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Новость16 September 2015, 09:11

On September 13, 2015, in Russia Elections were held at more than 10 thousand polling stations – Gubernatorial Elections in 21 regions, Elections to 11 Regional Parliaments, Elections to Representative bodies of 25 regional capitals. 2015 Elections – the Single Voting Day - is the last full-scale election rehearsal in Russia before the upcoming 2016 General Elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation.

The representatives of 'Golos' observed voting, vote count at polling stations and tabulation of  election results at district-level election commissions in 26 regions: Astrakhan, Vladimir, Voronezh, Ivanovo, Irkutsk, Kaliningrad, Kaluga, Kirov, Kostroma, Kurgan, Leningrad, Lipetsk, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Orel, Rostov, Ryazan, Samara, Tver, Tomsk, Chelyabinsk and the Republics of Bashkortostan, Mari El, Tatarstan and Krasnodar krai. Moreover 'Golos' received electoral information from various sources in different regions where elections were held, including hot line 8 800 333-33-50, 'Map of violations' www.kartanarusheniy.org and media partners.

'Golos' conforms to internationally accepted election observation standards and respects the principle of political neutrality as one of the main pre-conditions for independent and impartial election observation. Despite improving election support technologies (transparent ballot boxes, optical scan voting system etc.), in this statement, 'Golos' emphasizes the critical aspects of the elections, as the organization acknowledges the importance of identifying those peculiarities in order to protect the constitutional order and safeguard the future of the country. 

In 2015 Election Campaign, the trend of shifting the application of administrative technologies from the Election Day to earlier election stages is growing, as it was outlined in the previous two years. In fact, the vast majority of election results were predetermined by the decisions and actions made by the authorities and election commissions running the elections at the stage of nomination and registration of candidates and parties, as well as at the stage of pre-election campaign. The election results are predetermined by the very low political competition and the Election Day serves as the formal 'legitimization' of those results.

2015 Elections revealed that regional and local authorities that ran the elections were guided by the personal and, at times, self-seeking interests, with 'positive' experience from the previous election campaigns, when 'everything was tolerated'; now, in fact, they ignore the federal government call for preventing violations of electoral law and ensuring 'the competitive elections with unpredictable results'.

At all stages of 2015 Election Campaign in almost all the regions where elections were held, the election commissions, running the elections, made selective and biased decisions neglecting candidates' and parties' right to equal and fair treatment.

Opposition candidates found themselves in situations where election commissions running elections, regional and local administration obstructed nomination or registration of their candidacies.

Collection of signatures in support of nominated candidates is discriminatory in different elections. Handwriting experts in a questioned signature case knowingly use old database of the Federal Migration Service that almost in every case precludes a party or a candidate from running for elections, even if there is a strong evidence that signature is authentic.

Administrative resources, an integral part of Russian electoral processes, traditionally affects and even predetermines the course of election campaign as well as the election results. Regional and local authorities invoke their administrative capabilities both to establish advantages of certain political forces in the election campaign, as well as to exert pressure on undesirable candidates running for elections.

Abuse of power from the start of election campaign until the announcement of election results became a very common way of obstructing lawful activities of some candidates, parties and their election headquarters and observers in such regions as Tatarstan, Irkutsk, Kaluga, Kostroma, and Novosibirsk.

In almost all the regions where election observation was carried out we reported predominant media coverage on pro-government candidates and parties, indirect and covert campaigning in support of them, as well as negative political campaigning that reveals unequal candidates' and parties' access to the media. In these elections, damage, destruction or removal of campaigning materials was implied as a result of unfair competition.

For the first time, 'Golos' has issued Analysis of Election Campaign Financing in the Elections of Russian Federation Subjects Heads. The study clearly shows that the financing system applied to parties' and candidates' election funds is extremely non-transparent. Therefore candidates benefiting from administrative resources, avail budgetary funds for their election campaigns. In addition, such a system facilitates many candidates and parties to receive funding from the companies, registered abroad. The contributions made by foreign companies to candidates nominated by 'United Russia' and the ruling party itself were the most sizable. Moreover, public foundations established by political parties and accumulating a significant portion of funds do not disclose their actual donors.

A peculiarity of these elections was a sharp reduction in the number of independent candidates, especially in the regions.

Case law concerning election commissions' violations of election law in 2009 -2015. It showed that the administrative penalties applicable to members of election commissions are insignificant in regard to the size of fines and the relevance of other consequences. In some cases we were surprised that prosecutors refused to initiate proceedings or closed a case, especially when there were multiple exhibits and video records evidencing offenses.

The nature of amendments to regionals laws on elections and local self-local government are openly opportunistic and they are not aimed at stipulation of voting rights, but rather at their artificial and unjustified restriction.

The instability of the election law, no guarantees for civic election observers stipulated by law,   the fact that the presumption of equality of candidates and political parties is not respected and the dependence of regional election commissions and commissions running the elections on local authorities – all this refers to the continuing trend precluding free and fair elections.

Early voting was run in almost all the regions where elections were held in order to 'surge for higher turnout' and facilitate conditions for votes in support of pro-government candidates. Our representatives in the regions reported this, as well it was endorsed by the posts in the 'Map of violations' and media.

In particular high proportion of early voters was reported in some of the regions: Primorsky krai, Leningrad region (Gubernatorial Elections: 4.66% of the total number of registered voters, 10.91% of those who voted - according to SAS 'Elections'), Orel region (Elections to City Council of Orlovsky: 4.22% of the total number of registered voters, 12.98% of those who voted - according to SAS 'Elections'), Ryazan region (Elections to Ryazan Regional Duma: 1.93% of the total number of registered voters, 5% of those who voted - according to SAS 'Elections'). For comparison, only 2.23% of those who voted were early voters in the Elections to the Tomsk City Duma. [1]

Election observation on September 13 shows the continuing trend of illegal techniques availed on the polling day:

  • Explicit distortion of voters' will (direct falsification)
    • ballot stuffing;
    • 'Cruise voting';
    • protocol rewriting;
  • Infringments that may affect the voters' will:
    • bribery of voters;
    • violations of  voters' rights, authorities' pressure;
    • illegal campaigning;
    • busing of voters;
    • violations of the rights of observers, commission members and representatives of the media;
    • violations of vote count procedures.

The most common Election Day violations are as follows: restrictions on the rights of observers, commission members and representatives of the media ('Golos' hotline and 'Map of violations' recorded 225 complaints), as well as violations related to the early voting, vote by absentee ballot and voting outside polling stations (143 complaints), coercion to vote, violation of vote secrecy (96 complaints). On the Election Day 'Golos' reported on different cases of such violations in their publications, press releases of regional branches supported by regular video feed from the call center and press center.

As it was expected by the end of the day the number of violations started increasing, in particular those violations committed during the vote count and related with the expulsion of observers from the 'problematc' polling stations, suspected of ballot stuffing, manipulations in relation to voting outside polling stations, etc. [2]

Violations in regard to voting outside polling stations were ubiquitous, though most often reported in Kostroma and Chelyabinsk regions, as well as in Krasnodar and Tatarstan, Ivanovo, Omsk, Orel, Samara and Tomsk regions and other regions. In many cases, the voters who expressed their will to vote outside a polling station were not registered in some particular electoral roll, instead of this their names were listed in a free style template; moreover in many cases, observers were denied to examine those lists, quite often voters applications for voting outside a polling station were missing. As a result, the above mentioned circumstances pre-conditioned manipulations with ballots outside the polling station. 'Golos' received some reports that in portable ballot boxes there were found ballot papers of those voters who did not submit an application to the election commission for voting outside the polling station as well as information about evident ballot stuffing.

In order to hide these and other violations, chairmen of many election commissions have resorted to an expulsion of observers, media representatives and even commission members at the stage of vote count. From Tatarstan and Kostroma region we have received reports on breaks made during the vote count, expulsion of observers under false excuses or restriction of their right to observe the vote count.

Throughout the day attempts to bribe voters were recorded as well (Tatarstan, Voronezh, Irkutsk, Kaliningrad, Leningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Oryol, Chelyabinsk regions etc.).

Mass voting by absentee ballots was observed in Irkutsk and Kostroma regions. In Tatarstan and  Ryazan region the reports on authorities' pressure on voters were quite frequent.

In most of the regions there were reports on illegal campaigning, especially in Nizhny Novgorod, Samara and Chelyabinsk regions.

All these trends has intensified over the past 3 years, as it is in particular reflected in the 'Map of violations'.

Concidering the results of civic monitoring of the Elections held on 13 September 2015, we assume that it is necessary to conclude that the Elections Institute of Russia was discredited by abusing   its administrative discretion and moreover avoided liability for this; it has a negative impact on the course of election campaign, violates the principle of free and fair elections, and, as a result, distorts the election results, what makes us questioning the authenticity and legitimacy of elections.

Concidering the results of Elections (13 September 2015) Observation carried out by the movement 'Golos' - long-term (observation of the entire election campaign) and short-term (observation of the Electio Day processes) we would like to present the following recommendations.

To the State Duma of the Russian Federation:

  • To facilitate stable electoral laws, to stipulate safeguards from manipulations in favor of the ruling party or individual subjects taking part in the political processes. Any amendments to the election law should primarily respect the interests of the voters.
  • To facilitate the necessary conditions for citizen election observation, in particular, to provision election observation carried out by public associations.
  • To deprive executive institutions and officials of possibility to influence the composition of election commissions.
  • To increase fines for administrative offenses, such as violations of election law and to deprive the perpetrators of these offenses of the right to work for any election commission for 5 years.
  • To cancel the requirement for candidates to collect signatures of members of municipal councils in the Gubernatorial Elections or to reduce the threshold up to 1-3% in order to ensure competetive elections.
  • To cancel the requirement for candidates to collect voters' signatures in the Elections to Legislative and Representative bodies of regional and local authorities or to reintroduce the electoral deposit in the elections.
  • To oblige the heads of regions and municipalities, running for elections, to go on vacation for the period of the election campaign.
  • To increase penalties for election officials abusing their powers during the elections and to ensure the inevitability of punishment.
  • To eliminate any possibility for officials to take advantage of public events organized using public funds and (or) while carrying out their official duties for campaigning purposes.
  • To amend the Russian electoral law by fully depriving all the companies owned by foreign entities or the Russian Federation, Subjects of the Russian Federation or municipalities to contribute to the election funds.

To election commissions:

  • To guarantee fully independent, impartial, collegial, open and transparent decision-making process, as required by the current electoral law.
  • To refrain from being guided by the recommendations and unofficial orders that do not comply with the current electoral law.
  • To ensure greater protection of commission members refusing to commit fraudulent actions.
  • To preclude arbitrary and selective decision making.
  • To ensure the equality of all candidates and parties while nominating or registering their candidacies, collecting and verifying voters' signatures, as well as running the election campaign or other electoral activities.
  • To facilitate the best possible environment for candidates' and parties' equal access to media.
  • To develop a set of measures in order to detect and prevent covert campagning carried out under the guise of dissemination of information on the candidate's official duties.
  • To tighten control over the campaigning events carried out not only at the expense of election funds, though actually benefiting from administrative resources and unequal access to media.
  • When publishing information on donors-legal entities, to disclose data on the ultimate owners of companies, including closed joint stock companies.
  • When publishing information on the finance sources of election funds, to disclose VAT Identification Number of the respective legal entity.

To candidates and political parties:

  • To respect principles and methods of fair competition while running election campaign.
  • To refrain from availing administrative resources.

To media:

  • To facilitate equal access to press, airtime and online media for all parties and candidates.
  • To respect principles of fairness and equality in regard to media coverage on parties and candidates running for elections.
  • To refrain from negative customised campaigning.

To judiciary and law enforcement institutions:

  • To identify and punish the instigators and organizers of  such crimes as falsification of voting and election results committed by members of election commissions.
  • To secure more scrupulous investigation of offenses and crimes, based on clear evidence  respecting the equality of testimony.
  • To persecute officials taking advantage of their discretion in the elections; to tighten control over campaigning activities carried out not at the expense of the election funds, though benefiting from administrative resources and taking advantage of unequal access to the media.
  • To prosecute perpetrators impeding legitimate campaigning activities carried out by candidates and electoral alliances.
  • To refrain from being guided by politically motivated orders.

Footnotes:

[1] As of 6:20 am September 14, 2015.

[2] On the Election Day (as of 09:00 September 14) 'Golos' recorded 858 complaints about violations on the 'Map of Violations' (for the period of election campaign – 1756); the number is increasing with the vote count and tabulation. According to the 'Map of Violations' the most edgy elections were held in Kostroma Region (228 complaints), followed by regions considerably lagging behind such regions as: Samara (88 complaints), the Republic of Tatarstan (55), Voronezh (43) and Chelyabinsk (40). The statistics on the recorded violations by region is available on http://www.kartanarusheniy.org/2015-09-13/stat/892581309.

Analytical Reports on the last election campaign issued by the movement 'Golos':