Statement No. 1 of “GOLOS” Association on findings of long-term monitoring of the elections campaign for Sochi city mayor elections set for April 26th, 2009

23 апреля 2009 г.

Statement No. 1 of “GOLOS” Association on findings of long-term monitoring of the elections campaign for Sochi city mayor elections set for April 26th, 2009

Moscow, April 24, 2009.

The Statement is the first statement of Golos Association on findings of long-term monitoring of the elections campaign of Sochi city mayor elections set for April 26th, 2009.

Within the monitoring Golos Association will present 2 reports on its website ( www.golos.org ) on preliminary findings of the long-term and short-term elections monitoring.

The Association of Non-Profit Organizations “In Defense of Voters’ Rights «GOLOS»“conducts long-term and short-term monitoring of the electoral process. This monitoring is carried on by long-term observers, correspondents of Grazhdanskiy GOLOS newspaper, and the Association’s activists. The Association receives information both from mass media and from expert interviews with representatives of political parties, NGO leaders, elections commissions members, and from ordinary citizens reporting violations in the course of campaigns to the Association representatives and via a “hot line” (phone number 8 800 333 3350).

As an organization guided in its work by election monitoring standards accepted throughout the world, GOLOS Association strictly observes political neutrality as one of the main conditions of independent and objective election monitoring. GOLOS takes all possible measures in order to oblige all its workers and activists to observe the said principles.

In its electoral campaigns monitoring, GOLOS is guided by general and universal international electoral standards (the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948; the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights, was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 6, 1966 and took force on March 23, 1976; the Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union on March 26, 1994) as well as by regional international electoral standards and by provisions of the Russian legislation.

When monitoring the electoral process, the organization concentrates attention first of all on: 1) respect for citizens’ electoral rights and compliance with the electoral procedures; 2) the elections commissions’ activities; 3) use of the administrative resource during the electoral campaign; 4) equal opportunities for all candidates; 5) developments on the Election Day.

Characteristics of the municipal elections in Sochi

April 17th, 2009 Sochi mayor Viktor Kolodiazhny was appointed president of Olympstroi State Corporation and Vladimir Afanasenkov, the territory’s vice- governor, was appointed as acting mayor. At the Sochi city mayor election which were held on June 28, 2008 only 4 out of 12 candidates were registered: acting mayor Vladimir Afanasenkov (self-nominated), Ivan Mokanu – general manager of Novstroyinvest LLC from Novorossiysk ( self-nominated), Yuri Dzagania – engineer of South electrical communication office of Krasnodar “South Telecommunication Company” branch and 1st secretary of city Communist Party committee, Viktor Kuz’minov ( self-nominated) deputy head of Krasnoarmeysk’ region municipal committee on local governing and public relations.

In the course of the campaign representative s of Communist Party were repeatedly making complaints about active use of city administrative resource and obstacles in candidate Yu. Dzagania’s elections campaign.

According to official statistics, out of 286 962 registered voters, 133 764 participated in voting which makes 46.61%.Out of those 286 962, 14 404 voted ahead of elections (during preliminary voting – 10.8%), 97 913 voted in and 21 647 outside of the voting premises ( 16.2%). 13 2876 voters ( 46.3%) actually put ballots into voting boxes, which means that the remaining 888 voters took the ballots but did not return them.

The number of invalid ballots was 1 947. Results per candidates were: V.N. Afanasenkov 11 1425 (85.10%), Y.V. Dzagania 15 934 ( 12.17%),V.V. Kuz’minov 2 557 ( 1.95%),I.G. Mokanu 1013 ( 0,77%).

However, regardless of such impressive victory in October 30 2008 elections, new Sochi mayor Vladimir Afanasenkov resigned. The resignation of Afanasienkov, reason of which was explained as health issues, was completely unexpected both for Sochi citizens and for City council deputies. Following recommendations of Krasnodar territory governor Alexander Tkachev, the position of acting city mayor was taken by Jambulat Khatuov, former city mayor of Armavir.

Jambulat Khatuov was acting as mayor for several months. On January 20, 2009 the governor of Krasnodar territory Alexander Tkachev appointed former mayor of Anapa Alexander Pakhomov as acting mayor of Sochi.

Hence, starting from April 2008, Sochi has seen 3 city mayors.

Registration stage of Sochi mayoral elections campaign

On February 26 meeting Sochi City Council decided to hold pre-term elections of the head of Sochi city on April 26th 2009.

The elections are pre-term, which explains why the terms of electoral activities in the campaign are decreased by 1/3.

For the registration of the candidate for Sochi city mayor position it is required to submit to Sochi municipal elections commission between 5 927 and 6 519 signatures in support of a candidate. The amount of elections deposit is 282 000 RUR. In total 27 people applied to register as candidates (candidate Pavel Emelianenko at first cancelled application but then applied again). Out of those 27, necessary documents for registration were submitted by 20 persons, 4 candidates (Danilevsky, Vareldzhian, Parshyn, Stupak) submitted to the elections commission applications to cancel their registration after applying. 7 candidates’ applications (Zhosan, Riabtsev, Ilkovsky, Volochkova, Berdnikov, Zuykov, Funtiakov) were turned down. In most of the cases the reasons for such refusal included violations made by candidates during creation of elections funds and making elections deposits, and also the lack of required documents. One of the candidates, V.Zuykov, was turned down because he did not manage to submit the required number of voters’ signatures as well as documents stating his property and income. Thus, Sochi elections committee initially registered 9 candidates and 3 of them were registered using parliamentary privilege ( A.Pakhomov from Yedinaya Rossiya, A.Kolesnikov from LDPR, Y.Dzagania from CPRF), 6 of them were registered based on deposit ( P. Yemelianenko, B.Nemtsov, V.Trukhanovski, A.Bogdanov, A.Lebedev,V.Kurpitko).

At present moment there are 6 candidates: the registration of Lebedev and Kurpitko is cancelled by court decision and Bogdanov withdrew his candidature.

Interestingly, some candidates were nominated without their own prior consent. Some candidates after receiving refusal for registration were trying to appeal it.

As for the cancellation of the initially registered candidates, on April 13 Central district court of Sochi made decision to cancel the registration of A.Lebedev according to suit of candidate Trukhanovski. The main idea of the suit according to V.Trukhanovski was that A.Lebedev in his first financial report stated “3 non-legal money transfers to the account”. After A.Lebedev has paid elections deposit and submitted documents to elections committee, 3 underage citizens transferred money to his account, however, according to Lebedev team, when candidate’s team learned about the transfers, money of the abovementioned citizens were transferred back. According to the information received from Lebedev the 3 citizens made money contributions one hour after the elections account was created and it is unclear how the Sberbank employees accepted payments from underage citizens for elections purposes. In addition to this, the court regarded unclearly written number in bank information letter as “March 23”, and in fact the elections account was opened on March 24th. Therefore, in any case on March 23rd the money could not have been on the account. On April 16th Krasnodar territory court confirmed the legality of the decision of Central district court of Sochi and refused to support the complaint of Sochi elections commission regarding district court’s decision.

On April 14, the Central District Court of Sochi cancelled the registration of the city mayor elections candidate Viktor Kurpitko, a member of Spravedlivaya Rossiya party. The reason was same as in the case of Alexander Lebedev, the violation in documents regarding deposit. The examination of Kurpitko’s registration was also held due to V.Trukhanovski suit. On April 21 Krasnodar territory court confirmed the decision of Central district court of Sochi to cancel the decision of city elections commission about registration of Viktor Kurpitko as Sochi city mayoral candidate.

The court also rejected a number of suits regarding the cancellation of acting mayor A.Pakhomov candidate’s registration. Thus, on April 14 the court of Sochi Central district refused to satisfy the claim of mayoral candidate Yury Dzagania on revoking registration of Pakhomov as candidate in elections. Dzagania explained his claim by the fact that Pakhomov cannot be considered as the candidate nominated by party. Yu. Dzagania noted that according to the law “On main guarantees of electoral rights of Russian citizens…”, the candidate from Yedinaya Rossiya has to be nominated by the meeting, conferences or congress of the party but not by a political council of local party branch, as it was in fact done. The representative of elections commission made a statement in court that when taking decision about registration, commission was guided by party’s statute, which allowed such nomination.

On April 17 Boris Nemtsov filed a complaint in Sochi Central district Court about the cancellation of A.Pakhomov’s registration. On April 20 the court turned down the complaint. One of the reasons stated in the complaint included the TV program ‘Vesti Sochi”, in which Kuban’ governor Alexander Tkachev and vice-governor Murat Akhedzhak were electioneering in favor of Anatoliy Pakhomov. The representative of Pakhomov Oleg Naumkin stated that “ the candidate did notorder this program, did not pay for it, and has no relation to it”. At the same time B.Nemtsov filed a complaint to city elections commission about administrative responsibility of Krasnodar territory governor Alexander Tkachev and Krasnodar territory vice-governor Murat Akhedzhak. Member of party “Pravoye delo”, former Presidential candidate, self-nominee Andrei Bogdanov withdrew from the race in favor of another candidate Anatoly Pakhomov.

Irregularities during agitation: unequal conditions for campaigning

GOLOS received information from election headquarters of B. Nemtsov, A. Liebedev, Yu. Dzagania and others on the cases of administrative resource abuse and “Black PR” against them mainly from the side of candidate A. Pakhomov.

For instance, on March 17, 2009, Boris Nemtsov was denied access to the conference of entrepreneurs held in Sochi Zimniy Theater and included representatives of city administration and acting Mayor A. Pakhomov. B. Nemtsov also filed a complaint with the election commission on illegal arrest of his agitation materials on Magri bridge near Sochi, which took place on April 4, when the militia arrested 125 thousands copies of agitation leaflets promising to return federal status to Sochi. On the same date a search in printing-house “Krasnodargosspetsproekt” took place, which printed those leaflets. The election commission representatives stated that the materials were printed without proper notification of the commission. Local TV channels broadcasted a report of the event where it was claimed that a wrong address of the printing-house was indicated on the leaflets. As it turned out, the address belonged to the business center where a company which hired the printing-house was registered. Candidates’ headquarters claimed to have provided election commission with the address in advance, as required by the law. Sochi city elections commission found violations of the law during the process of materials’ printing and sent information to the law enforcement authorities. On April 10 the elections commission turned down the complaint filed by candidate Nemtsov, indicating that no illegal actions were found in the activities of the Ministry of Interior Lazarevsky rayon department, which confiscated the leaflets. On April 8 B. Nemtsov made another statement, claiming that he, his relatives and supporters were experiencing unprecedented pressure from the side of authorities and even special services. The Head of Nemtsov’s election headquarters Ilya Yashyn informed media of cases when candidate’s activists where arrested and taken to militia stations (for example, Andrei Sklyarov – on April 9, in Adler).

According to the information released by candidate’s Liebedev Election Headquarters, on the night of April 11 unidentified persons destroyed several informational boards with political advertisements. In addition, after printing service “Salon Aprel” hired by the headquarters produced and placed political advertisements throughout Sochi, city advertisement service required the service to urgently remove all advertisement constructions, as they were found to violate state standards. (The constructions were in place for nine years and no complaints were received prior to the 13th of April, 2009, as the same company also serviced many candidates during numerous previous elections in Sochi).

The same company was also hired to place political advertisements of candidate Nemtsov. Also, the Headquarters claimed that advertisement agency “Yuzhnyi Gorod” which was also servicing B.Nemtsov, received a letter from city administration requiring to display tourist images instead of political advertisement due to the approaching tourist season.

Election headquarters of CPRF also informed the public about cases of administrative pressure. For instance, a group of their activists was detained in Lazarevsky rayon of Sochi, the activists were wearing CPRF t-shirts. On April 19 CPRF Rostov Oblast Legislature Deputy Ye. I. Bessonov, his assistants and one more activist were detained for wearing CPRF t-shirts and forcefully taken to Lazarevsky rayon department of Ministry of Interior. Detainees were told that city administration representatives did not like them wearing CPRF symbols and thus drawing attention of city residents. Deputy Bessonov and his assistant N. V. Kolomoitseva were kept by militia for over seven hours, which also illegally searched their belongings. On the same date Krasnodar Duma deputy S. P. Obuhov inquired on the details of this arrest and was told by the Ministry officials that no such occurrence has taken place. Nevertheless, CPRF placed a video on their web-site proving exactly the opposite.

It must be noted that Sochi media almost fully refused to participate in the elections, thus, the list on municipal election commission web-site contains no Sochi newspapers, willing to cover candidates’ political campaigns. The newspaper “Chernomorskaya zdravnitsa”, which at first wanted to involve in elections, later refused to partake in the agitation. Sochi media representatives do not comment on their refusal to join the campaigns of the candidates, however, they continue to cover “the current activities of the administration”.

Local TV companies are said to repeatedly broadcast similar pieces of information negative toward one of the candidates, thus violating part 1 of article 50 of the law “On main guarantees of electoral rights of Russian citizens…”. Free printed space and air, in fulfillment of the law, are provided by local TV company “Efkate” and newspaper “Novosti Sochi”. The only cable TV company that provides services to candidates is “Astra-TV”, which covers exclusively Khostinsky rayon of the city. Candidate Nemtsov filed a complaint to the Federal Public Prosecutor General, stating that Sochi TV companies broadcasted a slanderous film about his activities as Governor of Nizhniy Novgorod oblast.

Administrative technologies registered during the course of preliminary voting

Mass (same as during 2008 mayoral elections) preliminary voting in Sochi started at 8 am of April 15, 2009.

Candidate Nemtsov filed a complaint to the elections commission, claiming cases of administrative pressure on voters to partake in preliminary voting, as allegedly territorial elections commissions transfer groups of workers from various enterprises for voting, while such enterprises’ management forced voters to participate in the procedure. The complaint listed such enterprises, including: “Adler-Kurort”, sanatorium “Yuzhnoje vzmorje”, kindergarten No. 46, Adler market, Lazarevskiy rayon hospital and policlinic. Information about mass organized voting was also received from Central and Khostinsky rayons of the city.

Candidate Lebedev’s Headquarters released information that three hours after the preliminary voting started in Adler over 500 citizens casted their votes, some of them arriving on buses (alex-lebedev.livejournal.com). In particular, 400 workers of “Adler-Kurort” and 250 – of sanatorium “Yuzhnoje vzmorje”, several groups of school teachers and kindergarten workers took part in preliminary voting. Voters noted that they received clear orders from city administration. Information about mass preliminary voting and busing of voters was also released by the Headquarters of CPRF candidate Yu. Dzagania.

Media reported that on the first day of preliminary voting already 1563 citizens used this procedure. The situation with preliminary voting in Sochi is especially peculiar since its territory is not classified as “inaccessible and remote” area.

GOLOS notes that regional and federal media started publishing information about supposed “observers-provocateurs” and former “orange revolutions participants” that arrived to Sochi to conduct provocations and extremist activities, which would harm Sochi residents. City Department of Ministry of Interior claimed to have received information that extremist activities are planned by one of the candidates during last week before the Election Day. Additional law enforcing forces were sent to Sochi to prevent such activities from other parts of Krasnodarskiy Krai.

As “Gazeta” reported, on Sunday residents of the neighboring Abkhazia who have Russian citizenship would be able to vote in border village Vesieloje, where Sochi elections commission opened a special polling station. Technically, this could be used by several thousands of Abkhazians which applied for and received Sochi residence right after the republic’s independence last August. As mayoral candidate Yu. Dzgania noted, the right to vote in municipal elections applies to all permanent residents of the electoral constituency.

Conclusions and recommendations

GOLOS Association notes that pressuring citizens to vote directly violates their constitutional rights. Russian legislation authorizes elections commissions to take variety of actions in order to prevent such violations during preparation and exercise of preliminary voting.

Municipal elections in the city of Sochi display continuous tendency of the increased use of administrative resource during the preliminary voting. The high number of citizens that voted preliminary indirectly signifies the use of administrative technologies, while witnesses’ reports of the busing of voters indicate actual violation of the election law.

GOLOS Association also notes that Sochi municipal elections commission had used various excuses in order to deny candidates of registration, which had a direct impact on the level of political competition and voters’ actual ability to choose during elections. The law too broadly defines the right of elections commissions to deny or deprive candidates of registration, which leads to hardly impartial decisions that sometimes openly contradict common sense.

In addition, Association notes that it received numerous claims of the administrative resource abuse in favor of the candidate from the current administration. Among them, cases of exclusive access to enterprises and worker groups, domination in media due to the coverage of “professional activity”, cases of hindering political agitation activities of other candidates.

Finally, the absence of real efforts aimed at preventing the use of public resource during elections only deepens existing informational, legal, financial, organizational and other inequality between elections’ participants.