STATEMENT No.3 of “GOLOS” Association on findings of short term observation of the course of Elections Day during regional elections of March 1, 2009

02 марта 2009 г.

STATEMENT No.3 of “GOLOS” Association on findings of short term observation of the course of Elections Day during regional elections of March 1, 2009

Association of non-commercial organizations in defence of voter rights “GOLOS” conducts long and short term observation of the electoral process. Monitoring is carried out by long term observers, correspondents of the newspaper “Grazhdanskiy golos” and activists of the Association. Association receives information from media and expert interviews with representatives of political parties, NGO leaders, members of electoral commissions, and also from ordinary citizens, who report violations through public “Hotline” at 8–800–333-33 50.

Association “GOLOS”, as an organization that operates based on internationally accepted standards of election monitoring, strictly observes principle of political neutrality, since it is one of the main conditions for independent and objective monitoring of elections. “GOLOS” takes all possible measures to ensure that its activists and observers comply with these principles.

“GOLOS” monitors progress of electoral campaign in accordance with Russian electoral legislation and universal international electoral standards, such as: the UN Declaration of Human Rights – 1948, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – 1966, Inter-Parliamentary Council Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections – 1994, 1990 Copenhagen Document, and regional international electoral standards.

When monitoring electoral process, “GOLOS” pays particular attention to: 1) observation of electoral rights of voters and compliance with electoral procedures; 2) work of electoral commissions; 3) use of administrative resource; 4) equality of candidate’ abilities to conduct political agitation; 5) course of Election Day.

This is the third statement on findings of the short term observation of the election of deputies of legislative bodies of the subjects of Russian Federation, heads of the administrative centres of the subjects of Russian Federation, representative bodies of the municipal districts and other municipal establishments held on March 1, 2009.

On March 1, 2009 elections for legislative bodies of the governments of 9 Russian regions, 10 mayors and representative bodies of the governments of 12 administrative centres of Russian regions were held. In addition to that, a significant number of heads of local self-governments and deputies of other municipal establishments were elected.
Lotteries, prize drawings, distribution of discount cards and free goods at polling stations (PS)

“GOLOS” Association claims that from the start of voting in the premises and near the PS premises in St. Petersburg, Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk, Dolgoprudny (Moscow region) lotteries, prize drawings were held, along with discount cards and free gifts being distributed to voters. For example, in Novosibirsk “GOLOS”s correspondents reported that discount cards “Day of kindness” www.den-dobra.ru were distributed to voters to signify voting day (PEC #1999, 2008 and other). “GOLOS” sent an inquiry letter addressed to the Novosibirsk Regional Election Commission and received reply from the Deputy Chairman of the Novosibirsk City Election Commission, claiming that the action was organised by commercial organization and cannot be classified as agitation and cannot influence the turnout of voters or the results of voting. In Chelyabinsk, a full-fledged lottery was carried out in the region. The drawing of prizes was being broadcasted on television throughout the Election Day. Officially, the organiser of the lottery was Association of Restaurant Keepers of Chelyabinsk city, however, the size of the lottery, the location – usually in front of the polling places entrances, signified the connection with the voting day. In addition, on Saturday, Feb. 28th, “GOLOS” correspondents visited territorial election commissions (TEC) and found one of the TEC Chairman folding and sorting lottery tickets. In response to “GOLOS” enquiries Chairman noted that he was volunteering for the lottery. “GOLOS” was also informed that at polling station #336 in the town of Dolgoprudny in Moscow region pancakes were distributed to the voters.

“GOLOS” Association notes that the law clearly prohibits the organization of any type of lotteries, prize drawings, etc., associated with voting day. This type of technology, applied in numerous regions, is aimed at increasing voters’ turnout and contradicts the principle of free elections.

Pressure on voters, illegal agitation, presence of unauthorized persons at polling stations

Before Elections Day “GOLOS” received reports at its public “Hotline” that voters in Tatarstan republic were pressured. In particular, workers of KAMAZ plant in Naberezhnye Chelny town were obliged to report to the management that they took part in voting. Such information was also received on voting day. Workers of KAMAZ plant addressed “GOLOS” to report the information that their presence at the PS was also registered by the management. However, Territorial Election Commission in its response to “GOLOS” stated that their investigation of the situation revealed that “the lists were not found and the voters were not being registered”.

“GOLOS” also claims that the correspondents of the newspaper “Grazhdanskiy golos” registered several cases when agitation materials were found near or right on the premises of PS in Chelyabinsk, Tomsk, St. Petersburg. Also “GOLOS” notes facts of presence near the PS of organized groups of people, which was registered in St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk and Chelyabinsk.

Violation of rights of representatives of media, observers, members of the electoral commissions and candidates and other violations

“GOLOS” Association faced facts of violation of media representatives’ rights. Thus, correspondents of the newspaper “Grazhdanskiy golos” experienced resistance in conducting observation at polling stations in Republic of Tatarstan, city of Dolgoprudny of Moscow region. Some cases were also reported from the city of Tomsk, Nevskiy district of St.Petersburg. Much more often correspondents were illegally denied right to make photos and video recordings, were not shown election commissions’ documents, were restricted from moving freely around the polling station.

The tendency to decrease political competition, including resistance to oppositional parties and candidates’ participation in elections continued on Elections Day. In particular, independent candidates, their representatives and electoral commissions’ members and observers faced significant resistance when performing their duties on the Election Day. Many candidates were denied access to polling stations, commission members and independent candidates’ observers were removed from the PS premises.

“GOLOS” Association received information from Tatarstan that TEC member of the Kremlevskiy constituency # 3 V.V. Starushenko had his commission member’s identification card illegally taken from him by the Chairman of the same TEC.

Also, facts of forcible action and physical threats against representatives of media and election commissions’ members with the voting right were registered. For example, in the town of Dolgoprudny in the evening not far from the PS #335 two correspondents of the newspaper “Grazhdanskiy golos” were attacked by two unidentified persons, who took away photo cameras and documents of the correspondents. In St. Petersburg correspondents of the newspaper “Grazhdanskiy golos” were threatened with physical violence after the correspondents took pictures of the campaigns of the candidates at polling stations # 1272, 1273 and 1274. In the Republic of Tatarstan election commission’s member with voting right was beaten up by unidentified people at polling station #239 before the start of vote counting. According to the victim, PEC Chairman and militia man were aware of the physical attack taken against her. At the polling station #283 Dmitriy Berdnikov, self-nominated single-mandate candidate was beaten up when he tried to enter the premises during vote counting. Both cases of the physical attack in Tatarstan were registered at the emergency room.

As for the course of voting “GOLOS” received information about unauthorized persons, in particular, members of administrations, being present on polling stations in St. Petersburg, Cheliabinsk, Novosibirsk.

Association “GOLOS” received information about significant number of cases of illegal removal of observers, members of the electoral committees or representatives of media from polling stations, and also cases of denying candidates from entering PS. Such information more frequently was received during vote counting from Tomsk, Moscow, Chelyabinsk regions.

Special situation was in the Republic of Tatarstan. “GOLOS” Association states that throughout the Election Day and period of vote counting the region was leading according to number of reports of violations of rights’ of observers and candidates, which were made by correspondents of “Grazhdanskiy golos” and ordinary citizens at the “Hotline” of the Association.

The most frequently reported violations were the refusal and restriction of abilities of the authorized persons to monitor the procedure of the vote counting commonly associated with claims about various sorts of manipulations during counting. (For example, PS #367, 377, 225, 234). Reports about other cases of the restriction of the rights of observers, election commissions’ members with voting rights or candidates, in particular – removal of the authorized persons from the premises of election commissions, in some cases with use of physical actions, were received from PEC #2, 434, 37, 63, 239, 2466, 234, 318, 269, 326, 420 and others in the Republic of Tatarstan.

A typical example can be the situation at the PEC #261 (school No.177), as it was reported to “GOLOS” by various sources, including its representatives in the republic of Tatarstan. Thus, during vote counting part of the ballots was dropped on floor as if accidentally. At the same time, one of the commissioners attempted stuffing additional ballots in favor of one of the candidates. Ballot-stuffing was noticed by the commission’s members with voting rights, and the subsequent statement of act was drawn up. During the vote counting this PEC decided to remove two members with voting rights – Alexy Tyomin and Oleg Aleksandrov, on claims that these two members were misbehaving. Before start of vote counting, however, there were no complaints about the work of these two commissioners. Maria Alexandrovna Gorsunova, candidate from the party “United Russia” tried to visit the same polling station. The members of the commission and militia did not let her into the PS premises. Information about ballot stuffing was also received from other eight polling stations of the city of Kazan and region.

“GOLOS” also received information stating that in the town of Balabanovo of Kaluga region in the electoral district #1 the name of the registered candidate Sokolov V.I. was missing on voting ballots.

In addition to the requests for consultations, as of 6 pm March 2, 262 calls reporting possible violations were received through “GOLOS” “Hotline”. Association is taking all measures to verify received information by its own means, and also sends out inquiries to election commissions on claims of most serious violations. Association “GOLOS” would like to express its gratitude for the prompt reaction of Tatarstan Central Election Commission, Tver Regional Election Commission, Territorial Election Commission of the city of Naberezhnye Chelny. We would like to especially acknowledge cooperation of Chelyabinsk City Election Commission and Novosibirsk Regional Election Commission.

“GOLOS” Association notes that numerous cases of resistance faced by media representatives, election commission members with voting right, and election monitors performing their duties on the Election Day testifies of the inadequate higher level election commissions’ reaction to such facts (including that of the Central Election Commission). Common practice of removing election monitors from the election commissions’ premises, especially before the vote count, refusals to provide documents to the media representatives, candidates and their proxies, observers, physical and moral pressure on them – all this is a result of the weak will to remove such practices from Russian electoral process. Such acts also testify of the remaining threat to the overall system of public control of the elections.

Serious amendments need to be made to the existing legislation in order to strengthen all forms of civic control, including increasing responsibility for limiting civic control over the electoral process.

Citizens’ trust into elections is the only way toward stability in the country, toward possibility to mobilize citizens against economic issues. Such stability is undermined by any kind of aggressive, inadequate conduct from the side of election administrators, which hamper the openness and transparency of the electoral process.

“GOLOS” headquarters continue to receive information from the regions. “GOLOS” Association will issue final Statement covering the analysis of all collected information. Messages received through “GOLOS” “Hotline” are published on-line at: www.88003333350.ru.