STATEMENT No. 1: Preparatory Stage of Federal Elections: view from the regions

19 сентября 2007 г.

Association “GOLOS” September 15, 2007

Association “GOLOS” carries out long term observation of the election processes at the elections for the State Duma of the 5th convocation starting from July 2007 and ending up on the E-Day on December 2, 2007. The observation is carried out in 40 regions of Russia (Moscow, Yaroslavskaya, Voronezhskaya, Kaluzhskaya, Kostromskaya, Tverskaya, Vladimirskaya, Orlovskaya, Ryazanskaya oblast, St-Petersburg, Pskovskaya, Novgorodskaya oblast, the Republic of Karelia, Kaliningradskaya, Arkhangelskaya, Samarskaya, Volgogradskaya, Kurskaya oblast, the Republic of Chuvashia, Ulianovskaya, Nizhegorodskaya oblast, the Republic of Tatarstan, Krasnodarskiy Krai, Stavropolskiy Krai, the Republic of Adygea, Rostovskaya, Astrakhanskaya oblast, the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, Chelyabinskaya, Permskaya oblast, the Republic of Bashkotorstan, Sverdlovskaya oblast, the Republic of Mariy-El, Novosibirskaya oblast, Altayskiy Krai, Irkoutskaya, Omskaya, Tomskaya oblast, Primorskiy Krai, Krasnoyarskiy Krai), according to the data on the observation carried by the reporters of the newspaper “Grazhdanskiy GOLOS” (Civil Voice), activists of the Association.

‘”GOLOS” receives information from both regional mass media and expert interviews with the representatives of the political parties, leaders of non-commercial organizations, members of the election committees, as well as from ordinary citizens, who report about the violations during the election process via “Hot line” of “GOLOS”.

During the observation of the process of preparation for the election campaign, the Association “GOLOS” pays attention to the following:

• Process of the election committee formation;

• The principles of the formation of the regional party lists;

• Public awareness of the pre election process;

• Equal opportunities for agitation campaign run by political parties;

• Equal access to mass media of the participants of the political process;

• Legal guarantees for fair and free elections.

PREPARATORY STAGE OF FEDERAL ELECTIONS:
VIEW FROM REGIONS

1. THE FORMATION OF THE ELECTION COMMITTEES OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION SUBJECTS

In total by the time of the election campaign launch during a year 65 regional election committees were formed. With that the chairmen were assigned in 15 regions, and new vice-chairmen were assigned in 27 regions, and new committee secretaries in 26 regions. It is notable that the dominating role of “Edinaya Rossia” (United Russia) party’s representatives in the formation of the regional election committees, Among the new chairmen of the committees, the majority of the former workers of the law-enforcement agencies and military establishments, and also former members of the regional administrations. Thus, in Tverskaya oblast, Mikhail Titov, the chairman of the committee, who served for years was replaced by Valeriy Pesenko, the secretary of the security council of Tverskay oblast. The representative of the law-enforcement agencies became the head of the election committee of Orlovskiy region. The head of the Orlovskiy law institute, the general-major of militia Eugeniy Schendrigin became chairman of the election committee. Formally, the approval procedure of the list of the regional election committee past without any conflicting issues: at the session of the regional Board of the public deputies the final list was carried out. The only conflicting issue arose when the Board refused to include in the list the candidates, which were chosen by the public – Tatiana Kononygina, the leader of the regional society “Znanie” – respected citizen of the region, the head of the regional Center for election technologies, who is distinguished for her principles and independent personality. The conflict was not solved – Kononygina was not included in the lists.

When shifting a number of respected and experienced chairmen of the election committees, some heads of the election committees kept their posts, even though most of the complains were addressed to the participants of the regional elections in 2006/2007. Thus, in Dagestan, Magomed Khalitov still remains to be responsible for the election process in Dagestan, in Moscow region – Valentina Smirnova, in Sverdlovskaya oblast – Vladimir Mostovschikov. However, the session of the RF Central Election Committee on the candidacy of Mr. Mostovschikov for the chairmanship was held in closed-door. “Spravedlivaya Rossia” (Fair Russia) was completely against the candidacy of Mr. Mostovschikov and Sergey Mironov personally. It was connected with the exclusion of the list of the Russian Party ZHIZN (LIFE) from the election for Sverdlovsk Regional Duma in October 2006. After the recommendation of the Central Election Committee, Mr. Mostovschikov was elected as the chairman without any alternatives and unanimously.

Conclusions and recommendations:

The regional election committees play important role in the organization, preparation and conduction of the deputy elections for the RF State Duma of the 5th convocation. Fair and Free elections, first of all, imply the presence of the independent institutions which are responsible for the election conduction. Thus, the election committees in RF subjects shall be objective and independent, equidistant from all participants of the political process. In circumstances when in 75 out of 85 subjects of the Russian Federation the governors lead the United Russia party lists, the assignment of the half of the members of the regional election committees by the governors is considered to be an act of the direct political influence on the regional election committee’s activities. Above all, it is possible to include up to 50 percent of the municipal and state officials in the election committee. This does not include the workers of the institutions, who are accountable to the executive bodies. As a result the number of committees, who by their form of management and exposure to the influence remind affiliates of the executive power bodies.

The given above numbers and overall analysis of the content of the regional election committees, which are formed for the deputies elections for RF State Duma imply over-balance in the quantity in favor of the representatives of United Russia.
All insignificant attempts taken by other political actors (see above mentioned examples) to litigate at the court regarding the fact of the absence of the political equality in the committee’s composition had no any positive results in any cases.

*Thus, the GOLOS Association draws again the attention of the public to the necessity to enter changes in the election legislation, first of all, in the part regulating the formation of the election committee’s composition at all levels.

In order to ensure independence of the election committees from the executive bodies we suppose it is appropriate to switch over the formation of election committees of the RF subjects to the legislative authorities of the RF subjects, and exclude from the process the leaders of the executive bodies.

2. THE ACTIVITIES OF THE POLITICAL PARTIES ON THE FORMATION OF CANDIDATES’S LISTS TO THE RF STATE DUMA.

On the whole, the process of the formation by parties the lists of the candidates for the RF State Duma at the coming elections had backstage character with closed information. Sometimes information leaked about who will lead the list in particular regions, however all the information had speculative character, that didn’t reflect the reality. In the circumstances of absolutely proportional election system the public and public structures were actually estranged from real influence on the formation of the party lists.

Thus, only two parties (United Russia and Fair Russia) announced “primaries”. The extremely scandalous was the summarizing of the primaries in Samarskaya oblast, instead of the acting deputies of the State Duma from regions, who are well known and have stable group of supporters and who work a lot with the voters (V. Mokriy, A. Belousov and others), first places were taken by little known candidates, but who were personally close with the former governor of the region – K. Titov and with one of the leaders of AvtoVAZ.

In Chelyabinskaya oblast the acting deputy of the RF State Duma Dmitriy Eremin was not included in the final list as a result of primaries, he is currently collecting 100000 signatures in his support to be included in the party’s lists. However, in Chelyabinsk lists of United Russia 3 Moscovites appeared: Vladimir Grachev, N.N. Karpovich – the chairwoman of the Women’s Boxing Federation, M. Mischenko – leader of the youth movement “Molodaya Rossia” (Young Russia). The acting deputy of the State Duma from Chelyabinsk region P. Krasehnnikov will stand in elections in the lists of United Russia in Bashkotorstan to “strengthen the region”.

The formation of LDPR lists was not publicised.

Little information was available about lists from “Grazhdanskaya sila” (Civic force). One of the leaders of the party – K. Babkin happened to be in the list of United Russia at the primaries in Rostovskiy region.

Agrarnaya Partia (Agricultural Party) announced that the party will take part on its own and had not intention to unite with any of opponents. Most regions do not have information about the party’s activities. The famous representative of the party N. Kharitonov (Novosibirsk) will be included in the list of KPRF.

There is no information about the lists and participation at the elections from regional divisions of “Narodniy Soyuz” (Public Union, former “Narodnaya Volya” (Public Will). The Party of Peace and Solidarity, Party of Social Justice, REP “Zelenye” (Greens).

Conclusion and recommendations:

“GOLOS” expressed many times its concerns with the formation of the supreme legislative body of the country’s government depends only on party’s lists. It causes violation of rights of non-partisan voters. More than that, the expert’s evaluation of the principles of the formation of the party’s regional lists shows that many Russian regions will not be represented in the RF State Duma .

The existing way of formation of the party’s lists, as it was shown by above examples, is complicated by the fact that citizens have to stay out of the process of the formation of the candidates for RF State Duma. The fact that most of the candidates from parties are selected in closed doors (except United Russia and Spravedlivaya Rossia (Fair Russia), who managed to have “primaries” in their parties), luck of information for voters during the process of formation of party’s lists, except KPRF (Communist party) – it is all an evidence of the citizens being excluded from formation of the representative power.

Thus, the system that is created now is absolutely non-transparent for the society, distorts image of the country, and hinders the representation of the region at nationwide parliament. The fact that deputies from non-partisan parties cannot get into the parliament of the country today can result tomorrow in ignorance of the interests and opinion of great number of voters and lag of regions since regions will not be represented in adopting a number of federal laws.

*Association GOLOS thinks that mixed system of the elections to the RF State Duma diminishes the disadvantages of the proportional and majority voted systems, accommodates interests of all voters and is more adapted to the peculiarities of the federal form of the government. We assume that, in order to secure rights for passive voting rights of the citizens of the Russian Federation when political parties are weak it is necessary to refuse from full shift to proportional system at the deputies elections for the State Duma, especially at regional and municipal levels. In order to evade confusion among voters as a result of the proportional voting system we recommend cancelling elected candidate’s right to refuse from receipt of the mandate and foresee action sanctions for violation of this ban.

3. PARTYS’ PRE-ELECTION ACTIVITY

In general spring-summer intensive activities of the political parties on the eve of the elections for the RF State Duma can be easily explained and are grounded. Meetings with the voters, distribution of the partisan literature, leader’s trip to the regions, explanation of the program goals and priorities – normal political process.

However, in the framework of the party’s work, one can notice direct manipulation of the real facts. Thus, within partisan agitation, the party’s leaders are trying to convince voters that all the success in social and economic spheres of the regions was achieved exclusively as partisan projects. The administrative resources are used actively in organising additional partisan advertisement through organization of the municipal events paid from local funds. All the above mentioned facts allow manipulating public сознанием, to misinform the voters.

For example, in Astrakhan United Russia used agitation technologies in support of the construction projects dedicated to the 450th anniversary of Astrakhan city in 2008. Each big construction and reconstruction of the buildings (TUZ, river bank, philharmonic etc.) had a banner with motto and label of “Edinaya Rossia”(“Believe in real actions only!” etc. ). Moreover, in July United Russialaunched a commercial on radio (“Edinaya Rossia will win, because the president is with us”). One of the most widely used ways to use tacit advertising is the organization of mass events, dedicated to various holidays (sports tournaments on Physical Training Day, Youth Day etc.). Such events attract a lot of visitors and get widely publicised. In the beginning of July a free concert of young singers was organised in Astrakhan by “Molodaya Gvardia”. The event was attended by around 1 thousand people.

In Chelyabinsk United Russia started active agitating work a year ago, when at all local children’s’ yards and hockey rings party’s emblems appeared, however the party did not contribute any work in either of them. During June-July all over the town in every 30–50 meters United Russiabillboards appeared (main slogans: “Children protection – party’s program”, “Construction of roads – party’s program for beloved city”, “Health safety – party’s program” etc.), all the vehicles involved in reconstruction works contained “Road-construction – for our beloved city from United Russia. At kinder gardens, schools, health institutions political advertisement of United Russia was used for continuous time. At municipal councils at regional administrations in June and July the representatives of party reported on their activities, they connected all their activities in the town with the achievements of their party. According to the party’s agitation all sports constructions are able to function only thank to United Russia. Money allocated from municipal budgets for youth policy in Chelyabinsk organisations called as “Labour teams of the mayor” were opened and exist, children and teenagers wear hats and t-shirts with symbol of United Russia.

In Ryazan Fair Russia held events dedicated to the annual anniversary of the battle on Vozh. The Party distributed discount cards that could be used at several shops

Conclusions and recommendations:

*In order to provide equal opportunities for all political parties in the course of pre election agitating we think that it is appropriate to create both in regions and in the federal centre institutions for public observation, that can implement monitoring of mass media on the eve and during election campaigns and do objective evaluation of the use of administrative resources for the purposes of political advertisement. Such public evaluation can be a serious obstacle for misuse of the administrative resources and manipulation with public opinion.

4. ORGANIZATION OF THE INFORMATIONAL WORK IN THE PROCESS OF CAMPAIGNS AND AMENDED RULES OF THE ELECTION PROCES

GOLOS long-term election observers note little effort to raise public awareness regarding amendments entered in the election process in the regions, not only the majority of the voters are unfamiliar with new regulations, but also the same with the majority of the representatives of the regional committees of the political parties. Most of all, the absence of the information is connected with the formation of the party’s lists and distribution of the mandates between regional groups. In particular, the coordinators (for instance, in Adygea) outlined that the regulations changed and the region now can be left without any deputy for State Duma.

It can be said that the information was accumulated only within those officials, who actually knew in advance about the changes, and among those, who is interested in these issues and who are able to search on their own and analyse the information. Apparently, the information materials, TV videos will reach the public only during the official election campaigns at best, this could be not enough taking into account the scale of the changes in the legislation. Mass media mainly analyses partisan-political outlay, observations on who will be included in the list, and also provides place for presentation for future candidates, but no does not do any analysis of the legislation.

However, in several regions GOLOS observers note election commissions’ attempts to educate voters. Thus, in Kaliningadskiy, Tomskiy and Omskiy regions the relevant information is widely published not only at the websites of the regional committees, but also in local mass media, with which there is a constant detailed разъяснительная работа is carried out. There is an active publishing work is carried out in Khakassia, Tverskaya, Rostovskaya regions. From the elements of the work on public awareness in most of the regions one can outline campaigns designed for individual PR of the leader’s of the election committees. In Karelia from August 1 “summer schools for young voters and organizers of the elections 2007” were held at the regional election committees. The school was run within the program on promotion of the legal culture of the youth in the Republic of Karelia. The work is carried out by public organizations, political parties in the form of political literacy schools for youth, round tables, and discussions.

In a number of regions the election committees had just started their work and had not got prepared yet for targeted public awareness programs for the voters. The committees are mainly engaged with administrative work.

Conclusions and recommendations:

The legal illiteracy of the public in the issues of the voter’s right protection needs serious and well planned actions from both election committees of all levels and public-political organizations. GOLOS association implements active work with most of the regions by interaction with the election committees in the issues of youth education, by organising joint events at universities and schools, in discussion of the problems of the election legislation with political parties and non-commercial organizations (we should note the active work together with election committee of Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Barnaul, Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Chelyabinsk, Astrakhan, Pskov, Krasnodar, Voronezh etc.). However, the formation of the active voter, who is able consciously take part in the election process, who is well aware and able to protect his political rights – is a process that needs serious and well planned work.

GOLOS association hopes that the voters awareness program will be one of the priority goals of the election committee at all levels not only during the election campaigns, but also during inter election period. In their turn, such organizations like GOLOS have such experience and are ready to start active cooperation with election committees of all levels, public unions and political parties.

Association GOLOS is a non partisan organization, however, the protection of the constitutional rights of the citizens is the main mission of our activists.