The following elections are scheduled to take place in Russia on 8 September 2013: direct elections for the heads of administration in eight regions, 16 regional parliament elections, eight direct elections for heads of regional administrative centres and 12 local parliament elections in the regional administrative centres. As well as the elections in the regional capitals, 2309 other municipalities will see their head of administration elected and 3447 municipalities are holding local council elections.
The campaign for the regional and local elections on 8 September 2013 began in an uneasy political atmosphere. The popularity of the party in power is shrinking as a result of numerous acts of corruption being exposed. For this reason, the government is, ahead of the elections, resorting to the repression of civil society activists, of all members of the unofficial opposition and of practically the entire non-commercial sector. Making use of a range of repressive laws, such as the law on demonstrations, the law on so-called “espionage activities”, the law on “foreign agents”, the law forbidding work which is financed by American donors and the libel law, the government is aiming to intimidate civil society activists and human rights defenders to the greatest extent possible and to discredit them in the eyes of the public.
The introduction of these repressive laws has been followed by numerous instances of prosecution of civil society activists, state investigations into the legality of non-commercial organisations and court proceedings targeting non-commercial organisations.
The government has made maximum use of the state propaganda machine to carry out a comprehensive campaign of discreditation against practically all political leaders of the opposition and against non-commercial organisations who receive funding from international sources; this has contributed to the portrayal of foreign donors as enemies. The largest network of domestic election observers, the association GOLOS, was closed shortly before the start of the election process following a dubious court decision.
The new party law contains a liberalisation of the rules concerning the registration of candidates who are put forward by political parties. Compared to previous local elections, this has led to a larger number of parties taking part in the 2013 elections. Although the overall competitive nature of the elections has increased, many local opposition leaders have not been registered as candidates.
There has been a significant withdrawal of representatives of the regional and local elite from almost all established parties, i.e. from the parties represented in the State Duma. This can primarily be seen as a real threat to the position of the party “United Russia”.
This has drawn a reaction: The pressure has been upped on those candidates and candidate lists of “alternative” parties who have a realistic chance of election.
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