Elections of the President of the Russian Federation (full)
What distinguishes the present electoral campaign from that of the fall of 2011 is that the technologies for pressuring voters are more carefully organized, and they bring greater fears of publicity and public scandal.
Furthermore, after the massive protests that arose from the 4 December 2011 State Duma elections, government officials seek on one hand to reduce the intensity of protest sentiments with promises to bring change to Russia’s political system (draft legislation has been published on the law on political parties; the procedure for the electoral registration of candidates, specifically creating an exemption from the required collection of signatures from representatives of political parties; the law on the election of governors; and a new draft law has been introduced on the elections of deputies of the State Duma) and on the other, to oppose representatives of the opposition by way of a strong information campaign.
Isolated cases of open campaigning for Vladimir Putin by state officials have been documented, but it is significant that there are fewer examples of such in this campaign than there were in the fall 2011 campaign.
The main campaign is being conducted through the central television channels. This is where administrative resources are used to the maximum extent to indirectly campaign for Putin under the guise of covering his professional activities.
At the same time, his refusal to participate in direct debates with his opponents creates an aura of singularity and detachment from the other electoral participants.
All of the official privileges of being the prime minister have been fully utilized: a trip across the country, meetings with labor collectives, speeches on campaign matters and promises, media reports and coverage….
Undoubtedly, all of these privileges have been incorporated into Russian electoral legislation, as has been frequently discussed in GOLOS’ reports. However, the administrative law clearly demarcates the limitations on the use of one’s official position for personal gain. Just one example: was the rally that was held in Luzhniki Stadium exclusively as a campaign event for one candidate paid for by his election fund?!
Meanwhile, individual participants of protests have been subjected to pressure and intimidation. This is especially true in the regions, where independent media organizations, NGOs, and opposition representatives have all been subjected to pressure.
Organized mass hysteria fueled by accusations that NGOs and opposition members have been working with foreign states has been widely broadcasted from the federal mass media to the regional level.
According to data coming in from the regions there remains a vicious practice of “planned targets,” whereby the federal center informally sets goals for administrations on voter turnouts for the elections, and on the percentage of votes for the “necessary” candidate.
Active signals are given for the compulsory participation of citizens in the elections, the receipt of absentee ballots, the organization of polling stations directly within businesses, and the declaration of 4 March as a working day…
The electoral campaign in general is marked by many instances of “Black PR” against non-system opposition members, and against the registered presidential candidates. The Internet and city streets are replete with materials issued by citizens on their personal initiatives against Putin, the United Russia party, CEC chairman Vladimir Churov, etc.
Undoubtedly, this is the inverse side of the total official mass media domination of Putin’s campaign and counter-campaign against the opposition.
In general, GOLOS Association believes that the negative tendencies of the fall 2011 campaign smoothly transitioned to the presidential election campaign, which was compounded by a harsh confrontation between adherents and opponents of one of the candidates and was deprived of normal political debates on the country’s key problematic issues.
General analysis of this stage of the campaign
After the 8 February Supreme Court decision upholding the denial of Yabloko party representative Grigory Yavlinsky’s registration for candidacy, there remained five registered candidates for the post of President of the Russian Federation: Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Gennady Zyuganov, Sergei Mironov, Mikhail Prokhorov, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The electoral campaign for the Russian presidency for the most part has passed with significant use of administrative resources.
During January and February 2012, candidate Vladimir Putin regularly published articles on his political programs in Russia’s leading newspapers. In fact, these articles bore the character of pre-election programs addressing various issues. This pre-electoral character is emphasized by widespread discussions of these articles and presentations of their contents on the air of all of the major television channels. These articles are also available in a special section called, “Articles authored by Putin” on Putin’s campaign website, paid for by his election fund.
At the same time, the publication of the first editions of these articles was not paid for by Putin’s election fund.
However, according to the law on presidential elections, a particular candidate’s campaign period begins from the day of that candidate’s nomination and ends at midnight local time one day before the election. Accordingly, from the moment of nomination, the campaign should be paid for out of the election fund.
An obvious information disparity has persevered in the work of the mass media: in fact, all major media outlets aimed to promote one candidate under the guise of providing coverage of his professional activities.
It is significant that information about Putin dominates broadcast television channels. On 12 January, it was reported that Putin had refused to participate in televised debates with his opponents. At the same time, Putin’s press secretary Dmitri Peskov stated that the prime minister had not completely ruled out the possibility of a debate. His idea was to send proxies in his place to participate in debates with his opponents.
On 11 January, the CEC explained that Putin has the right not to take a furlough during the electoral campaign. It was explained that according to the law, candidates who work in the civil service, municipal service, or mass media are not permitted to remain in their places of work during the campaign. According to the CEC, the prime minister’s position does not fall into any of these categories.
“The position of the head of the government is a state position; it is a separate category of positions, which—actually—is called state position," CEC representative Maya Grishina attempted to explain.
On 1 February, First Channel aired a film devoted to the story of Putin’s historical role, entitled “Bridge Over the Abyss.” The film tells the story of the failures of both USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev and first Russian president Boris Yeltsin—despite the fact that they were almost antipodal to one another—to lift the country out of its crisis. However, the crisis was handled when Putin arrived to take their place.
On 17 January, the channel Russia-I aired the film “Crisis 2008. Save Russia,” where the protagonist is also represented by Putin.
On 14 February, it was reported that the CEC’s working group on informational disputes did not recognize television films as a form of campaigning. Maya Grishina, head of the CEC working group, was quoted by ITAR-TASS as follows: “The working group concluded that the filmmakers viewed it as a historical retrospective, starting in the 90s through to the present time. These were programs about the country’s history, displaying the authors’ views on the development of the economic and political systems. At the end of our discussion, it was decided that questions of electoral campaigning material did not apply, and that these were merely representations of socio-political material of historical topics.”
Documented cases of open campaigning for Putin
Alexander Karlin campaigned for Putin on the television program “A Meeting with the Governor,” which aired on the station Katun 24 at 10:00 on 28 January 2012.
Alexey Orlov, head of the Republic of Kalmykia, delivered a congratulatory address to voters on republican television on 31 December 2011. During the speech, he called on the citizens of the republic to vote for presidential candidate Putin in March 2012. After the New Year holidays, all official newspapers published the address.
Governor Pavel Ipatov of Saratov oblast held a meeting with railway workers on 14 February in the conference hall of the locomotive depot station of Sennoy, in the Volsk region. Oleg Pilyugin, chief of the depot, stated the following in a speech he delivered: “We are not offended by our lives and fates! It is a sin to complain. We have growing salaries. Changes will not do us any good. I urge you to make the right choice on 4 March. I urge you to vote for Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.” The head of the region endorsed the opinion of the depot chief.
On 2 February in Ivanov oblast, electoral campaigning was carried out in the 98th Guards Svir Airborne Division in favor of Putin’s presidential candidacy. Guard Major-General Alexander Lentsov, former commander of the division and current deputy commander of the Russian Navy, addressed the officers with a campaign speech.
Signals were actively received on the use of administrative resources for the actual coercion of citizen participation in the elections. At the same time, business leaders often campaign for one of the candidates.
GOLOS’ Voronezh branch received a copy of a letter that was sent out by the Voronezh Department of Health administration on 13 February via email to the chief physicians of the city’s medical facilities. The letter contains a plan to campaign for presidential candidate Putin within labor collectives, as well as the precise date, time, and script for a campaign assembly, the result of which should be the “adoption of a resolution in support of V.V. Putin.” Based on the fact of possible administrative pressure, GOLOS Voronezh branch lawyer Vladislav Bespalov filed a complaint with the Investigative Committee, the prosecutor’s office, and the Voronesh oblast’s electoral commission. According to the text of the letter, the chiefs of healthcare facilities have been instructed to hold talks with their employees “in a trusting atmosphere.” The letter states: “Everyone can speak directly, without fear of persecution and organizational conclusions. There should be no outsiders! … The task of the chief is to liberate the collective and to foster dialogue within them.” To create the appearance of a discussion, the letter requests the advance preparation of “opponents,” to provoke a debate at the meeting. To persuade the medical workers of the necessity of voting and campaigning for presidential candidate Putin, campaign materials should be provided («methodological literature” by the name of “Chaos or Putin,” and biographies of the candidates) and the film “Bridge over the Abyss” should be watched by the collective. Despite the instruction to conduct a meeting in the form of an open dialogue, the intended result of the discussion is clearly indicated in the letter: physicians should vote for the adoption of a resolution in support of Putin and agree to publically campaign for him in the name of the entire team of medical facilities. The letter states, “Furthermore, a collective decision will establish certain responsibilities for the whole collective, which will lighten work on Election Day.”
According to reports from the Altai region, in Altai’s higher education institutions there have been voluntary-compulsory orders to compel students to record the names of observers who will focus on sites from presidential candidate Putin. On 24 February in the Great Hall of the Altai State Technical University, professors and students assembled for a meeting with State Duma Deputy Lyudmila Bokova, who had arrived in Barnaul accompanied by the famous doctor Leonid Roshal. The meeting had the character of a campaign event in support of presidential candidate Putin. The Map of Electoral Violations received the same report.
On 13 February, the “League of Voters,” which was created in Moscow during the protests against the falsification of electoral results, sent an open letter to Konstantin Ernst, Oleg Dobrodeev, and Vladimir Kulistikov—leaders of the stations Pervyi Kanal, Russia 1, and NTV—accusing them of being responsible for their channels’ violations of electoral legislation in the first week of the campaign. According to the members of the League of Voters, the country’s three main television stations fail to evenly cover the activities of all of the presidential candidates, and their news releases “serve as blatant PR tools for Vladimir Putin.” The letter notes that Putin “dominates all of the news programs,” and that all of his words were treated as “absolutely true.” Thus, the League of Voters believes that the federal stations are trying to persuade viewers of Putin’s impending electoral victory, and that they effectively “serve as the television headquarters of a single candidate.”
Members of the League of Voters also criticized Putin’s refusal to participate personally in debates. The letter states: “It turns out that for many years, the head of state and government did not consider it necessary to engage in public debate in order to recount his previous work to society or to defend his electoral program.”
On 14 February, presidential candidates Gennady Zyuganov, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and Sergey Mironov sent a joint complaint on the inequality of candidates during the presidential race. This was provoked by television airtime monitoring conducted by the Communists, from which it follows that since the start of the campaign, Putin has been allocated 67% of airtime, Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky tied with 9% each, Prokhorov was allocated 8%, and Mironov received 7%.
Sergei Obukhov, State Duma deputy and Communist Party secretary for informational-analysis, stated: “Essentially, the elections are illegitimate because of these violations of the fundamental principles of free elections, which are impossible with unequal access to television airtime.”
An example of this informational inequality and the indirect campaigning for Putin in the regions is the coverage of the professional activities of the candidate on the main news stations:
On 19 January 2012, the regional newspaper Kuzbass began regular publications of the heading “… Days Remain Until the Elections of the President of the Russian Federation.” Kuzbass television station has continued to provide television PR for Prime Minister Putin on the programs Vesti-Kuzbass and Vesti-Interview. On 16 January, an interview was aired with heart surgeon Leonid Barbarash in support of Putin. On 18 January, the program Vesti-Kuzbass featured a report about a meeting with Governor Aman Tuleev on a federal award for children suffering from cancer and cerebral palsy. On 19 January, there was a report on the creation of a website called, “For Putin,” by a group of visually impaired citizens in Prokopevsk. On 20 January, there was a report on the meeting of public figures to discuss articles by Putin, featuring an interview with Leonid Barbarash, chief physician of Kemerovo Cardiology Center, and Nina Nevorotova, chairperson of the Kemerovo Oblast Council of Veterans. On 21 January, the program Events of the Week actually featured advertisements that addressed Putin’s presidential candidacy.
Of the 35 election-related news releases posted on the RIA-Dagestan website during the period between 2–15 February, 32 directly or indirectly discuss United Russia and Putin in a positive manner.
In the Ryazan oblast, all regional non-state-run channels (Tele-Echo, Edge of Ryazan, and 9th Channel) focus only on presidential candidate Putin and his local representatives. State-run channel VGTRK “Oka” occasionally focuses on the other candidates in small amounts, reporting about their federal campaigns. This exception is due to the drawing of lots for debates that are coming to this channel (after 7 February.) Debates are aired in the morning, at an inconvenient time when almost no one can watch them.
This situation is typical for the region.
There have been signals of obstruction in the campaign activities of the presidential candidates.
A meeting of presidential candidate Prokhorov in Yekaterinburg was moved from the movie theater and concert hall Kosmos, and sources have informally indicated that Prokhorov would not be allowed to conduct a meeting in Kosmos under any circumstances. Representatives of Kosmos have confirmed that the meeting will not take place. Kosmos would not explain why Prokhorov was denied the meeting.
In Perm, banners for candidate Zyuganov have been illegally removed from 219 buses that run through the city.
On the night of 15–16 February, all 12 of candidate Zhirinovsky’s campaign billboards vanished from the streets of Nizhnevartovsk, Alexander Lobov, assistant of the deputy of Khantu-Mansiysk Duma and Zhirinovsky confidant, reported to URA.ru. Posters with slogans were did not remain in the city, although the spaces for them were paid for through 3 March. Lobov said that shortly before that Valeri Gylka, director of advertisement agency A Media had placed the advertisements he complained of pressure from the Nizhnevartovsk administration.
GOLOS Association draws attention to the Russian legal directives on the inequality of political party candidates and self-nominated candidates.
Self-nominated presidential candidate Prokhorov received less free print space and free airtime for campaigning than the candidates that were nominated by political parties. The space is allocated in equal amounts between all candidates nominated by parties: half is received by candidates, and half by parties. However, being self-nominated, Prokhorov did not benefit from the portion allocated to a party.
At the same time, as was the case in fall 2011, independent media sources, NGOs, and opposition representatives were actively pressured.
In fact, there were instances of the illegal wiretapping and publication of the telephone conversations of opposition members B. Nemtsov, V. Ryzhkov, G. Gudkov, and others (including video footage from hidden cameras, which suggests the use of illegal surveillance.) Illegal hidden camera footage documenting the private lives of politicians (V. Ryzhkov) has been published on the Internet. Email and social media accounts have been hacked (B. Akunin, etc.) Activists have reported personal pressure and intimidation.
Advocates of the government have created a style of informational campaign that infringes upon the inviolability of private lives and the fundamental norms of human behavior has resulted in blows to the government itself, creating a sense of impunity for the actual interference in the private lives of citizens, provocations, the hacking of mail boxes, DDos attacks, etc. The mailboxes of Federal Agency on Youth Affairs leader V. Yakemenko and his press secretary K. Potupchik, as well as a series of employees of pro-Kremlin media outlet Pravda.ru, and others have recently been hacked. The objects of these informational campaigns and provocations were themselves participants in the campaign to support Putin.
Pressure on leading independent Russian media outlets Novaya Gazeta, Ekho Moscow, and TV station Dozhd
On 16 February, Dozhd’s editorial office received a request from the Zamoskvorechye interregional prosecutor’s office “on behalf of the prosecutor’s office of Moscow” demanding an explanation of who financed broadcasts of rallies in Bolotnoi Square and on Sakharov Prospekt. Natalia Sindeeva, the channel’s owner, reported this. Earlier in December 2011, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) studied the channel’s broadcasts from 5–6 December to ensure compliance with the law.
Alexei Venediktov, Editor-in-Chief of radio station Ekho Moscow, reported that on 14 February Gazprom-Media demanded the early resignation of the Ekho Moscow board of directors, and a change in the composition of independent directors. This impacted A. Venediktov, his first assistant Vladimir Varfolomeev, as well as independent directors Evgeni Yasin and Alexander Makovsky. The creative team resolutely advocated against their departures; however, the dispute between the editors and owners—which had lasted since the end of December—ended in favor of the media holding company. A special meeting for Ekho Moscow shareholders to elect a new board of directors has been scheduled for 29 March.
In January, Prime Minister Putin, publicly criticized Ekho Moscow, stating at a meeting with chief media editors that the radio station “pours diarrhea from morning until evening.” Later, according to Venediktov, President Medvedev criticized the editorial policy of Ekho Moscow.
It also became known that on 24 February, the company RU-center—which specializes in the registration of internet domain names, made changes to its procedural rules, whereby without a court ruling the company can close any site on the third level domain if there is suspicion that an offense may have been committed. This was precisely the case for Ekho Moscow’s website, echo.msk.ru.) It is also noted that the registrar has the right to independently evaluate user activities for legal violations, including in cases where such violations have not been clearly defined by legal regulations.
Representatives of the Internet community perceived this as an attempt to introduce censorship. Moreover, in the new regulations Ru-center made no provisions about mass media websites. However, mass media websites are different from others in that the law “On Mass Media” regulates them. Article 16 of the law states that the activities of the mass media may be terminated or suspended only by the decision of either a founder or a court through a civil lawsuit initiated by the registering body.
It is noteworthy that the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation could not find grounds to check the facts of the hacker attacks on the Ekho Moscow site, which fell perfectly on 4 December 2011. On 23 February 2011, Alexei Venediktov discussed this in his blog on the radio station’s website. He expressed outrage over the refusal of the Investigative Committee to conduct a check of the DDoS attacks on the media website. In his opinion, this should have been seen as an obstruction of the professional activities of journalists. According to Venediktov, refusal to monitor the circumstances of the hacker attacks was signed by an investigator for extremely important cases of the second administration for investigation of extremely important cases.
In addition to the Ekho Moscow site, on 4 December the main GOLOS website and the Map of Electoral Violations website, which publishes information about electoral violations, also stopped working. Furthermore, during the 4 December elections, hackers also targeted the websites of publications “Bolshoi Gorod” and The New York Times, as well as the Slon.ru portal and the Kommersant newspaper website.
Regional media has also been subjected to pressure
In the Altai region in January, regional press management gathered mass media editors. At the meeting, it was said, «we must obtain no less than 50%" (as a task) and that “we must utilize about 40 of the (public opinion leaders). The list is determined. Insert them into all publications in order to explain why Putin is good.”
Anton Golitsyn, Editor-in-Chief of Yaroslavl television station NTM, published the following statement on his Facebook page: «I’m sick. Starting today, as Editor-in-Chief of and presenter for a television station, I am going to the hospital – until 4 March. Or until the 18th, really. The diagnosis is simple. I am ashamed. This probably sounds funny coming from a television employee. I know what most of the readers of this text are thinking: how can a prostitute be ashamed? Yes, I may not have a conscience in the normal human sense, or in the Christian sense of the word. But still I remain ashamed. And today I am ashamed to come to work. It would be easier to go to the panel. When you are forced, it’s not so bad. You can unwind and have fun. But I do not want to participate in forcing our city. I was not even persuaded. I was not even forced to participate in this. I was attached before the fact. I have to, because I am a pawn. Because all of the big guys upstairs all decided. No. It will not be so. I am not Ilya or Volodya, and I have nothing to lose.»
Individual protesters have been subjected to pressure and intimidation in the regions
On 9 February (five days after the 4 February rally and march), first secretary of the committee of the Communist Party’s Zavodsky District branch in Saratov, D. Sorokin, was summoned by Saratov’s Frunzeskoy police department. Under false pretenses, protocol number 274457 was drawn up on an administrative offense, against which he expressed written disagreement. Other applicants of the protest who were summoned by police promised to send the mail.
Higher education lecturer and political science candidate Alexei Bogachev was victimized by provocations after he participated in protests in Kazan. On 18 and 24 December, he spoke at rallies in Kazan. He was attacked on the evening of 24 December. A group of young men threw a bottle at his head. He received the diagnosis of an infected incised wound to the left temporozygomatic region, a brain concussion. Surgery was carried out and he received three stitches.
On 2 February, one of the organizers of the “For Fair Elections” protest was arrested in Rostov-na-Don, and another five reported pressure from security forces. The data on the official website “Campaign 4 February” led the organizing committee to the rally in Teatranloi Ploshad on 4 February. According to the organizing committee’s report, Roman Mikhailov was detained for the determination of his identity on Thursday evening and taken to the police department at 114 Tekhucheva in Lenin district. According to information obtained from social networks, the detained had allegedly made statements of hooliganism. Member of the “For Fair Elections” administrative group, Lidia Marchenko, reported that the organizing committee of the protest was also spoken to, and was “warned that next time the conversation would not be peaceful.” After this, she withdrew from the administration. Reports on efforts to pressure another four activists were confirmed on the official website of “Campaign 4 February.”
Organized mass hysteria fueled by accusations that NGOs and opposition members have been working with foreign states. In particular, an ordinary meeting held by US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and new US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul with representatives of the parties and the public provoked such hysteria. This was the case despite the fact that meetings with foreign diplomats, politicians, and public figures are common diplomatic practice worldwide.
This hysteria speaks volumes of the political irresponsibility of its organizers. In addition to the fact that it is detrimental to our country’s international reputation, it displays an inability to adequately respond to citizens’ dissatisfaction with violations of their rights. Furthermore, this search for an external enemy appears to be an attempt to deflect attention from the country’s real problems.
On 18 January Alexander Kalashnikov, head of the Federal Security Service in the Republic of Komi, designated GOLOS and human rights commission Memorial as two of a number of extremist organizations that are active in Komi. He stated in an official report that the activities of these organizations «are directed from abroad, often financed by foreign NGO funding, and are directed to transform the political system of the Russian Federation," and he emphasized that their main goal is “to disrupt the conduct of the presidential elections.”
Pressures have been directed at GOLOS representatives in the regions. The organization was evicted from its central office in Moscow through the early termination of its lease. Several of GOLOS’ regional divisions have been subjected to unscheduled audits of their financial records. Specifically, the financial records of GOLOS’ partner organization in Pskov, its Volga division in Samara, and its Moscow offices have all been checked. Prosecutors summoned Vladimir Karataev, coordinator of GOLOS’ Adygeya branch. In many of the regions, GOLOS representatives were invited to “talk” with regional FSB departments aimed at combating extremism.
On 23 February, the coordinator of GOLOS’ Ulyanovsk branch received a phone call from a man who introduced himself as an FSB official named Viktor, and who conveyed greetings from Alexey Georgievich (another former FSB “curator.”) The conversation, held in his personal car, touched on a variety of aspects the coordination of public activities, including GOLOS. The man’s request to be sent records was denied.
Prime Minister Putin previously spoke about the need to “safeguard” Russia’s policy on foreign financing. He spoke in early February of the need to separate “political” and “non-political” NGOs, while discussing the political clubs of United Russia party. At the same time, the public observation of the elections is equivalent to political activity!
Federal and regional broadcast media have provoked campaign hysteria against the allegedly anti-Russian activities of the opposition
V. Mihalchuk, director of Lyceum 101 in Barnaul, held a briefing on 30 January, for which attendance was strictly mandatory. At the briefing, he showed various clips from the program “Man and Law,” and other sources on the United States’ impact on Russian politics. In addition to showing the clips, the director personally commented, “This is where the opposition gets their money.” Mihalchuk went on to say that these clips would be shown to students who will be voting for the first time in the March elections. During the long break (from 13:05 to 13:35,) a faculty meeting was held in the assembly hall of Altai State Technical University’s Faculty of Information Technology. The second through fourth year students were assembled. Deputy Dean JB Suleymanov finished his speech by defining extremism, urging precaution on the matter, and urging all attendees to vote in the presidential elections. During the speech, United Russia member Ivan Ognev entered the hall. Next, video clips of the December protests were shown. These clips described who organized the protests and why, and discussed who viewers should vote for. A clip featuring stories about presidential candidate Putin was shown. In the end, United Party member Ognev delivered a speech that students caught on video.
According to data coming in from the regions there remains a vicious practice of “planned targets,” whereby the federal center informally sets goals for administrations on voter turnouts for the elections, and on the percentage of votes for the “necessary” candidate.
Among other notable violations of the electoral campaign:
In Kirov, Communist Party campaign materials featured in Istochnik Novosti, a weekly newspaper, were not paid for by the candidates’ electoral funds. On 20 January, issue number 3 (255) featured such advertisements for the presidential elections (p. 10) and the Kirov Duma elections (p. 11.)
The articles contained calls for support of presidential candidate Zyuganov and for Communist Party candidates for the Kirov Duma. Such topics were covered as electoral fraud and the destruction of city parks. It was stated that the current composition of the Kirov Duma serves the interests of local oligarchs. The main slogans used were, “For Fair Elections,” and “Take Back Kirov City.”
Pavel Dorfeev, one of the leaders of A Just Russia’s Kirov branch, organized a series of concerts, which visited about 4,000 retirees. Dorfeev confirmed that he held six concerts in the Palace of Culture railway station. According to Dorfeev, he organized these events as a private individual. He reported that when he sent out invitations to these events, other notifications were also sent to invitees warning them of the events’ postponement or cancellations.
On 7 February in Pskov, officers of the Interior Ministry seized nearly 50,000 copies of the newsletter “Word of Honor” and volumes of flyers from the headquarters of the regional Communist Party. Regional Electoral Commission Chairman Nikolai Tsvetkov reported that the commission requested information from the management of the Pskov’s Interior Ministry on Zyuganov’s distribution of campaign materials. He said that the electoral commissions of Pskov region held a meeting at 17:30 that evening. Signs of illegal campaigning were found in the newsletter “Words of Honor” and the leaflets, and the Interior Ministry was then sent to the party headquarters to prevent the dissemination of these printed materials. According to Anatoly Kolosov, secretary of the Communist Party Regional Committee, police arrived at the party headquarters with electoral commission papers and witnesses, and seized the newsletters and leaflets. The Communists referred to the incident as a “raid and search.”
NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING AND «BLACK PR»
In January, Samara Oblast’s electoral commission issued a warning to the Communist Party newspaper “Trudovaya Samara” after it had posted photo collages. The commission claimed that the collages “contain[ed] aspects of campaigning for Zyuganov and create[d] a negative image of Putin.” The image featured Zyuganov, with background images of a Soviet flag, Lenin, and Stalin. Putin was featured with background images of a Russian flag, Vlasov, Gaidar, and Yeltsin.
Formally, campaigning against candidates can be divided into negative campaigning (which is the legally permissible form of campaigning against one’s opponents) and “Black PR” (which includes defamation, provocation, and the issuance of false or anonymous campaign materials.)
During the election period, publication of the anti-Zyuganov newspaper “God Forbid!” was resumed. The newspaper was first released during the 1996 presidential campaign against Zyuganov. In this campaign, the newspaper retained the column “Arguments and Facts.” Again, as in 2007, the newspaper aims to support the governing authorities by way of fear tactics, warning citizens of a “return to the 1990s.” The newspaper reminisces about the “heroes” of the 1990s, including Currency Prostitute, Deceived Investor, Charlatan, and Oligarch.
At the height of the New Year holidays, when political life traditionally subsides, the All-Russian National Front’s Sverdlovsk branch managed to get into a scandal that received international media coverage. This scandal was caused by the newspaper “Arguments and Facts- Ural Digest,” which was distributed in the center of Yekaterinburg by individuals dressed in vests splashed with “Putin” and “All-Russian National Front” logos. This method of distribution indicates that the All-Russian National Front prepares the material for the newspaper in collaboration with Arguments and Facts- Ural Digest. Arguments and Facts’ editorial contacts, the names of its leadership, and its circulation (80,000 copies) were also indicated. However, the scandal was provoked not by the fact itself of the publication’s distribution, or by their content. Beyond the fact that the newspaper served directly to campaign for presidential candidate Putin, the newspaper featured two columns devoted to criticizing Russia’s non-system opposition, specifically, Boris Nemtsov and Alexei Navalny. Putin’s familiar claims about his opponents were accompanied by photographs of Navalny with disgraced Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky. The caption reads: “Alexei Navalny never concealed the fact that his fight against Putin is funded by oligarch Boris Berezovsky.” Meanwhile, it very quickly became clear that the photo was fake.
Shortly thereafter, a new campaign newspaper called ONF was surfaced in Yekaterinburg. This time, instead of using the Arguments and Facts brand, the All-Russian National Front issued a newspaper on behalf of Moscovsky Komsomolyets (MK.) ONF looks just like a production of MK-Ural, but contains only campaign materials for Putin and criticisms of the local opposition, especially Yekaterinburg Duma deputy Leonid Volkov.
Although the protest movement was the main target of counter-campaigns, there were separate acts of “Black PR” against registered presidential candidates
A series of Internet-based provocations were organized against Prokhorov (such as anonymous video clips, an internet-calendar, and more ostensibly released on behalf of the “Gay Leningrad Region” in support of the candidate.) In the Krasnoyarsk Territory, the Young Guard website’s Political Oddities section featured an article, “Prokhorov seeks PR specialists: expensive.” In essence, the article is quite simple: Prokhorov throws money at all those who are associated with him, including PR experts and political consultants.
The night before Mironov’s 20 February visit to Smolyensk, billboards emerged throughout the city featuring slanderous and insulting statements against him. Fifteen billboards (all measuring three by six meters) featured photos of the presidential candidate with such provocative captions as: “Mironov: A Symbol of Empty Populism;" “Mister Mironoff — US Resident, Get Out of Smolyensk;" and “Mironov — Symbol of the Orange Revolution.” According to Fair Russia’s Smolyensk branch, officials of the oblast administration and Governor Sergei Antufiev stood for the provocations. The fact is the provocative billboards stand on the land owned by the oblast administration, and not Smolyensk, the oblast center. Furthermore, state unitary enterprise Quality Standard owns the majority of the advertising space (13 of the 15 billboards.) The other two slanderous billboards are owned by the advertising agency Cameo. According to some reports, Cameo is also affiliated with some regional officials. What’s more, literally one day before the appearance of these Mironov posters appeared, these same billboards had been decorated with advertisements for the First Social Forum, which had recently taken place in Smolyensk under the auspices of a “Regional Popular Headquarters in Support of Candidate Putin.” And even earlier, these same billboards had featured a personal message from Governor Antufiev, offering new years greetings to all Smolyensk citizens. Fair Russia’s regional office insisted on the removal of the scandalous advertisements. Some of them have been dismantled at the request of Socialist city authorities, and police tore down the rest. Mironov cancelled his visit to Smolyensk. His official reason was due to changes in his rigid campaign schedule.
The Lipetsk regional offices of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Communist Party are both outraged by the flooding of Lipetsk with copies of Vybor.ru newspaper (with no output data), which spreads lies about candidates Zhirinovsky and Zyuganov, in the views of the branches. On this basis, the Liberal Democratic Party’s Lipetsk regional office and the Communist Party’s oblast committee appealed to the prosecutor’s office to launch an investigation into the publication source of this newspaper. The newspaper is very similar in appearance and style to another newspaper that was distributed during the Lipetsk mayoral elections. It cannot be ruled out that these two papers might originate from the same publication source.
FEATURES OF THE CAMPAIGNS OF CERTAIN CANDIDATES
Most of the candidates’ regional headquarters are minimally active, relying primarily on both free and paid airtime. Very few headquarters distributed party publications. Large advertisements were placed mostly only in large cities. Active campaigning was only visible in regions preparing for important local elections in addition to the presidential elections. Against the backdrop of the mostly inert activities of candidates’ regional headquarters were the much more pronounced activities of public organizations, which organized protests for political reform and fair elections, and also prepared for the monitoring of the upcoming elections.
The Putin Campaign
Let us recall that once Putin was no longer included on the United Russia list for the State Duma elections, the party received less than 50% of the 4 December 2011 vote and lost its majority. Despite United Russia’s formal nomination of Putin’s candidacy, his campaign has very clearly distanced itself from United Russia, and has appealed to the support of the All-Russian People’s Front.
Film director and RF Duma deputy Stanislav Govorukhin was appointed Chief of Staff. On 16 January, participants in the meeting of the Federal Popular Headquarters approved leaders of the regional popular headquarters. The structure of Putin’s public («popular») headquarters is largely symbolic in nature. It is obvious that the administration engages in the real work involved in organizing the campaign. The regional headquarters are often formally led by people who are far removed from politics.
Most of Putin’s campaign commercials have featured representatives of the arts and culture. An important element of the campaign has been the organization of regional rallies in support of Putin. The use of administrative methods in organizing these rallies has given way to scandal.
Banners were placed throughout the region promoting Putin’s presidential candidacy, featuring such slogans as: “Together for a Great Russia!” and “Great Country — Strong Leader,” etc. Initially, advertisements did not feature portraits of the candidate, but subsequently the prime minister’s face emerged.
Proxies for Putin organized a series of visits with regional groups, and coordinating councils of All-Russian People’s Front held meetings with voters. Public discussions were held on the candidate’s electoral articles.
There are separate local initiatives. In the Altai region, so-called “Snow Troopers” travelled to the outer districts. The official version holds that a few members of the detachment recorded the personal histories of elderly people, while the others shoveled snow and stacked firewood. In the evenings, members of the detachment gave concerts and costumed presentations, and organized discos for the local youth. In all, the Snow Troopers’ “humanitarian and economic” mission consisted of 400 students who covered 19 of the Altai districts over the course of 10 days. The size and source of the program’s budget are unknown.
Approximately one billion rubles have been allocated to the construction of a bypass road around Biysk—a regional initiative of Prime Minister Putin, as reported by the United Russia website. For the Kaliningrad oblast, Putin has promised that borders and customs control checks will be conducted on trains as they travel, so that passengers will not need to stop. In Karelia, a brochure entitled “V.V. Putin as a National Idea,” were distributed (in the name of NGO “Putin — Our Way!” In Murmansk’s Palace of Sports, a rally-concert was held in support of the candidate. The event was organized by NGO “Participants of Military Actions in Chechnya,” who sold capelin in the streets on 4 February at a low price under the advertising slogan, «100% Putin.”
The Press Office of Chelyabinsk region’s Governor M. Yurevich distributed en masse a report on economic development in the region. The report features statistics on changes that have occurred in the region over the course of the past 10–13 years. Speaking on the conditions under which these positive living-standard trends might continue, the governor said: “Without political stability, a balanced budget policy and economic growth will be impossible. We should strive to build a competitive, open economy and to create conditions favorable to business development. Under these circumstances, we will continue to grow.”
On 15 February, it was reported that Vladivostok authorities are preparing to hold a lottery on 4 March, where apartments and cars will be raffled. According to the movement Real Choice, however, the local branch of United Russia plans to only allow Putin supporters to enter the lottery. Communist Party representatives plan to file a complaint with the prosecutor’s office in response to this forthcoming buying of votes. Video footage allegedly shot at United Russia’s election headquarters has been posted on Real Choice’s website.
The Zyuganov Campaign
The Communist Party campaign has been organized through its regional and local branches, and is traditionally considered fairly newsworthy. The party distributes regional publications «PRAVDA“ (which is visually similar to the newspaper of the same name) and “For Zyuganov.” The campaign’s main slogans are “Power and Property — the People!”
The Party participated in regional protests against electoral fraud stemming from the 4 December elections.
TV commercials in favor of Zyuganov were aired. In one, he sets himself against officials in processions under the slogan “There is always a choice!” In a second, Olympic figure skating champion Roman Kostomarov, Nobel Laureate Zhores Alferov, national artist of Russia Yuri Nazarov, famous directors Nikolai Gubenko and Vladimir Bortko, and Left Front leader Sergei Ukaltsov read the poem “Until Freedom Burns” by Alexander Pushkin.
In the Volgograd region, it was announced that a Regional Public Affairs Committee would be established in favor of Zyuganov. Communist Party representative in the regional Duma Nikolai Parshin reported that the committee would include 40 public organizations.
Twenty billboards featuring images of Zyuganov have been posted throughout Perm. Posters supporting Zyuganov have been illegally removed from 219 busses that regularly run through Perm.
The Mironov Campaign
As the regional offices conduct A Just Russia’s campaign activities, the intensity of work in each particular region is determined by the organizations and strategies of its regional leadership.
The campaign utilizes the same commercial used to promote A Just Russia during the Duma elections (wherein a retiree in a bank, astonished by a new receipt for utilities, says, “You also raised the pension.”) The campaign has produced several new commercials as well. In one, candidate Mironov speaks to a crowd about corruption being primarily responsible for most of Russia’s problems. That clip ends with the slogan, “Mironov — an honest choice!” Part of the candidate’s commercials feature animated characters resembling his opponents. According to the party, distribution of these commercials was prohibited. There were animated commercials called “Alternative” and “Lift.” The party has made all of these commercials available online.
Brochures entitled “Sergei Mironov for Dummies,” and “Stories about Mironov” were distributed throughout the city of Perm. These publications do not contain any output information. The electoral commission held that the “Sergei Mironov for Dummies” brochure constituted illegal campaign materials. This decision was made at an electoral commission meeting held on 13 February. The committee stated, “The decision was made to withdraw the brochures and to contact law enforcement officials.”
In Altai region, former regional deputy Nina Shavandina was excluded from the party’s political council. The decision was based on an occurrence of Shavandina in Putin’s National Headquarters of Public Support.
The Zhirinovsky Campaign
The campaign primarily utilizes television airtime. Distribution of campaign materials was noted on rare occasions. The main campaign slogans were “Zhirinovsky and It Will Get Better!” and “Zhirinovsky or It Will Get Worse!”
One of Zhirinovsky’s TV commercials was controversial from an animal protection standpoint. In it, the candidate is seen sitting in a sleigh wearing a fur coat. He then proceeds to beat a donkey, complaining, “Russia is no longer a daring troika.”
One of Zhirinovsky’s TV commercials was controversial from an animal protection standpoint. In it, the candidate is seen sitting in a sleigh wearing a fur coat, beating a donkey harnessed to the sleigh with its reigns, and complaining that “Russia is no longer a daring troika… it barely moves- it cannot go. In this place, our whole country stands!” In the Urals, Zhirinovsky was quoted as having said, «Yeltsin was stupid not only because he worked in construction. Urals, Urals, Urals! An enormous amount of deposits are underground there. It is our country’s warehouse. It is an enormous magnetic field. The people there are generally stupid. Morons live there. From Perm to Yekaterinburg, the population is retarded. It might be healthy but take their intelligence – they are stupid… It is not Leningrad, or Saratov. I have travelled all over this country for the past 40 years. There are no more stupid people than in the Urals. And it is Yeltsin’s birthplace.” This and numerous other such steps taken by Zhirinovsky seemed to be deliberate steps toward decreasing his popularity in a region where he has traditionally enjoyed strong support.
The Prokhorov Campaign
The campaign started in the regions with the creation of public receptions established to organize Prokhorov’s signature sheets. The same people who worked with Prokhorov’s Right Cause campaign in the summer of 2011 led many of these receptions.
Mikhailov and Partners has been the primary organizer of Prokhorov’s PR campaign. This agency is known to have collaborated with the Prokhorov Fund and ONEXIM Group. Sergei Mikhailov, the agency’s founder and managing partner holds the post of Deputy Chief of Communications for Russian Railways.
The campaign has been conducted primarily by means of television and social networking. No cases of dissemination of newspapers or pamphlets were observed. Leaflets were distributed. These leaflets contained self-adhesive pictures of Prokhorov and the slogan, “We Demand More!”
Large advertisements, which were constructed in major cities, promoted Prokhorov and featured his commitment to the transportation infrastructure (railway stations and surrounding areas.)
PREPARATIONS FOR ELECTION DAY
On the one hand, the rise of social activism after the 4 December elections caused an increase in civil activism and the increased interest of citizens in participating in election monitoring activities. These factors led to the creation of new social institutions geared toward monitoring the electoral process, such as the League of Voters, Citizen Observer, etc. The government itself has taken certain initiatives to reduce voter dissatisfaction with the quality of elections, such as the introductions of transparent ballot boxes and webcams at polling stations. However, as compared with previous elections, there was no marked reduction in signals of preparing the regions for various forms of manipulation in the voting and counting processes.
In the regions, various companies actively coerced workers into obtaining absentee ballots. In some cases, workers were required to give the absentee ballots they had received to company management. Most workers affected were state employees.
In the end of December, Deputy of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly Alexei Kovalev wrote to the governor to tell him about an email, which the deputy assumed had come from Vasileostrovsky district’s Deputy Head of the Department of Education, N.V. Krasnov and was addressed to all preschool educational facilities in the district. The letter included a requirement that all employees of these educational institutions living outside of Vasileostrovsky district should—between 18 and 21 January 2012—receive absentee ballots and submit them to their school leadership. According to the letter, all of these absentee ballots were to be submitted to the district’s Department of Education on Monday 23 January.
Already, more than 15 reports have come in from St. Petersburg on the compulsion of school and kindergarten employees to receive absentee ballots and submit them to authorities. During the 2011 Duma elections, PECs throughout St. Petersburg received 73,874 absentee ballots. The CEC has allocated 80,000 absentee ballots for the upcoming presidential elections in St. Petersburg. However, in the opinion of experts from St. Petersburg, most fraud that was committed was in the form of “Carousel Voting,” which is enabled by the existence of false lists of provisional voters.
A large number of reports of the compulsory receipt of absentee ballots were received from the Chelyabinsk oblast.
In Volgograd budgetary institutions, all employees were required to receive absentee ballots in advance, and to bring them to work on 4 March. Polling stations promised to bring mobile ballot boxes to these institutions. A meeting for heads of healthcare departments and committees was held within the city.
On 30 January it became known that the administrative districts of Sochi city had received directives on the issuance of absentee ballots. Specifically, blogger Suren Ghazarian published a document featuring plans for the issuance of absentee ballots in the Hostinski TEC, which was signed by Y.V. Chesnakov, regional Head of Recreation and Tourism. On 2 February, city administrators refuted accusations of the coerced receipt of absentee ballots. On 3 February in Sochi, Chesnokov was dismissed from his position. It was reported that the official exhibited “excessive initiative” in distributing a schedule for the receipt of absentee ballots from subordinate enterprises. During the course of the official investigation, it was revealed he sent a letter urging the receipt of absentee ballots to staff that would be working on Election Day.
It has been reported that in Ivanovo region, public sector employees were also required to receive absentee ballots, and to promise to submit such ballots at the “necessary polling stations” on Election Day. This information was leaked to the media.
As was the case in the 4 December elections, regional PECs have been created in factories where 4 March has been declared a workday.
In the Volgograd regional headquarters of the Volga Pipe Plant (the region’s largest company, with over 10,000 employees), workers that wished to vote on site were offered double-wage workdays on 4 February and 4 March.
The TPKO factory (belonging to the Tyazhpressmash company) in Ryazan declared 4 March a working day. Company employees informed Novaya Gazeta about the situation. Workers were ordered to file a written application for the establishment of a polling station within the plant, the voter list for which should include the names of all of those who would be voting within their workplace. Similar conditions existed at the Red Flag factory as well as several others.
Problems with the work of electoral commissions were noted in a number of regions.
The work of the Altai region’s Kosihinsky TEC was paralyzed by the mass exodus of its members. Kosihinsky District Council Deputy Alexander Trautveyn made an announcement on the situation on 1 February. Among the commission members to relinquish their authority were Chairman Vlad Desyatkin, as well as Alexander Spitsky (of United Russia), Valentina Kalistratova (of the Communist Party,) and Oksana Prokhorov (of the Liberal Democratic Party.) According to unofficial information, the departing members made their decisions due to pressure they had received in a presentation of guidelines for the conduct of the presidential elections.
On 2 February Ufa city election commission member Guzel Faizullina resigned from his post, blaming his decision on sharp disagreements with the commission management. On 6 February, the city election commission suddenly and unexpectedly relocated to new premises (an unprecedented event) in a heavily guarded building owned by the mayor’s office on the outskirts of the city.
Vladimir Fedotkin, State Duma deputy and first secretary of the Ryazan Communist Party’s Regional Committee, sent a letter to the oblast prosecutor, S. Legostaevu, requesting that action be taken in connection with the formation of district and territorial election commissions in the region. In Ryazan’s Oktyabr district, 53 changes were made in 29 PECs. In Zheleznodorozhny, the compositions of 19 PECs were replaced entirely. Similar situations prevailed in many other PECs throughout the region. Furthermore, the Zheleznodorozhny TEC, in the process of approving the majority of PECs, acted in violation of the rules on party representation within the election commissions. The deputy asked the prosecutor to take action on these violations. It was also noted that “corrections” primarily effected those commissions where the Commuist Party took first place in 4 December 2011.
In Tatarstan, opposition party members were refused candidac in PECs of commission members with decisive voting rights. Since 7 February, Yabloko party members have been refused as TEC candidates for Moscow’s Kazan district 20 out of 22 times. For the presidential election as a whole, Yabloko has nominated 27 candidates for Kazan PEC composition- most of them within the Moscow area. Airat Zyamilov, member of the Moscow district TEC with decisive voting rights and Communist Party member, noted that in approving the composition of the PEC, there was not a single chairman from the parliamentary parties.
In the Orenburg oblast, members of electoral commissions commonly endured harsh pressure during in the course of their approval and decisions on organizational issues. Moreover, with the help of United Russia deputies at all levels, municipal leaders held “awareness” talks in ultimatum form with disagreeable members of electoral commissions.
On 13 February highly unexpected and paradoxical information emerged from Pskov oblast’s electoral commissions: First, suggestions surfaced that before the elections, the TEC would replace all or most of those who were responsible for data entry during voting and counting with an automated state system called “Elections.” What would motivate electoral commissions to do so is still unknown. Shortly thereafter it became known that before the elections, 35 PEC leaders (out of a total of 92) were replaced. Furthermore, changes have occurred under various pretexts: some were asked to leave, many left on their own will, unable to withstand the pressure exerted by authorities. According to unofficial information, some PEC representatives were quietly asked to leave after having gone too far with the falsification of documents.
In early February, the discharge of two chairpersons “on their own accord” in St. Petersburg was widely publicized. Both are teachers from Vasileostrovsky area’s school # 575. Tatiana Ivanova had chaired PEC # 99. Antonina Kovalev had chaired # 100. Both teachers claim that they were forced out as a result of their refusal to take part in fraud. In particular, they allegedly refused to rewrite the voting results on the final protocol.
Members of Yabloko in St. Petersburg were reportedly prohibited from participating in PEC commissions as members with decisive voting rights. According to the party, the main problems were in Moscow, Frunze, and Admiralteski region, where the applications of 178 party members for commission positions with decisive voting rights were denied. Members of the TECs claimed that they had not received documents from candidates.
Members of Yabloko in St. Petersburg were reportedly prohibited from participating in PEC commissions as members with decisive voting rights. According to the party, the main problems were in Moscow, Frunze, and Admiralteski region, where the applications of 178 party members for commission positions with decisive voting rights were denied. Members of the TECs claimed that they had not received documents from candidates. Documents from candidates were refused upon receipt.
Irina Kolpakova, former chairperson of Samara’s PEC # 655, posted a video on YouTube featuring stories of having endured pressure while working for the commission, and having been ordered to falsify the PEC results. The video features an interview with Kolpakova conducted by Samara’s League of Voters coordinator Sergei Tuchin. In it, Kopakova spoke about technological fraud in past elections. According to the former chairperson, the Communist Party won over United Russia by a large margin in her PEC. She then received a call from the Samara administration requesting that she adjust the results in United Russia’s favor. She refused. In Kolpakova’s opinion, this incident was the reason for which none of her PEC employees have again been appointed as PEC members for the 4 March presidential elections.
It was later announced in Samara that the former chairperson of PEC # 655, Irina Kolpakova was suspected of having defrauded protocols in the State and Local Duma elections.
Rather than investigative fraud allegations, Tambov oblast’s City Investigative Department launched an unprecedented criminal investigation against a TEC member with decisive voting rights from the Apple party list, Y. Voblikova. Voblikova had been working with G. Zelenin to prevent fraud at PEC # 729.
Without a compelling reason, the Arzamas Nizhny Novogorod TEC rejected the applications of five Communist Party members to serve as PEC members with decisive voting rights.
On 27 January, representatives of A Just Russia brought documents to the Kalinin TEC in order to apply for PEC positions on behalf of their members. The documents were addressed to chairperson Valentina Ivanova. The following day, A Just Russia representatives received a calls complaining about the poor conditions of working for the PEC, such as very low wages. It was later discovered that the calls were placed by United Russia “coordinators.” When asked how they gained access to the personal data of recipients, United Russia refused to answer. When Communist Party representatives challenged these activities in a higher commission, they were merely told that the issue could not be resolved.
In the Marino area of Moscow city, Communist Party regional branch secretary Raisa Koloteva, accompanied by two aides, attempted to apply for 65 PEC positions with decisive voting rights. First, she was locked in the elevator of her own building. The elevator was completely shut down for an hour. Once outside with her assistants, she found that the roads were blocked by heavy machinery. It was impossibe for her or anyone else to exit or enter the road. In response to the cries and complaints of people trying to leave, the drivers of the machinery responded, “We are commanded to stay here!” Once all was said and done, she arrived at the TEC 55 minutes before closing. Upon seeing Koloteva, commission chairperson Valentina Melnikova quickly left. Commission secretary Nina Griogrieva refused to accept the application. In the end, Koloteva and her colleagues were forced out into the streets. In the Duma elections, Communist Party representatives claimed that Communist Party commission members in the Marino area were nominated fraudulently with the use of false Communist Party signatures.
The Ramonsk region TEC in Voronesh oblast refused to grant positions with decisive voting rights to Communist Party members. The matter is being appealed in court.
Paradoxical data on the preparations for use of web cameras at polling stations on 4 March 2012
This applies both to the possibility of free access for citizens to broadcasts from polling stations on the website webvybory2012.ru, and to the subsequent reclamation of this footage in the event of claims during the course of voting and counting at specific polling stations.
First, because of the difference in time zones, broadcasts from most of the country’s PECs will be discontinued at the start of counting, as voting will be ongoing at this time in the Kaliningrad oblast.
Second, in order to observe during the course of elections, it is necessary to register on the website no later than 3 March by specifying the number of a specific polling station. However, in advance it is very difficult polling stations with the potential for violations. Furthermore, it is reported that while viewing, observers will be required to enter a captcha every ten minutes.
Third, there is reason to believe that the footage collected will not be permissible as evidence in courts. However, to submit statements in polling stations, the complainant must be physically present.
Fourth, the CEC has already announced that they will not make the videos available to everyone. Web camera recordings may be obtained only by way of official written appeals to the CEC. The appeal will require the applicant’s full name, postal address, phone number, an email address to which a link to the requested footage will be sent, the number of the polling station from which video is being requested, and a justification for the request detailing how the video impacts the applicant’s voting rights.
Other potential issues include the possibility of DDos attacks on cameras, the absence of liability for the refusal to issue videos, and the possibility that videos may be suddenly lost or otherwise unavailable.
The primary positive elements of the forthcoming elections are the increases in civic activism and in the commitment of citizens to participate in monitoring the observance of procedures in voting and counting at the PECs and TECs.
On 18 January, a group of public figures, journalists, and bloggers announced the creation of the League of Voters, which will engage in monitoring of electoral processes in Russia. Among the group’s 16 founders are: blogger Rustem Adagamov, TV personalities Tatyana Lazareva and Leonid Parfenov, writer Grigory Chkhartishvili (Boris Akunin,) doctor Elizabeta Glinka (Doctor Lisa,) blogger Ilya Barlamov, musician Yuri Shevchuk, producer and composer Georgy Vasilyev, political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin, journalist Olga Romanova, journalist and publisher Sergei Parkhomenko, writer Dmitry Bykov, and others. The League of Voters was created for the fights against electoral fraud. Any person can join through the organization’s website by providing identification data. In case of unwillingness to declare one’s data, one acquires the status of another league. The founders do not plan to convert it into a political party. Alexei Navalny created the project Rosvybory, and continues the activities of the project, “Citizen Observer.”
The League of Voters invited all five presidential candidates, including Putin, to use its observers during the elections. To do this, candidates must prove their right to appoint observers. Three presidential candidates: Zyuganov, Mironov, and Prokhorov signed an agreement with the League of Voters agreeing to cooperate in the fight for fair elections. The agreement provides not only for the exchange of information, but also for the organization of observer training, and the creation of common information centers, where all primary materials will be kept, including PEC protocols. Putin’s headquarters also stated that he was ready to consider a proposal with the League of Voters. However, the agreement has not been signed.
In many regions, various initiatives were taken for the training and organization of observers
The electoral commissions in Tomsk and Ivanovo oblasts do not want to allow Civic Voice observers into the polling stations on Election Day. Elman Yusubov, head of Tomsk oblast’s electoral commission, explained that according to the Law on Presidential Elections, observers may only be citizens that were either delegated by candidates or by nominating parties. As such, Yusubov will not allow correspondents with Civic Voice into polling stations. This formed the basis of a response to the chairman written by Russian Union Journalists A. Secastyanova and E. Yusubova. At the regional meeting of the public chamber, Yusubov stated that the requirement pertained to Civic Voice because—in his opinion—journalists can only inform the public, not monitor the voting process. He further stated that they have no right to take photographs or record video footage at polling stations.