First statement of the Association GOLOS on the results of the long-term election monitoring of the local elections and the presidential elections which are scheduled for 4th March 2012.
Nomination and registration of the candidates
Moscow, 30th January 2012,
The Association GOLOS is implementing a long-term monitoring mission of the events of the presidential elections. This will be carried out by 48 long-term observers, by correspondents from the newspaper “Grazhdanskij golos” [Eng.: Citizen’s voice] and activists from the Association GOLOS who have completed an appropriate training programme. GOLOS sources its information from the media, from expert interviews with representatives of political parties, leaders of non-governmental organisations and members of election commissions, as well as reports from citizens who have observed violations during the election process and informed representatives of GOLOS personally or via the “Map of violations”, a project run by the Association GOLOS.
During the election monitoring, the association is focusing its attention above all on the following aspects:
- Protecting citizens’ electoral rights and ensuring conformity with the election procedures;
- The work of the election commissions;
- The use of administrative resources during the election process;
- Guaranteeing equal opportunities for candidates and parties during the election campaign;
- Adherence to the procedures for voting, vote-counting and the announcement of the election results.
This is the first or a series of statements, which should document the events of the election process. Before the end of the election process, the Association GOLOS will publish at least two further statements on the observation both of the election campaign phase and of election day.
When the results of the elections are known, the Association GOLOS plans to present an analytical report, in which all documents and files received are to be compiled and analysed.
In the reports, particular attention will be paid to violations of the principles of free and democratic elections during all phases of the election process. You are invited to familiarise yourself with the reports from GOLOS on previous elections at this address: http://www.golos.org/elections.
Findings and Conclusions
- The Association GOLOS highlights the fact that, in spite of multiple criticisms of the undemocratic character of the process currently in place for nominating and registering candidates, and of other procedures related to the election of the Russian President, who will, on 4th March 2012, for the first time be elected for a six-year term, no substantial positive changes of any kind have been made to the electoral legislation. These have only been put on the agenda by the government for the next elections in 2018.
- The regulation of the process for electing the president is covered in the current version of the law “On the election of the President of the Russian Federation”; the requirement to scrupulously adhere to all restrictions introduced by law effectively makes registration only possible for those candidates who have been nominated by one of the Duma parties (according to law, these are exempt from the requirement to collect supporter signatures), or those who are clearly in the good favour of the Central Election Commission. Particularly given the current rules governing the maximum 5% “rejects” permissible amongst the signatures checked, the registration of a candidate who is reliant on signature lists appears to only then be possible if the Central Election Commission is clearly well-disposed to this candidate. Furthermore, it is the case that in Russia not only non-real (false) signatures are evaluated as rejects (and this simply on the basis of experts’ opinions), but also those signatures which have been genuinely provided by voters who truly exist, but which bear some kind of hand-written annotation or correction of a technical nature.
- In these circumstances, the question whether a certain number of signatures will be evaluated as rejects is dependent solely on the will of those checking them. The candidates are allotted a time period of just around one month for the collection of 2 million signatures.
- The process of registering candidates for the presidential elections is the most clear example of the legal discrimination against candidates of extra-parliamentary parties and against candidates who have nominated themselves, compared with those nominated by the Duma parties – starting with the strongly excessive and, given the current circumstances, realistically unachievable number of supporter signatures required – and including the unequal opportunities for candidates when naming official representatives or setting dates for election activities.
- From the outset, this divides the candidates into three unequally privileged groups (Duma parties, non-parliamentary parties, self-nominated candidates), and of these the self-nominated candidates are the most vulnerable. A candidate has the right to name 600 official representatives. A political party which nominates a candidate can itself name 100 representatives. Thus, a candidate nominated by a party can have up to 700 official representatives in total.
- A candidate with a self-nomination must assemble a voter group of at least 500 citizens of Russia who are eligible to vote. The Central Election Commission or the election commission of the Federal Subject in which the assembly is supposed to take place must be informed of the time and place of this group’s meeting at least five days before it is scheduled to convene. This means that, if desired, the assembly of any initiative group can be disrupted, namely by preventing the implementation at the envisaged place (the candidate is no longer able to change the place announced).
- Altogether, the unjustifiably strict legal conditions, the general decline in the number of political parties and the tight timeframe between the two elections lead to an insufficiently representative spread of presidential candidates and to an insufficient level of competition, which this year – as in 2008 – is weaker than at all other presidential elections since 1991.
- The Association GOLOS points to the fact that, according to reports from the regional coordinators, the real circumstances, under which the required number of signatures has to be gathered, give cause for much concern in many regions.
- One piece of evidence for the use of administrative resources is already provided by the fact that the laws on the presidential elections were written with solely the interests of the ruling government in mind, and that these laws make it only possible to register for those opponents of the “main candidate” supported by the government, who are acceptable to the governing elite. The elections have effectively been turned into a referendum with a pretence of competition that represents no real threat for this one main candidate.
- All attempts by candidates not sanctioned by the Kremlin to participate in the elections are basically quashed via administrative means, by making their nomination and registration practically impossible.
- With no regard for the widespread protests against the result of the elections of 4th December 2011 and in spite of the government’s attempts to make a series of points promising individual measures towards a political liberalisation and improvement of election procedures, the vertical of election commissions created with the active participation of executive government has remained untouched. The notorious heads of the election commissions have all retained their posts. At the same time, attempts continue to be made to put public pressure on and intimidate representatives of the opposition and activists from independent non-governmental organisations.
- It is noticeable that a large number of candidates of the party “United Russia” are distancing themselves from participating in the local elections (in some communes the party is not nominating even a single candidate). At the same time, considerable “purges” are being carried out amongst the independent applicants for candidate registration at the local elections.
- According to information being submitted from the regions, the catastrophic practice has been retained of the central government providing the regional administrations with informal “plan targets” for the election turnout and the share of the vote for the “required” candidate (talk is of numbers between 60 and 65%). In the regions, there has been a wave of dismissals, seeing representatives of the administrative bureaucracy being discarded, who at the elections on 4th December 2011 failed to guarantee “a sufficiently good result” for the party “United Russia”.
- The activity of all leading media is effectively geared towards campaigning for the one candidate under the pretence of reporting on this candidate’s working activities. According to the law on the presidential elections, however, the phase of the election campaign begins for each candidate on the day of his/her nomination and ends at midnight local time on the day before election day. Similarly, from the time of nomination, the election campaign must be financed from the candidate’s election campaign budget. Election advertising on radio and television and in the printed press can also only be run in a time period which starts 28 days before election day.