In the run-up to the parliamentary elections in Russia which are to be held in mid-September 2016, the government controlled parliament introduced new amendments to the election related legislation which further limits the rights of citizens’ observers to freely monitor the voting process. According to the new amendment, domestic observers are not able to conduct observation at several polling stations on the voting day but can be deployed only to one particular polling station. They have to be accredited at least three days before the start of the voting thus allowing the authorities to identify polling stations with and without election observers in advance.
Already in 2014, established election watchdogs – most prominent among them the Association Golos – were deprived of the right to observe elections under the law on “foreign agents”, thus the observers have been accredited as journalists and party proxies. The recent amendments restrict this possibility by allowing only the permanent employees of the registered mass media, who signed the contract by the end of March 2016 at the latest, to observe the polling. They are also to be accredited no later than three days before the start of the voting. The question whether the media representatives will be allowed to move from polling station to polling station or whether they will be obliged to stay at only one polling station will be defined by the resolutions of the Central Election Commission.
Furthermore, according to the new amendments, registered parties and candidates can accredit only two observers at one particular polling station whereof only one observer can be present at this polling station. Apparently, only a very few independent observers will meet those requirements. In most cases, only pro-governmental observers will have the access to the polling stations during the upcoming parliamentary elections in Russia.