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Thursday, March 15, 2018

The edge of the possible for Ella Pamfilova: the experts found the pitfalls of the election

In 2011 after the state Duma elections in Russia began mass protests. “For fair elections!” chanted “the white ribbon” opposed to the mass violations in the voting day. It’s been almost five years, the new Duma campaign set a tone. The first Deputy head of the presidential Administration outlined the principles of conducting election campaigns and spoke of the need of competitiveness, openness and legitimacy. Very different was the CEC. But enough of these changes to the elections were “honest”?

photo: Gennady Cherkasov

“This work, despite all the difficulties, meets my views and my feeling of being important for the country. If people have more confidence in elections and the feeling that something is dependent, then the country will be completely different quality of development
Ella Pamfilova after the inauguration of the CEC.

Cosmetic repair of the CEC

To answer this question, first look in more detail what happened with CEC.

Of the 15 members of the previous Commission, there were only 6 people. Instead of Vladimir Churov, whose name has become almost synonymous with fraud, the Chairman was appointed by former Commissioner for human rights Ella Pamfilova; the new composition of the CEC has not entered any Secretary Nikolai Konkin nor a Deputy Chairman Stanislav Vavilov and Leonid Ivlev. With the latter, according to Vladimir Churov, they “for nine years he worked in absolute unanimity”.

By the way, the decision on the appointment of a second Deputy has repeatedly been criticized: for example, in 2008, ex-CEC member Elena Dubrovina said that under Federal law, you can only choose one alternate (paragraph 7, article 21 No. 67 — FZ). “The law says that the President, the Vice — without the word “one” — and Secretary shall be elected by secret vote,” shortly before the resignation of Vladimir Churov stated its interpretation of the legislation, adding that the post came “at the suggestion of the presidential Administration”. However, the new Commission chose only one Deputy Chairman.

What is in addition to the CEC Pamfilova different from that of the CEC Churov?

In the Wake of public discontent with the fraud in the last Duma elections were widely distributed statement of Vladimir Churov, that “the Internet has a lot bileberdy about violations.” Some observation of the organization, he, on his own words, preferred “not to speak in vain”. Churov stressed that according to the law, observers can be only journalists and representatives of political parties, not social organizations (such observers do usually get referrals from parties or from the media). In 2014, the office of CEC, even issued a call for regional election commissions to prevent the plots of the representatives of NCOs — foreign agents.

Ella Pamfilova, on the contrary, took a course on interaction with public observers and even called them “allies in ensuring the election.” Changed public rhetoric — said the co-Chairman of the Council of the movement in defense of voters ‘ rights “Golos” Gregory Melkonyants. There used to be a complete denial of the problems CEC is now showing the desire to solve them.”

A few steps on the way to the solution of pressing questions have already been made. Set up an expert working group under CEC was composed of public and observers. Together with members of the Commission, the group is preparing a memo to the voting day for police, journalists, observers and members of commissions. “Our goal is to prevent potential conflict situations that may arise at the polling station — says Grigory Melkonyants. — Some norms of the law prescribed damp, it is necessary to clarify the position of the CEC on him.”

So, it solved a controversial issue about photo and video shooting at the polling station. By law, the observer can photograph and take video only from the place which identified the Chairman of the Commission. “But not always with this place you can see everything,” said Melkonyants. — For example, stuffing happens whether the observer to come closer, to take a video? Or he violate the law?”.

Additional explanation will be given for new rules about what an observer can be removed from the polling station only by court order. The observer cannot be forced to bring to court because it will be “deletion”, but the court to go to the polling station. “While discussing the option that this rule should be interpreted as a moratorium on the destruction,” said Melkonyants.

Another offer of observers that the CEC has taken note of posters with step by step instructions for counting of votes and filling protocols at polling stations. “Sometimes violates the procedures, the experience of the members of the election Commission may be closed in other rooms to count the votes, -said the expert. In the case of such violations the observer is easier to appeal to the poster in front of the eyes than to the rule of law, which can be interpreted in different ways”.

In addition, Ella Pamfilova drew attention to the dependence of the election commissions of the regional administrations. After criticism expressed by the new head of the CEC resigned a Chairman of the Saint – Petersburg electoral Commission and the head of the electoral Commission of the Moscow region. Statement on dismissal was filed and the head of the electoral Commission of the Chelyabinsk region, the official reason was for health reasons. Pamfilova did not rule out further resignations.

However, the expert on elections, Chairman of the Interregional Association of voters Andrei Buzin characterizes changes in the CEC as “cosmetic” and aimed at improving the image of state authority. “Pamfilova is fairly progressive, but the CEC, in spite of changes, remain conservative, and in composition and action,” — said the expert. In his opinion, remains an unresolved issue based on elections in General and election commissions in particular from the Executive.

According to experts of the “Voice” a high level of potential administrative dependence now has almost half of territorial election commissions. Decide whether the CEC the issue of the merger of election commissions with Executive power, even the law stipulates that half of the members of lower level commissions are appointed by the administration? “Ella Pamfilova at the post of the Ombudsman has faced a similar problem in appointing regional commissioners, therefore, were introduced legislative changes (previously each region had appointed commissioners for human rights on their own accord, in 2015 the right coordination received a Federal Ombudsman, — ed.) — says Grigory Melkonyants. — Perhaps there will be new legislation to change the principle of formation of election commissions, to be able to appoint independent people.” But before the elections to the state Duma, it will not happen – too little time left.

The photo is a stack of completed ballots, which observers found in the bathroom at one of the polling stations. That just was not done to falsify the results of voting in the premises before stuffing suddenly the lights dimmed, for participation in stuffing people were paid 1,000 rubles, voters were transported by bus from site to site, in voting booths, put a pen with disappearing ink, and observers sometimes even by force expelled from polling stations.

Legal trouble

CEC is just a drop in the ocean of problems of the electoral system. Over the past 10 years, the electoral legislation has changed.

First, in 2009, was cancelled election pledge — now most of the candidates have to collect signatures.

State Duma elections are held under a mixed system: half of the candidates chosen for the lists and half in single — mandate constituencies. Formally, election is open to all parties, however, the “benefit” — promotion of their lists and single-seat districts without collecting signatures — we have only 14 parties out of 77 registered in Ministry of justice. Collecting signatures is a costly procedure. Candidate single-seat districts that have not secured one of the “benefits” parties must obtain 3% of signatures of voters. For example, in the Central district of Moscow 15 thousand signatures. If you pay the collectors for 100 rubles per signature, before the main phase of the campaign campaign staff will have to spend about 1.5 million — plus other organizational expenses.

Experts note that in recent times the business is afraid to Fund the election campaign of the opposition, while the party with 3% are funded from the budget, and they spend the money directly on the campaign and not to the procedure which even does not guarantee registration. Thus, in regional elections last year, according to the signatures was not registered more than 50% of party lists. And, as shown by the loud campaign of the democratic coalition, signatures can be culled, even for the most absurd reasons in the database of the FMS, on which the Novosibirsk election Commission verified the autographs, the woman was recorded as “Daria Gaidar,” but error was never admitted.

To solve the problem of mass refusal to register could return the safety measures for registration of an electoral Deposit. For this was the Council on human rights. However, so far no changes have occurred.

Secondly, in 2005 there was a ban on electoral blocs, and later — and the ban for political parties to include in their lists representatives of other parties.

In 2003, the members of the SPS in the elections to the Moscow city Duma ran on the lists of Yabloko in the regional Parliament passed a number of candidates. When the question of unification of the opposition stood before the state Duma elections this year proved that it is technically impossible. To merge lists politicians had to get out of your party, that actually would mean its disintegration. It is not surprising that this step was one of the representatives of opposition parties decided not to.

Is it possible under such rules to talk about equal conditions of competition and high quality of democratic procedures — the big question.

In the Duma elections on 4 December 2011, observers recorded 7800 violations at polling stations. Photo: kartanarusheniy.org

Practical flaws

Some of the defects of the electoral system clearly visible in practice. Now in many regions of the recorded violations are typical of the conduct of the election campaign.

So, one of the candidates in deputies of the state Duma has raised questions publication of information about the primaries in district Newspapers administrative districts of Moscow. He sent a request for response by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Questions the candidate was the fact that the Newspapers produced at budget money (total circulation of more than 4 million copies), constantly published is of candidates from one party — about candidates from other parties it does not say.

“The line between information and propaganda is very thin. If strict approach to the concept of agitation, the agitation is considered to be a direct call to “vote for!”, — said Andrey Buzin. But because information about the candidate in a positive way, especially in this volume, too, affects the will of the citizens”.

On the website of the Public chamber were placed a call to her Secretary to vote in the primaries. The movement of the observers believes that this is a direct violation of the code of ethics of the OP, which its members must not allow public support of political parties.

During the primaries in the Chelyabinsk region in the Network got the audio recording made by one of the participants of the meeting at which the officials and party functionaries instructed the heads of districts, to ensure victory of the candidates supported by the Governor.

In Ulyanovsk a few advertising campaigns denied one of the parties in printing banners with the slogan “it’s Time to change the power!”, it was also stolen several billboards with the words “Stop lying and stealing!”. Of the Ulyanovsk region received the message about that from the budget allocated money for free tours of the area for the socially unprotected strata. The concern is that the term “free” tours closes two days before the election. Old-timers remember that before last year’s election on similar excursions were handing out agitation leaflets of the ruling party, and ended the tours with a meeting with the candidate.

Andrey Buzin notes that such violations are everywhere, but the signals come mainly from regions, where the development of the movement of observers and a lot of people with active citizenship.

The conclusion of this story is simple. There has been a positive for the electoral system change in Central election Commission. But better still. How far before the implementation of the five principles of the inadmissibility of “political corruption” and ensure the objectivity of the will of citizens, high quality of democratic procedures, the priority of the credibility of the election on percentages and equal conditions for political competition, the presence of “legitimate” problems and practical flaws in the proof.

Whether elections are fair? Most likely, the fraud will be less, and the vote count will be accurate. But that the elections were free, we must free them from government interference.

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