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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ella Pamfilova: about “scapegoats” and working on the bugs

After the elections in the state Duma has passed enough days that their results have time to speak winners and losers, journalists and analysts. It’s time to give the floor to the arbiter of the campaign, the head of the Central election Commission, Ella Pamfilova. For her this election was the “first fight” in his new role, and I don’t even remember the case, when the new composition of the CEC has been conducting the Federal campaign in just a few months after his appointment. There is no dress rehearsal, and immediately the Prime Minister. Entrusted to take this interview to me, because I have these elections, too, looked inside — as a member of the district election Commission. So the conversation began with one of the weak points.

photo: Natalia Muslinkina

Ella Pamfilova

In Moscow the vote count was delayed due to the lack of system administrators. Because of the small numbers they were unable to enter the final reports in gas “Elections”, members of election commissions continued to wait not even for hours, but literally days. How could this happen?

— Before the election I met with the Moscow commissions, interested in what they lack. Asked why Moscow has traditionally counts the votes longer than many other regions. A clear answer is not received, and requests. Moscow — the city is not poor, he is quite capable to solve the problem of system administrators on their own, but if they asked for some support from the CEC, it would get certainly. From our side there would be no failures.

— In your opinion, what are the points of the elections were the most sick?

— If to compare to elections in the state Duma, which passed in 2011, this campaign has significantly reduced the number of serious violations, since the CEC sought maximum transparency and openness from all participants. We had three times fewer re-entries into the automated system “Elections”. In most regions we have not received any complaints. This was achieved both point and widespread “bombing” in the form of a series of preventive measures. Was no other way out, because there is no time to lose no choice — the new composition of the CEC of Russia he worked for five and a half months in conditions complicated compared to the last campaign of the legislation. And the campaign itself three times is more complicated: two times more hands, added a single-seat districts, and in some regions at the same time held several elections of different level, the voter received up to nine different ballots. The load increased dramatically, and the algorithm, starting from financing of the information campaign and ending with procedures that were laid before our arrival, in fact, for the tasks of “yesterday”.

We had to work “from wheels” in extreme mode and on the move very quickly to close a clear institutional, legislative and enforcement gaps. Of course, during this period it is impossible to efficiently change the system, but a seemingly irreversible negative processes was reversed. And it is the hope that the future campaign, we will come up with a completely different Foundation. But for this we need all the CEC and the parties, experts and lawmakers — to discuss in detail what needs to be changed.

— What kind of “mistakes” would you like to spend?

— As for CEC, I would divide this task into several positions.

The first is the easiest, in spite of the complexity: the internal reorganization of the Commission staff, the “modernizing” of its working methods. For example, employees of a number of departments literally toppled down the last few months. Physically not enough specialists. The difference in this campaign: many of the party preferred on every occasion to serve each other in court, and our experts have been constantly involved in litigation. And check the collection of signatures is complicated, and increased the number of documents from the candidates, and the number of the candidates themselves — all it required was to check thoroughly in a short time. The load is incredible, right, but at what price…

The second problem, which manifested itself needs to be solved is optimization of interaction like committees of subjects of Federation and subordinate commissions. In no way without compromising principles of federalism and the independence of the commissions, at the same time can’t accept the fact that the CEC of Russia in some obvious situations of violation of citizens ‘ electoral rights was not sufficient levers of influence on infringers. As an example, will lead to what happened in St. Petersburg 217 constituency, where we have created a very ugly situation, in terms of sophisticated use of administrative resources, including the use of fake candidates and doubles. Understand that there is something unsightly, a hand to grab can’t. We received a complaint about possible fraud in the counting process, there is reason to check, and we urgently sent to the district representative of the Central election Commission to remove the issue and recommend to the district Commission to recount the ballots. And what are we facing? The district election Commission were killed in a rush to prevent a recount. Regardless of party affiliation it’s all turned out to be biased and administratively managed by the same skilful hand, and fake candidates.

On the recommendation of the CEC to remove all the issues by recounting the ballots the district Board responded that the haste incorrectly approved the final Protocol. That is, instead of trying to defend the honor of the Commission and the candidate to prove that he won fairly, is preferred to be highly questionable “integrity”.

Thus, the territorial election Commission (TEC) 23, which was assigned the functions of the district Commission, deliberately blocked the election Committee to count ballots in order to ascertain the truth. We issued a determination to address the city’s electoral Commission, according to our recommendations dismissed the Chairman of LIC. Appealed to the Prosecutor General’s office, advised the applicant to go to court. But the train is likely gone — prosecutors found no indirect grounds that would allow to count the ballots.

The trouble is that the offender during the election campaign, you grab it right behind the arm. If you do not react immediately, and time is lost, to challenge or confirm the results becomes very problematic.

There is still hope for the Supreme court, where we are going, if the case goes to review, to defend its position on the need of recount.

It seems to me that the authority of the CEC of Russia on control over lower level commissions should be more substantial.

For example, at the end of the campaign the Chairman of the three commissions of subjects of the Federation after a conversation with me wrote a statement of resignation. They had the conscience to do it. And one the Chairman of the Commission, which the Central election Commission official expressed distrust for the violations, decided to stay because preferred professional honor full administrative dependence, which quite satisfied the head of the region. However, he will not stay long — in the near future will have a rotation of more than two thirds of the commissions, and his candidacy is not supported by the CEC. Recently, the CEC has offered another Chapter of the Commission to leave his post for violations, and I am sure that we will bring in this case the situation to its logical conclusion.

In any case, if we are responsible for the entire campaign, the scale of our powers must match the scale of responsibility. Otherwise it is useless to shake the air.

The third range of problems associated with the legislative provision of the electoral cycle. The campaign revealed a number of weaknesses inside of the electoral legislation and its practical enforcement.

The fourth objective is related to the technical re-equipment of the whole process. You need to go to a modern technological level, having studied the experience of other countries. Including some who experimented with electronic voting, began to return to the traditional way of expression. Need to see what technologies for our great country best suited. In my opinion, all have recognized: the Cohiba is good. But this time, they are technically outdated, and they are not enough. So, we need to announce a competition among designers and manufacturers for a more modern equivalent of Cohiba and to equip their stations. There remains the problem of video surveillance, need to be retrofitted areas with cameras. We in the last election is engaged in the introduction of the QR code in the three regions have conducted a pilot project. This technology, when the final Protocol of the precinct election Commission is scanned and entered into the SAS “Vybory” of the site that removes suspicion, though on the way to the superior Commission the Protocol rewrite. Just exclude this possibility. And ideally I would like to make to the next campaign this system was in all areas except for very remote. I would like to enter the data directly from polling stations to people not standing in queue the system administrator in a higher fee.

Well, there are a range of problems that extends well beyond the competence of the CEC, but requires discussion, since it directly affects the condition of the entire electoral system of the country.

— The Network had a great response video of how the teacher is thrown (or supposedly thrown) ballots. What do you think, what in reality was the scale of ballot box stuffing?

According to our data, is significantly less when compared with 2011. Just unlike the previous campaign, the CEC has become a major proponent identify all violations, there are far fewer, but each of them became public, and talking about them became more. In 2011, there was no CCTV as an additional factor in control.

We analyze the complaints that come to the CEC, working with the communities of observers and grateful that they give your information about possible violations. Our staff summarize all that is in the press and the global Network. There are a lot of repeats in different interpretations, we now we bring it all to a common denominator, “scraping” information from the debris of the possible violations are indeed worthy of our attention. As for the rollers — that’s one of the most “popular” stories: women go in and out of Kaibu and begin to enter the ballot for the newsletter. Any comments to it or was assigned, but it is a completely legal procedure: after the polls closed, the Commission puts a COHIBA in the mode of any ballots from portable boxes. Are the votes given at home. Where the stuffing has been established, the election results canceled.

— What happened to those teachers in Rostov-on-don and their colleagues in other regions who first came to the epicenter of videoescandalo?

— Being a criminal case. Those cases where we believe that there may have occurred violations, engaged in law enforcement. Let’s see what the investigation will show.

And what’s more outrageous — the members of the commissions, mostly of employees of educational institutions, become “scapegoats”. Of course, I have repeatedly told colleagues in the regions: “my Dear, to call you by anyone, require you to break the law by anyone, but the answer, it will have it for you.” Who heard me, that under any pressure in the stuffing did not go. Some have not heard. You know, the commissions are state employees, women, often single mothers. Servile people, and to them the chief said… Now opened a criminal case, they will be held accountable. And the chief, who ordered to break the law — no! Those bastards who made them, relief are rubbing their sweaty palms from the fact that shoved the responsibility from themselves. How do their land is! I hope that the Investigation Committee of the interior Ministry, the Prosecutor’s office at least some cases will bring to mind not only the performers are forced to be punished, but also the customer. Make sure you chain — where it stretches to the head of the local administration and the Governor… Show integrity, at least one real culprit in the rigging catch the bastard!

And another very important point — it is necessary to improve the principle of formation of election commissions. It is wrong to exploit in the elections sometimes forced state employees.

— So, who’s going to come to this hellish work, if he can’t make it?

— Maybe, you need to collect those commissions on the same principle as collecting juries, from all sectors of society to gain Commission. But for this to be motivation, encouragement. And not to force people to work 20 hours or more. Or need the Commission to do more, reasonably distributing the functions within the Commission, or to think it enough for us one of the Single voting day in a year, if that day one, the Commission is forced to spend up to nine elections of different levels.

I am not going to fantasize how it should be. The CEC has no right of legislative initiative, we do not aspire to be free of any conflict of interest. But we intend to invite the expert community to discuss this topic. Anyone have suggestions on how to improve the electoral system that people believe in it to a greater extent, say thank you. Now sociology shows that the credibility of the elections grows. In all the polls, about half of Russians believe that the recent Duma elections were conducted honestly, and this is significantly higher than the credibility of previous elections. But this should not reassure, as more than half of citizens in elections did not come… So we are going in November to conduct a scientific-practical conference to discuss the electoral system of the Russian Federation and the Central election Commission in this system. We plan to discuss and improve the legislation, and questions about what do we do with absentee ballots, early voting… don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I hope that the package of proposals of this conference will be considered at the level of the legislative Assembly and the President.

— Speaking of the President. The information that the Ministry of Finance allocated CEC money for the organization of the presidential campaign in 2017, gave rise to rumors that the presidential elections will be early…

— Elections, I believe, will be held on time, as expected, in mid-March, 2018. And the decision on appointment of these elections shall be made not later than 90 days before the voting day, i.e., somewhere in the beginning of December 2017. In accordance with the law for preparation and holding of elections of the President, must be submitted to the CEC no later than in ten days from the date of publication of the decision on appointment of elections. Given that the electoral campaign for the elections of the President of Russia actually begins in December 2017, and funds for this were budgeted as a separate line in 2017. We need to announce tenders and to carry out the purchase.

— The fact that in the last campaign decided to save on the information, a mistake?

— The budget was formed in the last year, so he worked with what he inherited. Advertising campaign had to do at the last moment “on my knees”. Although the result was several successful movies, including those which had never happened before. But it is very sad that in many regions and in Moscow in the hallways did not have sufficient information about the elections. Moscow this time the widely used modern types of alerts through SMS and the Internet. It’s good, but it was impossible to forget that there are categories of people, especially the elderly, who need to send no SMS, and a postcard in the mailbox with a personal invitation. Being fond of modern methods of alert, we must not forget about traditional. The turnout is also a result of this shortcomings. But we were not founded on the traditional informing neither the means nor the time. I could have done something. Perhaps there is some truth in the fact that the turnout would be better if you move elections to the end of September. But this is not the main factor. In many European countries, elections are held at the same time and even earlier, in the beginning of September. And no they are in opposition it is not intended. The main factor is the insufficient information of the citizens. And the second is that candidates and parties are unable to the proper degree to engage voters with his ideas and appeals. Experts even noticed a paradox: before the start of the election period, was interested in politics more than in the period of debate. But it has let the party think they have happened. The point is not only an administrative resource, which allowed the ruling party to promote themselves more than others — of course, it must also be borne in mind, and the CEC is its position on the equal information opportunities in the election campaign period clearly defined and consistently pursued.

In addition, I believe that the campaign period we got too short. In fact, less than a month is not enough.

— How do you feel about the day of silence? May be, to cancel it: let agitate, call for plots…

— I don’t know, but I’m sure this along with other issues should be discussed. CEC is always ready to provide a platform for this discussion, we will move the party and legislators to these ongoing debates. If we want people to go to the polls and vote consciously, it is necessary to live discussions that are of interest from people.

— I personally think that the procedure of counting of votes and compilation of the final protocols we have too complex and prolonged. In the protocols a lot of optional statistics. What is your opinion?

— This year I did what was within my competence: insisted to Commission members took the responsibility to fill in the working notebooks separate statistics on disabled persons, by age, sex. I was strongly against it: it’s none of their business, Commission and so overwhelmed! For this there are specialized agencies.

The final Protocol and procedure can only be changed by the legislator. But I think we need both too coarse. Many instructions are outdated. You need to remove all the unnecessary procedures, all optional, that’s in the log, in reports, to cutting red tape process. From the election commissions of the incredibly huge burden. And they need not so much to criticize, much free from unnecessary work and good teaching to create the conditions for human work. They should have the opportunity during the electoral marathon at least to drink the tea. It is as important how to protect them from any administrative pressure.

— You are satisfied with the first results of its work at the head of the CEC?

— I have never suffered from complacency. But the reason for self-flagellation is not. In the short time we did everything in our power and capabilities, and even more. Even within the legislation that we have, we did our best to facilitate the participation of observers and media. We gave the signal that they are not enemies of the commissions and their allies did everything possible to have no obstacles during the day of voting.

Now we have the time to analyze their shortcomings and to make a new step: in the next campaign to involve everyone. Find the nerve that motivates voters interested in the election campaign in its entirety, making ultimately a conscious choice.


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