Kommersant Vlast, N26, July 5, 2010

11 июля 2010 г.

The draft Election Code authors suggest that a renovated personalized mixed election system based on advanced electoral technologies that have been tested abroad be introduced in Russia.

Kommersant Vlast, N26, July 5, 2010


A new Election Code has been elaborated by independent experts in Russia

Author: Dmitry Kamyshev

The draft Election Code authors suggest that a renovated personalized mixed election system based on advanced electoral technologies that have been tested abroad be introduced in Russia.

Russian independent experts developed a draft Election Code. It is another attempt of replacing the current election system being a mixture of sound ideas, chaotic amendments, and political will of presidents that have accumulated within the past 20 years with a well-knit election system of all level of authorities.

According to its authors, the document elaborated within the framework of a public project launched under the auspices of the ’Golos’ (’Vote’) Association in October 2008 includes "…most advanced provisions on modernization of Russia’s election system". Its fundamental ideas may be boiled down to three points. Firstly, it is urgent to introduce in Russia new election systems that showed good results abroad. Secondly, it is vital to restore a number of norms and regulations of the election law that the authorities rejected earlier in the course of building a power vertical. Finally, the presumption of a candidate’s innocence with a simultaneous radical decrease in grounds for a candidate’s registration refusal must become the main principles for the work of electoral committees.

The Election Code’s authors do not expect the current authorities to endorse the document. However, judging by the Russian election reform history, the trend for increasing legislative pressure that was very characteristic of the early 2000’s, has been lessening recently.

The main proposed novation is for the State Duma. It is suggested that the State Duma be elected according to the personalized mixed system (PMS). Before the State Duma transferred exclusively to the proportional electoral system in 2005, it had been formed based on a mixed electoral system. Namely 225 deputies were elected on party lists, and another 225 deputies were elected on majority constituencies. From the electorate point of view, the PMS election principle looks very much the same as the proportionate one, as each voter gets 2 bulletins at a voting station, one of them for electing deputies on party lists, the other presents one of the 225 candidates to be elected in a single-mandate constituency. However, the PMS procedure of tallying the votes and distributing deputy mandates is quite different.

Firstly, of a total number of 450 seats the mandates that were received by independent candidates and representatives of the parties that failed to overcome the 4% barrier according to party lists are excluded. The remaining seats are divided among the parties that managed to cross the 4% barrier on party lists. Candidates from the parties that won the elections in single-mandate constituencies are the first to become deputies; only after that, if the party quota has not been exhausted yet, party members who won on party lists are elected deputies.

It cannot be excluded that a party wins more seats in a majority constituency that is due to its party list. In Germany also using the PMS in that case the law presupposes additional mandates, so that the Bundestag deputy number is floating. As for the State Duma whose permanent deputy number is set in the Constitution, the Code authors suggest the following: Such a party will be represented in the Duma by single-mandate constituency deputies alone, and it will not participate in the re-distribution of the remaining party seats.

So, the PMS makes it possible to tackle two seemingly incompatible tasks: Firstly, to strictly link the number of mandates for each party with its electoral result on party lists as is done in the proportionate system; secondly, to simultaneously keep single-mandate constituencies and the possibility of nominating independent candidates. Additionally, under the PMS, unlike the previous mixed system, it is principally impossible for a party that receives 30–40% of votes on party lists to increase its faction volume to two thirds of the parliament’s payroll list.

According to the Code authors, regions and municipalities can also use the PMS. Moreover, they are allowed to select several listed electoral systems, among which there is a single transferable vote system, an exotic for Russia.

It poses no difficulties for the voters. When casting a ballot in a many-mandate constituency, which means that several deputies are elected simultaneously in a single constituency, the voter must rank the candidates’ names in the ballot according to the voter’s preferences. The candidates whose number of top ranks exceeds the minimum of votes set for the selected constituency (it depends on the number of distributed mandates, i.e. it is necessary to score over 33% of votes in a two-mandate constituency and some 17% of votes in a five-mandate constituency) are announced elected. The votes exceeding the minimum number are transferred to candidates whom the winner’s supporters ranked second.

That system’s difference from the usual majority electoral system can be demonstrated with a simple example. For example, five candidates won 50%, 30%, 10%, 7% and 3% of votes respectively in a three-mandate constituency. Under the current electoral system of relative majority, the first three candidates would become deputies. Under the single transferable vote system, a candidate who won 7% or even 3% of top ranks could outpace a candidate with 10% of top ranks due to its scored greater number of second-rate preferences. So, even if pressurized by their superiors the voters have to assign top ranks to United Russia representatives on the list, a popular opposition representative also has a fair chance of becoming a deputy.