. His appeal to a higher authority was dismissed. The Court of Kurgan Oblast refused to reinstate Klochkov as a candidate in regional parliament election as well. Klochkov used to be deputy director of regional construction, housing and utility department as well as was first deputy governor for some time. According to A Just Russia's regional office, the party had serious hopes for his election campaign (see Appendix, card no. 29). 

The same situation unfolded in Kostroma, where the election commission denied registration to eco-activist Natalia Tsvetkova after Aleksandr Plyusnin, head of A Just Russia's regional office, claimed Tsvetkova was still a member of A Just Russia. Natalia Tsvetkova herself says that she "handed over [her letter of resignation from the party] to him personally at a party briefing, reading it aloud on 10 February 2020 in front of numerous eyewitnesses." 



3.5. The influence of COVID-19 on nomination and registration processes

Having started in June 2020, candidate nomination and registration process continues amidst the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic restrictions. As a consequence, governors of certain regions had to issue special decrees allowing to hold party conferences for candidate nomination. If failed to do so, the parties would be simply unable to nominate their representatives for the election.

However, candidate nomination and registration issues during a pandemic are not limited to party conferences alone. As it has been pointed out earlier, a significant amount of nominated candidates either run independently or represent parties that have to collect voter signatures. At the same time, any mass gatherings that would help collect signatures are forbidden, and the authorities themselves continue to urge citizens to practice social distancing. 

Collecting signatures is especially difficult under such circumstances. At any rate, candidates in Lipetsk and Kurgan Oblasts spoke to long-term Golos observers about the issues that arised due to quarantine measures and restrictions being imposed. Several candidates pointed out voters’ fear of contacting the virus as a significant issue. As a result, voters did not hand out their passports to signature collectors, dictating or filling in their data themselves instead, which made it difficult to avoid mistakes in signature sheets and only added to the issue of getting people to open their doors to signature collectors.

In Vladimir Oblast, CPRF submitted a claim with the regional election commission to reschedule the elections (see Appendix, card no. 30), as such restrictions violate the citizens' right to vote. 

Indeed, both universally accepted international and Russian constitutional standards proclaim that free expression of will is impossible without respect for human rights, and especially without respect for freedom of expression and freedom of the press, freedom of movement within a country as well as freedom of assembly and association of citizens at political levels.



3.6. The issues of using Gosuslugi website to collect signatures for candidates

The adopted amendment to the legislation that allows partial collecting of signatures via the Gosuslugi (Public Services Portal of the Russian Federation) website is hardly being used. During deputy elections, this method was used only once in Chelyabinsk Oblast, where a candidate could collect up to 50% of the required amount of signatures in the legislative assembly election.

Golos interviewed Yaroslav Shcherbakov, head of Yabloko's office in Chelyabinsk Oblast about the issues candidate encounter with the newly introduced way of collecting signatures via Gosuslugi. According to Shcherbakov, electoral commission verified the party's list on June 27, but it took a few days before the party and its candidates received access to Gosuslugi signature collection system. Access was granted not until June 2, after they had sent two applications. Until July 1, the party had no technical means of submitting an application confirming they had started collecting signatures in support of the candidate list. In this manner, there was a four-day delay at the start. Ministry of Communications explained the delay as the system not being ready before the start of the campaign. 

At the same time, on July 2, the system zeroed out signature counts for Yabloko's candidates Yaroslav Shcherbakov (Kalinin single-member constituency no. 12) and Vladimir Vasilevsky (Zarechny single-member constituency no. 14) despite the fact that their applications for signature collection had been registered on June 30. In this way, the candidates lost all digital signatures collected during that period and the system offered them to submit applications once more.

The system had not been tested at that: there were numerous malfunctions while using it to collect voter signatures. For example, there were certain days at launch when the function of supporting candidate nomination simply disappeared. The opportunity to put a signature via mobile application disappeared on either fourth or fifth exploitation day (it never reappeared until the end of signature collection). 

Voters whose actual passport data did not coincide with the data in the voter registry were also unable to put a digital signature. As a result, Gosuslugi was unable to save such voter signatures from being "scrapped", as the register did not less such "digital" signature pass while the "paper" signature should have been "scrapped" on the same basis. Which is exactly what happened, as a matter of fact—Yabloko had to go to court in order to recognize the validity of the signatures of voters, whose actual passport data did not coincide with register data. 

Furthermore, the Election commission for Chelyabinsk Oblast barely did any promotion of the function in question. As compared to the 2020 Russian constitutional voting when citizens with Gosuslugi accounts were informed of the possibility of voting online though multiple broadcasts and notifications, this time they were informed only once after a party filed a corresponding complaint.

As a result, the "contribution" of digital signature collection in support of nominated Yabloko list amounted to 578 signatures (out of the "allowed" 6546 digital signatures), meaning less than 9% of the digital-signature limit and less than 4.5% of the total requred amount of signatures. According to our data, the rest of the parties collected even less digital signatures.

We were also able to experimentally ascertain the possibility of putting a signature for a candidate via Gosuslugi service on behalf of another person in away he or she would never even be aware of. This can be done if somebody passes you the necessary Gosuslugi login data (your relative or dependant, for example). This means that various "administrators" have the technological means to distort the will of the voters in terms of supporting candidate nomination.



3.7. Using "spoilers" to interfere with voters making a conscious choice

Spoiling is a widely-used technique that involves nominating and registering candidates whose names or ideologies are similar to those of a major candidate or party with the purpose of drawing the votes away from the latter. This is the type of technique that, on the one hand, makes it difficult for a voter to make a conscious choice, while on the other it is directly linked to the election commission's unequal treatment of candidates in terms signature validation.

As we have pointed out earlier, there are several regions where registration was easily granted to lists of the parties that did not indicate any activity in said regions and during signature collection. The spoilers in question include both veteran projects like Communist Party of Social Justice (CPSJ, abbreviated in Russian as "KPSS" to mirror the Soviet Union party (CPSU)) and new parties like "For Truth", which clearly intends to draw away a portion of the electorate from parliamentary parties (LDPR first of all).

However, the title of the most emblematic case of this year goes to Oryol City Council election, where 13 doppelgänger pairs were nominated in 28 constituencies. Here is an example from the election held in the city of Oryol: in one of the constituencies, Vitaly Anatolyevich Rybakov, a well-known entrepreneur, ran as independent candidate. However, there was another independent candidate in the same constituency by the name of Valery Anatolyevich Rybakov, an unemployed resident of a far-away village who was previously convicted of theft. Two more Rybakovs miraculously ran against each other in the neighboring constituency no. 22. The situation escalated even further in constituency no. 19, where four (!) doppelgänger pairs "emerged" at once: Aleksanr Sergeyevich Vetrov (independent) — Vladimir Ivanovich Vetrov (independent); Andrei Andreyevich Yelesin (independent) — Sergei Vladimirovich Yelesin (independent); Vadim Vladimirovich Mosin (CPRF) — Sergei Viktorovich Mosin (independent); Vladislav Aleksandrovich Chislov (United Russia) — Gennady Viktorovich Chislov (independent). It is difficult to imagine a situation like that developing naturally, especially considering the unwillingness of most commissions to register candidates on signature basis.

Authors:

Stanislav Andreichuk,

Arkadii Lyubarev.

Editing group and long-term observation group: 

Yevgeny Belousov, Yuri Bogomolov, Aleksandr Grezev, Aleksei Golubkov, Aleksandr Zamaryanov, Sofia Ivanova, David Kankiya, Inna Karezina, Vitaly Kovin, Valeriy Korolyov, Dmitry Krayukhin, Mikhail Kuzovkov, Lyudmila Kuzmina, Daniil Maltsev, Grigory Melkonyants, Sergei Plyasunov, Yulia Rudakova, Ilya Sivoldayev, Mikhail Tikhonov, Marina Chufarina, Denis Shadrin, Anna Yudina.