STATEMENT No.1 of GOLOS ASSOCIATION ON FINDINGS OF LONG-TERM MONITORING OF THE PERIOD OF NOMINATION AND REGISTRATION OF CANDIDATES AND PARTY LISTS FOR MARCH 14, 2010, REGIONAL ELECTIONS

18 февраля 2010 г.

Association of non-commercial organizations in defense 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.

In monitoring the electoral process, GOLOS Association pays particular attention to the following aspects: 1. Respect for citizens’ voting rights and election procedures; 2. Activities of election commissions; 3. The use of administrative resources in election campaigns; 4. Availability of equal opportunities for campaigning for all candidates and political parties; 5. Compliance with the procedures for voting, vote counting and announcement of election results.

This statement is the first in a series of statements on monitoring March 14, 2010, regional elections. It covers the period from December 2009 to February 15, 2010.

Until the end of the campaign GOLOS will release two more statements on the results of monitoring of political agitation and Election Day.

On a single election day, March 14, elections to the legislatures of 8 Russian regions will be held, along with elections to local self-governance bodies and municipal councils, and elections of 5 mayors. Official announcement of elections to regional parliaments, scheduled for a single election day, March 14, 2010, began in December 2009.

Agitation period in the media in all regions will begin on February the 13th and will end at midnight on the 12th of March.

GENERAL CONCLUSIONS ON THE RESULTS OF MONITORING OF THE FIRST PHASE OF ELECTIONS

First of all, GOLOS Association notes that Russian federal electoral legislation and the legislation of federal subjects, as well as its application, has allowed to significantly reduce the actual political competition in elections at all levels during the first stage of the current campaign – the stage of registration and nomination of candidates and party lists.

By putting the candidates from parties that do not have fractions in the State Duma in unequal starting conditions, the law allows regulating political competition through administrative means. Elections to the Regional Legislative Assemblies of 14 March 2010, as October 2009 regional elections, are held in the atmosphere of declining number of officially registered political parties in Russia. From 7 currently existing parties, only 4 (those represented in the RF State Duma: United Russia, CPRF, LDPR, “Just Russia”), put forward lists in all eight regions where elections are called. 3 non-parliamentary parties: “Patriots of Russia”, “Yabloko”, and “Right Cause” put forward lists in 5 regions. Of the 10 lists of non-parliamentary parties only 5 were registered.

On average, only 4.6 lists were registered per region. In comparison, during March 2004 elections the ballot on average contained 7.17 lists per region, during March 2006 elections – 8.13 lists per region, during October 2006 – 7.9 lists per region.

As a result, inherently unequal starting conditions at the stage of registration produced a low representation of opposition candidates in elections at all levels.

Again, GOLOS Association notes that the introduction of such legislation as decreased allowable percentage of errors in signatures, clearly prohibitive requirements on the amount of signatures to be collected (1–2% of voters), the abolition of the electoral deposit at the registration of candidates and lists of political parties, and the preferences given to parliamentary parties in elections at all levels have a direct impact on the reduction of real political competition.

The trend of introducing mixed or fully proportional electoral systems at regional and municipal levels continued during March 2010 elections. Thus, elections based on a mixed electoral system will be held in 130 municipalities (in comparison — in October 2009 such elections were held in 89 municipalities).

GOLOS notes that introducing fully proportional electoral system at regional and municipal levels further limits the constitutional rights of non-partisan citizens to be elected.

Thus, according to the Ministry of Justice’s official data, not more than 2.68% of country’s voters hold political party membership. In practice, however, political parties tend to artificially increase these numbers, in order to fulfill the overly strict regulations placed on them by the law on political parties. A well-known fact is that the bulk of party activists of all parties are concentrated in the administrative centers of the regions. As for the small towns, not to mention the rural areas, there are usually no political parties represented there (other than established by administrative means “party of power”).

Thus, the trend to massively introduce fully proportional system (party list-based elections only) on rural level, where historically party organizations do not exist and the bulk of citizens is non-partisan, raises alarm. This actually means that the right of the population of these municipalities to nominate candidates basically gets taken from them in favor of the party structures of administrative units of higher levels. In fact, in such conditions the very meaning of the term “local government” is lost, since the decision on nomination of candidates does not belong to local population, but to regional and local offices of the federal parties.

Moreover, the introduction of fully proportional and mixed election systems for local elections in many regions is imposed on municipalities through the adoption of regional laws. At a time when civic organizations are denied the right to nominate lists of candidates for local elections under the proportional system, the introduction of such system dramatically reduces the passive electoral rights of non-partisan citizens. In short, ignoring party lists-based elections in areas where real political party structures actually exist and the introduction of them where there are no active parties demonstrates the extremely manipulative nature of the choice of electoral systems.

There is a growing tendency to introduce methods that distort the proportionality of elections in favor of the party that gets the first place, which as a result receives more mandates than its share among the voters that voted for the lists that participated in the distribution of mandates. Mandate distribution methods based on dividers are the more dangerous the smaller number of mandates in question is allocated. In general, the number of regions using the divider method during March 14, 2010, elections has increased.

GOLOS Association notes that the method of using so-called “locomotive” candidates in regional party lists continues (using well-known personalities to head the list, who decline the mandate once elected). In general, in 7 regions of the 8 participating in elections “United Russia” lists are headed by the governors, which leads to regional administrations becoming active participants in and sometimes controlling the electoral process. Moreover, such practice spills over to local administrations through formation of so-called territorial groups within party lists. As mentioned earlier, the analysis of the practice of regional elections in Russia, on the one hand, demonstrates that splitting lists into territorial groups contributes to a better territorial anchor of deputies and their more explicit connection with local interest groups, makes clearer to voters whom to elect, and minimizes number of deputies elected from the bottom of the lists due to “locomotives”. At the same time, the requirement for parties to form a list with complicated structure actually means creating additional organizational and financial (property-based) qualification, since each additional candidate means time-consuming preparation of an additional set of documents, which increases the risk of detection of some inaccurate or incomplete data. On the other hand, splitting the list into territorial groups creates additional grounds for refusal to register lists, or cancel their registration in the course of the campaign through “knocking out” one or another group from the list, after which the number of candidates becomes less than required by law.

With regard to elections of representative bodies of local self-government (whether through mixed, fully proportional or majority system) the situation resembles the election of regional legislatures: in most regions only 4 parliamentary parties are represented. At the same time the level of competition usually depends on the size of the municipality, with the highest level usually being observed in large cities. At the same time, in some small municipalities the introduction of party lists-based elections leads to only two or three lists being registered, which underlines the unjustified imposition of proportional system at the municipal level. To conclude, GOLOS’ election monitoring findings during the period of nomination and registration of political party lists and candidates for March 14, 2010, elections demonstrate continuous decline in the level of political competition. A fundamental revision of electoral legislation as well as political will of all elections’ participants is required in order to change the situation.

To conclude, GOLOS’ election monitoring findings during the period of nomination and registration of political party lists and candidates for March 14, 2010, elections demonstrate continuous decline in the level of political competition. A fundamental revision of electoral legislation as well as political will of all elections’ participants is required in order to change the situation.