STATEMENT No. 2: Nomination of parties’ lists and beginning of political agitation

28 октября 2007 г.

GOLOS Association

October 29, 2007

NOMINATION OF PARTIES’ LISTS AND BEGINNING OF POLITICAL AGITATION

STATEMENT No. 2: Nomination of parties’ lists and beginning of political agitation

STATEMENT No. 2

GOLOS Association

October 29, 2007

NOMINATION OF PARTIES’ LISTS AND BEGINNING OF POLITICAL AGITATION

I. FORMATION OF PARTIES’ LISTS

14 out of 15 political parties participating in the elections1 (all of them had a status of a political party stipulated in the law) nominated their lists of candidates.

As for the formation of the lists, in the conditions of a fully proportionate representation system the society and public have been denied an opportunity to influence this process. So-called “primaries” announced by major parties (Yedinaya Rossiya (United Russia) and Sprevedlivaya Rossiya (Fair Russia)) have rather imitated a democratic process.

Judging from the final composition of the lists – many candidates included in “primaries” were absent, while the lists included those candidates, which were not planning to run in the elections at all. There was no public control over who and how finalized the outcome of these primaries.

“Yedinaya Rossiya” (United Russia)

United Russia’s list can be characterized by the prevailing number of state officials. For instance, it included 65 (out of 84) acting governors, 4 ministers-members of the United Russia, heads and deputy heads of regional administrations, heads of regional legislative assemblies, heads of district and local administrations, etc.

Communist Party

The analysis of the Communists’ list of candidates has shown that at least 26 regional groups are headed by the candidates who have little or no connection with those regions.

“Spravedlivaya Rossiya” (Fair Russia)

Out of 90 regional groups, 34 are headed by the candidates living in another region.

SPS

Just as the majority of other parties, SPS also included candidates from other regions on top of their regional lists. In total, those candidates are heading 20 territorial groups.

LDPR

It can be stated that LDPR’s list remains to be the most de-regionalized list among all other parties –

candidates from other regions are heading 35 out of 87 regional groups.

“Yabloko”

Association’s observers note, that large numbers of members are withdrawing from the party.

Partiya Mira i Yedinstva (Party of Pease and Unity), Agrarian Party, Party of Social Justice, Narodnyi Soyuz (People’s Union), Democratic Party of Russia, «Grazhdanskaya Sila» (Civic Force), Green party, “Patriots of Russia” party

All these parties have also formed their lists of candidates, the lists were significantly de-regionalized as well.

“Drugaya Rossiya” (Other Russia) also submitted its list of candidates for Duma to the Central Election Commission, however, since other Russia does not have the status of a political party, this action could not have any legal consequences, and can be characterized as a PR move aiming to demonstrate that in current electoral conditions many citizens have been practically denied their passive voting rights.

II. REGISTRATION OF PARTIES’ LISTS OF CANDIDATES

Lists of United Russia, Communist Party and LDPR have been registered in accordance with so-called “Parliamentary privilege”, SPS, “Yabloko”, “Patriots of Russia” and Fair Russia have been registered after submitting electoral deposit, other 7 parties submitted signature lists. As of October 29, 2007, CEC have denied the registration of three parties: Green party (17,27% of submitted signatures found unacceptable), Party of Peace and Unity (8,56% of sihgnatures), Party “People’s Union” (5,16%). According to the law, parties have a right to appeal to the High Court within 10 days from the day of the CEC’s decision.

Communists, “Patriots of Russia”, SPS and “Fair Russia” have turned to CEC Chairman Vladimir Chyurov with a joint complaint regarding irregularities in the process of registering parties’ lists. The complaint stated that while the signature lists are being reviewed, some parties are allowed to replace already submitted documents, such as notarized lists of signature collectors, where their places of residence do not coincide with those noted in the signature lists. In particular, CEC has allowed several parties to correct such “errors”. The authors of the complaint believe such actions to be unlawful: since the incorrect documents have been notarized – either the parties have to be denied registration, or the notary has to be deprived of his/her license. As the above mentioned parties stated in their complaint: “The information received from our regional headquarters proves that there were hardly any efforts to collect signatures in the regions”, therefore, it is believed that signature lists have been made up by using special databases of contacts. The above mentioned parties believe that such method has been used by the Party of Social Justice, “Civic Force” party, Agrarian party, Party of Peace and Unity and “People’s Union” party.

III. THE USE OF ADMINISTRATIVE RESOURCE FOR POLITICAL AGITATION

Unexampled for federal electoral campaign level of state officials’ membership in the candidates’ list of one of the parties, in the conditions when the election law does not require some of them to go on vacation for the electoral period, begins to have notable influence on the course of this electoral campaign.

All state officials included in the lists continue to fulfill their main functions, taking the advantage provided by their positions for conducting political agitation. Open agitation for United Russia can be heard almost in every official statement or speech given by these officials.2

Even cases when electoral commission officials have conducted agitation in favor of United Russia have been recorded3.

In several regions observers noted drastic increase in the level of pressure on headquarters of the opposition parties and local mass media. Association has received information about the opposition agitators being detained by the representatives of law enforcing authorities and opposition parties being prevented from conducting political agitation. In particular, law enforcing authorities have been used for pressuring candidates in Perm, Novosibirsk, Bashkortostan, Volgograd and other regions.

Numerous other examples from various regions of Russia4 prove that there is a notable number of cases when state officials violate election law along with the international principles of Free and Fair elections.

The preliminary results of the election observation prove that state and municipal employees, using the advantages provided by their positions, participate in the political agitation during their working hours.

IV. AGITATION ACTIVITY OF POLITICAL PARTIES

According to the Law “On Elections of Deputies of State Duma of Russian Federation” agitation period for each political party begins after the party submits its list of candidates. The law also states that parties must finance their campaigning activities from their electoral funds and after they hold their conferences. Official agitation with the use of media should begin 28 days prior to the Election Day (on the 5th of November).

Two parties, United Russia and Fair Russia have begun mass agitation after submitting their lists (billboards, video- and audio-advertising, posters, participation of representatives TV shows and analytical programs, etc.). SPS, Communists party, LDPR have also been quite active.

Mass, so-called “hidden political advertisement” has been noted in media. In the majority of news programs on regional TV channels, in one way or another, but mostly in positive light political party United Russia is being mentioned.

During city holidays, regional celebrations, state holidays and on so on, symbols of United Russia are being actively used, and party’s materials are being distributed. Mass political agitation in educational institutions is being conducted.

In less populated regions continuing agitation is noted, the main message of which is that only voting for the United Russia will allow the region to have its own representative in the State Duma.

The major and most common violation observed is the mass abuse of the administrative resource mostly in favor of the United Russia, and somewhat less in favor of the Fair Russia.5 In addition, observers record widespread political advertising (presented in a form of indirect or pseudo-social advertising) that is not being paid from the parties’ electoral funds. Association considers several objects of so-called “social advertisement”, in particular, those produced by the CEC, being examples of indirect agitation in favor of United Russia (an image of state flag presented similar to the way it is depicted on the United Russia advertisement is used). The slogan on the CEC’s “social advertisement” – “Vote for the party and its leader”, is used to focus voters’ attention on one particular person – the leader of the party’s list of candidates, and not on the fact that Deputies of the State Duma are being elected.

“GOLOS” Association also draws the attention of the public to the fact that the Day of Knowledge (1st of September) has been massively used by the United Russia party for the campaigning purposes, regardless of the fact that political agitation in the educational institutions is prohibited by the law. Corresponding appeals have been made by several political parties. On the 27th of September, CEC has considered the issues of school notebooks with an image of United Russia on the cover being distributed among school students. Commission member M. Grishina voiced the CEC’s decision: spreading information about the party without direct appeals to citizens urging them to vote for this party cannot be considered a violation, since at that point the party has not submitted its list of candidates.

Other parties have also submitted complaints to election commissions regarding the activity of the Fair Russia. Thus, Kurgansk oblast election commission declared that billboards containing slogans in support of regional party list’s leader hero of Russia- Valeriy Burkov, with party’s colors on the background were political advertisements, produced in a way violating the election law.

The difference in election commissions’ reaction to similar activities from the side of different parties allows one to doubt the impartiality of election commissions, and the CEC in particular.

Conclusions and recommendations:

· Complete transition to proportional system of forming State Duma of Russian Federation with unopened party lists does not stimulate political parties to recruit non-party regional leaders of public opinion. And the possibility to ‘beautify’ a party list with a political figure, who will not carry out its full deputy powers has resulted in a system of ‘locomotives’ with voters not being able to see real candidates. The system of manipulating party lists can detach voters from the real political process even more

· ‘Political expediency’ which is used by party nomenclature to form regional lists lead to de-regionalization of elected deputies: entire territories lose an interested representative in the higher legislative body of the country.

GOLOS Association believes that following the results of elections for State Duma of Russian Federation a wide public discussion on the issue of nominating candidates should be organized. It is voters themselves who should evaluate the new electoral system. Such a discussion can be initiated by the Public Chamber. It can take place on a regional level and estimate the results of carried out electoral reforms.

· Unequal starting level of participation of political parties in election campaign (privileges for parliamentary parties when registering party lists and high deposit barriers for the others) does not allow obeying the PRINCIPLE OF EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES for all members of the electoral process.

· Reduction of possible flaw on subscription lists to 5% (earlier in the law – 25%), absence of clear regulation when checking subscription lists, absence of transparency of the procedure of checking signatures. All this consequently lead to arbitrariness from the side of election commissions. Even at the stage of registering party lists political parties fall within dependence on a registering body. Knowingly manipulative principle of parties access to participation in election campaign is being created.

“GOLOS” Association believes that it is necessary to reconsider in the legislation the system of registering parties and candidates for taking part in elections.

· Using the privileges of employment status in the period of holding election campaign should be regarded as a form of electoral corruption and should be suppressed not only in the framework of election legislation, but also in the framework of administrative and criminal law

The practice of pressuring the participants of the electoral process from the side of administrative structures, taxation bodies, militia, Federal Security Service of Russia must be strictly controlled in the framework of Public Prosecutor’s supervision in the period of holding election campaigns. Such form of control should be spelled out separately in employment duties of the Prosecutor’s office. Revealed facts of corresponding actions should be published in the official press as obligatory procedure.

After the termination of federal, regional and local election campaigns it is necessary to hold an independent audit of spending budget sources by corresponding administrations in order to suppress latent forms of financing of election campaigns under the guise of social advertisement, unscheduled celebration, lotteries, charity events and so on.

Political will of federal and regional management, active position of civil society is necessary for defending PRINCIPLES OF FAIR, FREE AND EQUAL ELECTION IN RUSSIAN FEDERATION.

1 15th party “Partiya Vozrozhdeniya Rossii” (Party of the Revival of Russia) could not hold a conference because of the practical absence of the governing bodies in the party.

2 See http://www.golos.org/a824.html for comprehensive report with the full list of examples.

3 On the 2nd of October Sverdlovsk oblast Electoral Commission Chairman V.D. Mostovshchikov gave a speech before the army officers at Povolzhie-Ural army district, in which he assessed President’s decision to head the United Russia party’s list as a “brave and resolute action of Man, who not only decided to provide his people with a report of his activity for the 8 years he has been leading the country, but also proposed the voters to assess the program of country’s future development, known as the Putin’s Plan, aimed at solving all problems that concern each of the country’s citizens.” According to the Chairman, “the content and meaning of President’s speeches will become the major motive impelling all citizens of the country, including army officers and members of their families, to actively participate in the elections on all stages of electoral process, including the Election Day – 2nd of December”.

4 See http://www.golos.org/a824.html for comprehensive report with the full list of examples.

5 See http://www.golos.org/a824.html for comprehensive report with the full list of examples.

2007–10–29, upd.: 2007–11–14 19:08:36