Golos' Preliminary Statement on Election Day, Regional and Local Elections, Russia
On 14 September, Golos conducted civic monitoring of the procedures associated with voting, the counting of votes and the tabulation of election results in the higher-level election commissions in 21 of the 83 (with Crimea: 85) subjects of the Federation. This election observation was carried out in the krais Altai, Krasnodar and Stavropol, in the oblasts Astrakhan, Volgograd, Voronezh, Ivanovo, Irkutsk, Kirov, Kurgan, Lipetsk, Nizhniy Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Oryol, Samara, Tver, Tchelyabinsk and in Moscow Oblast, in the Altai Republic and the Bashkortostan Republic and in the City of Moscow. Trained long-term observers, correspondents of the newspaper Grashdanskiy Golos and activists conducted the observation.
The fact that the outcome of the elections was predictable and that no real contest was involved resulted in reduced interest among voters. Voter turnout in most regions came in at between fifteen and thirty per cent.
In several regions the level of irregularity was very high. Particular mention should be made on the violations which occurred in Samara Oblast and Tyumen Oblast and in the Bashkortostan Republic. In St. Petersburg the irregularities were systematic, starting with the unique techniques to refuse to admit candidates in the registration phase, to the anomalously high proportion of votes cast early (9%) to a whole range of incidents on election day in which the rights of candidates and election observers were infringed upon.
Numerous cases were recorded in which voters received calls made in the name of a candidate in the elections to the Moscow City Duma and, on the pretext of sociological research, were prompted to vote for that candidate or covert campaign advertising was conducted. In addition, there were many cases of supervisors compelling citizens to go the polls. In several schools, parents were the object of appeals during official parents’ meetings with the aim of increasing voter turnout and encouraging them to vote for a particular candidate (for instance in Moscow’s 1981st precinct and the 575th precinct in Chelyabinsk Oblast).
The home voting method (with mobile ballot box) is widely used not only to increase voter turnout, but also to acquire additional votes for a specific candidate. The most frequent irregularity was the absence of a registry on home voting; in other cases it is largely filled in by social workers. Irregularities were reported in several areas, including Moscow, Oblast Nizhniy Novgorod and Stavropol Krai, as well as in Vologda and Ivanovo. Members of the social services were actively used to arrange home voting for the people under their care.
Cases of vote buying were detected in Moscow’s Noginskiy District, in Mikrorayon Pervomayskiy and in the municipal district of Beryosovyi (both in Irkutsk), in the city of Lyubertsy (Moscow Oblast) and in the settlement of Krasnogorskiy (district Zvenigovo, Mari El Republic).
Information was received about many incidences in which additional ballots were cast or attempts to cast additional ballots were received in Moscow Oblast. There are reports of both one-off ballot stuffing actions and multiple actions. Reports came from the cities Balashikha, Zhukovskiy and Korolyov (all in Moscow Oblast), the settlement Volgo-Kaspiyskiy (Kamyzyak district, Oblast Astrakhan) and the city Ufa (Bashkortostan Republic). Ballot stuffing attempts were prevented in the cities Zhukovskiy and Odintsovo.
Numerous cases in which election observers’ rights were ignored were detected in St. Petersburg and in Moscow Oblast, where representatives of the press, members of the precinct election commissions entitled to act as advisors and even some with full voting rights were expelled from polling stations. Election observers and representatives of the press were prohibited from moving around the polling station, taking photographs or filming. In addition, it was reported that the St. Petersburg election commission send out SMS messages and an official paper in order that representatives of the civic organization “Nablyudateli Peterburga“ (“Petersburg’s Observers”) would be prevented from monitoring the elections.
The provocative behaviour of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of the Russian Federation deserves particular attention, as it was responsible for scuppering monitoring of voting by local election observers who were accredited as correspondents of the newspaper Grazhdanskiy Golos (Civic Voice) in several of the country’s regions. A statement released by the CEC’s press service on 12 September 2014 said that the presence of “foreign agents” at the polling stations could “result in the discrediting of the institution of the election observer and to the creation of conditions leading to the destabilization of the democratic process of the formation of the organs of public power”. This statement was unlawful and contained no references to legal provisions which would support the legality of such a decision. On 1 September 2014, the Moscow City Court had already determined that, in view of the opinion of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation as formulated in Ruling No. 10-P of 8 April 2014, it did not appear possible to establish evidence of financing from foreign sources for the association Golos, which would be necessary in order for the organization to be classified as “performing the functions of a foreign agent”.
During election day, all Grazhdanskiy Golos correspondents were removed from polling stations in oblasts of Samara and Chelyabinsk and the Bashkortostan Republic and a significant number of correspondents were refused entry to polling stations in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast and Moscow Oblast. Thus a state authority, responsible for upholding the laws during elections, in effect resorted to deliberate deception and to the incitement of lower-ranking election commissions to violate the law. It does the regional election commissions in the other regions credit that the vast majority of them did not comply with this provocation.
To conclude, it should be noted that while a significant number of the irregularities can be traced to negligence or ignorance of the law on the part of commission members, failure to comply with procedural regulations often had the aim of preventing observers from obtaining truthful information.
See the full Preliminary Report by Golos: PDF (RU)
See the video from the Golos' press conference on 15 September in Moscow here