Pavlov’s Theory and Electoral Pedagogy. Overview of Violations #6
The Duma election campaign in 2011 differs from the 2007 election only in the level of administrative arrogance.
“As a support of United Russia, I am ready to make the maximum effort to hold the State Duma election at the proper level, and I hope to help.”
-A letter to the editor of state-run newspapers from an official at the FSB (Incident No. 1069).
The official already understood that other participants cannot be allowed to gain a majority in the Duma, and after March we waited nation-wide for what would occur, and it was not sovereign democracy, but it was something far more open and bold than in previous elections, even though virtually all of the administrative tools we’re seeing now were present in the last election. The uses of administrative resources are described in full in Arkadii Lyubarev’s book about the 2007–08 elections, “Prestupleniye bez nakazaniya” (Crime without Punishment”).
The “without punishment” part explains the rampant interference in elections by bureaucrats. Conditioned reflexes are produced not only in Pavlov’s dogs, but in Russian officials as well.
Officials at various levels, from municipal and city administrators to the Presidential level ignore articles of the law which prohibit them from using official propaganda and having official political stances. They, of course, state they are stating their own personal positions on their own free time (and by the number of times they are seen in the media off the clock promoting UR, it’s likely they’re never actually at work then) as ordinary citizens, not public servants. And the fact that they just happen to be at press conference or in front of a camera is just an unrelated coincidence.
The Governor of the Chelyabinsk Region did not hesitate to post campaign posters (No. 702), which were modestly signed “Mikhail Yurevich, Governor of the Chelyabinsk Region”, -obviously without the use of an official position. Similar billboards and posters paid for by “personal expenses” were used by the Governor of the Voronezh Region (No 1027). Article 141.1 of the Criminal Code states “spending in order to attain specific results or the use of paid services, in order to directly or indirectly obtain specific results at elections in elections that is not listed on the election fund in large amounts with payment from the relevant election fund… shall be punished by a fine of one hundred thousand to three hundred thousand rubles or a fine on other income for a period of one to two years, compulsory community service for a period up to one hundred and eighty hours, correctional labor for up to one year, or imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.”
The salary of the governor is considerable in size, and if the article were actually enforced in the current election, the fines would exceed the election budget. We do not, however, expect law enforcement agencies to take these leads into account. The Chelyabinsk Electoral Commission, for example, holds the belief that “the image and symbols of a political party cannot be seen as campaigning” (No. 1074).
While on the topic, keep in mind that the Governor, like the President and Prime Minister, are not civil servants! They only hold government posts. Therefore, they mustn’t go on leave and spread their propaganda “without the use of official positions,” and use physical and financial resources of third parties. (Recently, we tried to explain this to foreigners). And if a third party involves themselves (like, for example, heads of television networks or newspaper editors,) it’s their, or rather –our difficulties.
Looking up, let the smaller officials go to the winds. A few cases (No. 658, 726, 1080) such as, for example, the Mayor of Izhevsk, in a burst of affection for his party said that financial support for voters depending on how the election resulted for United Russia, which falls under “vote-buying.”
Complying with the law, we followed up with the Prosecutor’s Office. All prosecutors are appointed by the Attorney General, who, in turn, is appointed via proposal of the person at the top of the party list (the Prime Minister.) This chain is present on a national level scale. But the scale in the Republic of Komi is smaller: The Attorney of the Republic appears to be the number three on the regional list of the party in question. In addition to being a party candidate, he is an acting official, who thoroughly observes the equality of all participants (No. 1182). This is essentially “playing judge” in a race they’re competing in.
The police aren’t any different. In past elections they illegally removed SPS’ (Union of Right Forces, a now defunct party which merged into Right Cause)) campaign advertisements. Reports show that the trend is continuing, but is now being focused on the KPRF and Fair Russia. The police seized campaign materials, allegedly on the orders of regional electoral commissioners or other officials without proper documentation (No. 709, 1148, 1184). This blatantly contradicts the law, which requires written documentation.
Like in the previous election, there are many reports of people being asked to show their views on United Russia (No. 706, 657, 1042, 1158, 1109, 1150). While under the supervision of the authorities, people are asked to fill out surveys and questionnaires on their attitudes towards the Party, and others are even rounded up to take part in rallies, concerts, and demonstrations. This can hardly be considered conforming to the constitutional rights of freedom of conscience and association.
The most pronounced feature of this election, like in the 2007–08 election cycle remains the “attraction” of voters to the polls. Interestingly enough, there was a sharp increase in turnout after the “against all” option was removed from the ballot. The declining interest in elections had to be offset by new methods of attracting voters to the polls, a task which Churov’s CEC took to heart. The number of absentee votes increased, as did occurrences of “carrot and stick” games on employees on in the workplace.
The number of reports of voters being forced to vote (for a particular party) spiked following the revision of the “against all” option. The reaction by Russian voters to the coercion turned out to be a remarkable political and social development.
Let’s face it, not everyone, who reported that they were forced to vote actually provided specific information about the offenders. Not everyone lives in Moscow and has the time or will to follow up so far. One of the callers in the last election not only told us the names and phone numbers with supporting documents.
There are several methods of coercion used in elections:
First, and least harmful, is the threat that things might happen if a person chooses not to vote for the Party (No. 1023, 1075, 1102, 1118, 1163, 1185). In this case, the fears are usually exaggerated: people vote in secret, so such threats are essentially bluffs. In addition, offenders are subject to prosecution under Article 141 of the Criminal Code, part 2: “The obstruction of a citizen’s right to vote… breach of the secrecy to vote… connected to bribery, deception, coercion, violence, or the threat of violence… by a person using an official position or… by a group of conspirators –is punishable by a fine not exceeding 200,000 rubles or a penalty scaled by their salary or other income for a period of eighteen months, or by compulsory work for a period from 180–240 hours, correctional labor for up to two years, imprisonment for up to six months, or up to five years. The punishment can be even worse, since it’s voting requires photo ID, and is essentially identity theft.
Another type of coercion is the use of absentee ballots. This is because it becomes nearly impossible to tell if the voter actually voted, since the administration can actually for some time access the voter list. This coercion is sometimes accompanied by the requirement that voters must obtain an absentee ballot, and then fill it out in a particular location, where they can be observed doing so (No. 1041, 1110). For this reason, some workplaces have made December 4th a business day (which is also, technically speaking, a violation).
The widespread use of absentee ballots to coerce voters can be broken down further. Voters are told to simply vote via absentee ballots instead of abstaining, and are sometimes told to give superiors receipts from their ballots (No. 1149). Other times, they are even ordered to send them directly to their bosses (No. 1090, 698). The first two cases are aimed at boosting turnout, while the latter is a purely rigging elections. All three, however, break Section 141 of the Criminal Code and the latter, since it is fraud, breaches Article 142.1.
This next interesting report is from Moscow (No. 1149).
“Perhaps you’ll be interested in the fact that in all departments and services and organizations of the municipal district of North Medvedkovo (I think this is the case all over Moscow, and Russia) verbal orders are being given to all employees to pick up absentee ballots to vote in the election. Copies of the filled out ballot must be sent to their superiors, which will be transferred to the personnel departments.”
Such offers are very difficult to refuse, especially when you’re a state or municipal employee.
In St. Petersburg, it seems they have also decided to use coerce civil servants into voting for the Party (No. 446, 690, 689, 664, 1186). This new, innovative method was once tried in the Sverdlovsk region, but was canceled because it was being overused and was exposed. However, if they really try, and every district administration in the city were tasked with sending out and collecting ballots (No. 446, 664), the number of mailed in ballots could match the number of city workers in St. Petersburg. Even though this would be an obvious and flagrant offense, the prosecutors would undoubtedly fail to take notice.
Our attention is also drawn to the relatively large number of reports about administrative pressure on schools and colleges. Schools conduct “parent-teacher conferences,” which explain the benefits that would come from supporting United Russia (No. 1031). In the universities, programs promoting support from the younger generation in the spirit of Marxist-Leninism –sorry, in the spirit of love for a united Russia and her Party, Administration, and national identity (No. 1185, 1075). For example, these excerpts from the training plan for State Duma Elections by the President of Stavropol State University (No. 692):
25. Refinement of the database of students participating in the State Duma elections.
33. The holding of political lectures and practical training courses on the socio-political cycle “On elections in Russia”, discussions with students about candidates, explaining the purpose and content of “All-Russia People’s Front”.
35. Organize the study of issues of voting rights, citizenship, political choices, and citizens of Russia.
43. Design layout and paraphernalia (scarves, ribbons, bandanas, T-shirts, etc.) with symbols of the University, United Russia, and the All-Russia People’s Front, etc.)
We know more about what is happening in schools and universities these days than other institutions not because of their role in electoral violations, but because the younger generations from the 90s onward have grown up in another society. Some among them are not accustomed to this sort of system.
At an address by school principals in the city of Lipetsk (No. 611, 589), the principals raised their hands against the Mayor, but the reality is different. There are rumors that the principals were working on filing petitions for an unknown mayoral candidate, and were forced to become trustees. The official record is that it’s simply a case of civic courage, but in reality, it’s a common phenomenon. The spread of free-thinking which occurred in the “crazy 90s” must uproot the roots of these violations.
The massive number of violations being reported indicates that these sentiments are bearing fruit. Moreover, these actions will result in social tensions. Some citizens are ready for a return to the 30s (through either the German, or Russian route), such as one person (allegedly the editor of the newspaper Albina Kiyan) who wrote a letter to the FSB stating “At such a crucial pre-election period, the state media faces a challenges in providing advertising and propaganda for United Russia, and the whole set of politicking that comes with it. But the coordinated effort of the editorial staff and in particular my [efforts]… prevent subversive, destabilizing activities of one of the editorial staff members” (No. 1069). The letter also said nasty things about cops and about parties of crooks and thieves.
The lessons of modern Russian elections are gradually increasing tension in society. Pseudo-teachers who give these lessons should be aware that they are personally responsible for what might happen if such stress exceeds critical levels.