Russian regional elections: Independent candidates face discrimination through the "Municipal Filter"
On “Single Voting Day” of 10 September 2017, elections of various levels will take place in Russia. The heads of the regions (governors) will be elected, as well as the deputies of regional legislative bodies and members of the State Duma in single-mandate constituencies. On the occasion of these elections, EPDE publishes a series of reports written by its Russian member, the “Golos” Movement, analyzing in detail electoral problems, practices and challenges. Please see below the first report of this series.
Analytical report on administrative control over the procedure of collecting signatures of deputies and heads of municipal entities in support of candidates (“municipal filter”)
On Single Election Day (hereafter referred to as “SED”) on September 10, 2017, direct elections of senior officials of the subjects of the Russian Federation (hereinafter “governors” or “heads”) will be held in 16 regions of the country: the Republic of Buryatia, Republic of Karelia, Republic of Mordovia, Republic of Mari El, Udmurtia Republic, Perm Krai, Belgorod region, Kaliningrad region, Kirov region, Novgorod region, Ryazan region, Saratov region, Sverdlovsk region, Tomsk region, Yaroslavl region, and Sevastopol.
As in previous years, the most acute problems in the election of the heads of regions are linked to candidates overcoming the so-called “municipal filter.”
The informally called “municipal filter” means that in Russia candidates for the post of governor (or head of a region) are required to collect signatures of a certain percentage of deputies of municipalities and heads of municipal entities in order to be eligible. The mandatory percentage varies from region to region, from 5% to 10%. There are further requirements as to how the signatures have to be distributed throughout the territorial entities and institutions of the region.
In 8 out of 16 regions, non-systemic candidates failed to overcome the “municipal filter” because of obstruction by local and regional authorities. Almost universally in Russia, independent candidates failed to collect the required number of signatures of municipal deputies because of severe “administrative pressure.”
The “Golos” movement consistently opposes the use of this method of screening candidates as one that restricts the electoral rights of citizens (both the right to be elected and the right to elect) and hampers political competition. The existing “municipal filter” practice is accompanied by widespread “administrative pressure” on municipal deputies and by the use of public resources (organizational, logistic, information, and other) to ensure collection of signatures in favor of certain administrative candidates (current heads or deputies), as well as in favor of so-called “technical” candidates who are running to ensure the appearance of competition in elections.
The “municipal filter” apparatus is entirely controlled by the current administration. Instead of being a mechanism of electoral support for candidates for the post of head of region, it is actually a means of political filtration of rivals who are, for one reason or another, unacceptable to regional authorities. The situation is made more dire by the fact that election commissions, judicial and law enforcement bodies, local communities, political parties, the media, public organizations, and the candidates themselves have no effective legal instruments at their disposal with which to oppose this de facto administrative lawlessness.
It is impossible to hold free and competitive elections of heads of the subjects of the Russian Federation while the “municipal filter” is in place. We invite all parties interested in the political process to continue discussing this problem and to initiate a thorough reform of the electoral legislation with the goal of abolishing the existing procedure for collecting signatures of municipal deputies in support of candidates for the elections of heads of regions.
See the full report here.