Ballot box for voting on Constitutional Amendments 2020. Photo - Wikimedia Commons

19 times: How the election law was changed before the 2021 State Duma elections


Since the last State Duma elections in 2016, lawmakers have introduced 19 amendments to the election law. In the year leading up to the State Duma elections in September 2021 alone, seven significant legislative amendments have been introduced, six of them in less than four months before the start of the campaign.

Experts agree that the most significant changes to the electoral law aimed at restricting the eligibility to stand for election. The recent amendments alone could deprive at least 9 million people of their passive suffrage. 1

Other amendments concern candidates' access to the elections. Here, the changes are mostly positive: if a candidate from a single-member constituency makes a technical error, the authorities will penalize only the one who made the error rather than disqualifying the entire list. It will also be more difficult to disqualify a registered candidate if competitors found out about mistakes in their documents and tried to challenge the registration.

If registration is denied, the new procedure provides for appeals to a higher-level commission and subsequently to a court. Previously, complainants had to choose between these options. In general, this is an improvement; however, the deadline for appeals to the higher-level commission is shortened from ten to five days.

Further amendments significantly complicate the signature collection for the nomination of candidates. New regulations concerning the signature sheet (the final template to be approved by the Central Electoral Commission, CEC) require voters to enter their full name by hand, additionally to the date and the signature.

For the first time at the Duma election in 2021, multi-day voting is introduced to replace the previous practice of absentee ballots. However, the procedure is yet to be defined by the CEC. In general, voting that lasts more than one day offers significantly more opportunities for abuse and makes  monitoring problematic.

The electoral commissions have also been empowered to recourse to Roskomnadzor2 in cases of illegal campaigning. In its turn, Roskomnadzor can block online platforms displaying such campaign materials. This provision is alarming since it can lead to censorship and a chilling effect on political competition.

A new report of the Movement for the Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos', presents more details on the changes introduced. 3 Below, we outline some key findings.



  1. Non-compliance with the principle of electoral legislation stability: The number and density of significant amendments, passed within months prior to the launch of an electoral campaign, indicate non-compliance with the principle of legislation's stability as a guarantee against abuse of power. Since the previous election in 2016, the Federal Law on the Election of Deputies to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation has seen 19 amendments, out of which 12 significantly modified the main election procedures. Out of them, seven (more than a half) were passed within one year and six within four months of the electoral campaign.

The generally recognized standards assert the stability of legislation as a key condition for democratic elections. It indicates that the government does not manipulate election rules to obtain an advantage over the opponents. The international practice primarily refers to the stability of memberships and procedures of shaping electoral commissions, district borders, and electoral system design. Ideally, critical legislative changes should not apply to the upcoming elections so that incumbent deputies are not tempted to use their power for personal gain. Minor modifications are recommended to be passed at least one year before the campaign. 4

However, there has never been a federal electoral campaign in Russia without a major change in rules compared to previous same-level elections.

The 2021 election of the State Duma will not be an exception. Since the previous election in 2016, the Federal Law on the Election of Deputies to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation has seen 19 amendments.

A number of changes introduced by six laws between 2016 and 2020 were technical. The other 12 laws introduced significant changes to the rules of the main elections of the State Duma. Notably, seven out of them (more than a half) were passed within one year and six within four months of the electoral campaign.

Notably, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation has delivered four rulings on the unconstitutionality of several provisions of the electoral legislation in the reference period (rulings dated 13 April 2017 #11-P; dated 15 November 2018 #42-P; dated 24 March 2020 #12-P; and dated 12 March 2021 #6-P); three of them have been addressed by the laws passed.

  1. General deterioration of the electoral law: The electoral law has significantly deteriorated since the previous election of the State Duma of Russia in 2016. The major bulk of amendments adopted in 2018 to 2021 seek to diminish the political competition at an election and facilitate fraud.

The number and density of significant amendments, passed within months prior to the launch of an electoral campaign, indicate non-compliance with the principle of legislation stability as a guarantee against abuse of power. The idea behind many of these amendments was to favor the ruling party and disadvantage the opponents.



  1. Reduction of competition through the liquidation of political parties: The number of political parties eligible to stand for elections of the State Duma has decreased by more than half – from 74 to 32 during the five years since the 2016 elections. While 47 parties have disappeared in five years, five new have emerged. Four parties went into liquidation of their own will, whilst 43 were closed down by decisions of the Supreme Court of Russia: one for extremist activities, four for failure to provide required documents, 11 due to the lack of the required number of regional branches, one for failure to eliminate legal violations, and 26 for insufficient participation in elections. The number of parties eligible to nominate candidates without signature collection has remained the same – 14 – though some of these parties changed.

According to the current legislation, only registered political parties are allowed to participate in elections of the State Duma. Yet, some parties enjoy the so-called parliamentary preference, i.e., the right to nominate lists and single-mandate district candidates without collecting signatures. This preference is important since the practice of candidate registration in recent years has shown that passing the registration stage through the signature collection is very challenging for opposition (or just independent) candidates.

Five new parties emerged in these five years: the Party of Small Businesses of Russia; People-Patriotic Party of Russia/Power to the People; Green Alternative; Direct Democracy Party; and Novye Liudi-The New People. 5

Among the 47 parties which lost registration were only four who did it voluntarily: the Party for Defending Businesses and Entrepreneurship; Automotive Russia; Dostoinstvo-Dignity; and Patriots of Russia (the latter one de facto merging with Just Russia).

The remaining 43 parties were dissolved by the decision of the Russian Supreme Court. One of them was liquidated for extremism (Volya/Will); four for failure to provide required documents (the Party of Taxpayers of Russia; Born in the USSR; Democratic Choice; and the Sports Party of Russia Healthy Forces); 11 due to the lack of the required number of regional branches (the United Agrarian and Industrial Party of Russia; the Party of Peace and Unity; the Party of Social Solidarity; the Party of Spiritual Transformation of Russia; the Party of National Security of Russia; Young Russia; the Russian Party of People's Government; the Party for Rural Revival; the Party of Parents of the Future; Revival of Agrarian Russia; and OPLOT/Bastion of Russia); one for failure to eliminate violations of the political party law6 (Great Fatherland).

Further, 26 parties were dissolved for "insufficient participation in elections." Experts underline that at least in some cases, relatively active parties have been liquidated due to a blanket ruling, which led to reduced political competition. 7 The law demands a party to participate in one federal campaign, or in at least nine elections of regional governors, or regional parliamentary elections in at least 17 regions or municipal elections in at least 43 regions in seven years.

The intensity of activities of dissolved parties varied. On the one hand, the party Razvitie Rossii (The Development of Russia) was unique for its failure to join a single election in seven years. Very limited activity was shown by the Monarchic Party, Democratic Legal Russia, National Deal; Party Against All; and the Russian Socialist Party. On the other hand, some of the liquidated parties were quite visible and active, such as Green Alliance, ROT Front, the Party of Pensioners of Russia, the Party of Veterans of Russia, and the Labor Party of Russia.

On 18 May 2021, the Supreme Court has passed rulings on dissolving of two more parties that existed only nominally: the Party of Social Reforms/Natural Resource Profits to the People, which participated only in two regional elections so far, and the International Party of Russia, whose candidates ran in the past in 13 municipal elections. The final decision is still pending.

Another four parties, registered between 2014 and 2018, are most likely to be dissolved after the 2021 elections (the Party of Good Deeds; Alternative for Russia; the Party of Small Businesses of Russia; and the People Patriotic Party of Russia/Power to the People). A new stage of liquidation will start in 2024, based on parties' participation in elections from 2017 to 2024. Created in 2020, three parties are safe until 2027. Two of them (Novye Lyudi-The New People and Green Alternative) have good chances to participate in the upcoming Duma election, thus enabling their further existence.

34 parties were on the list of registered parties by 10 June 2021. In addition to the 32 parties eligible for standing, this list includes two more parties: the Patriots of Russia, still undergoing liquidation, and Russia of the Future, registered on 21 April 2021 and not yet eligible for joining elections; a same-name party has already been closed down for under-participation.

Suspended by the Ministry of Justice, the PARNAS party deserves special mention. The party was notified about the suspension on 3 June 2021, less than three weeks prior to the start of the campaign. According to previous announcements, the party had no intention to run in the upcoming State Duma elections. However, to dissolve this party, some technical errors in the documentation were utilized. Also, the authorities had warned the party for referring to Open Russia8 as a possible partner in the documents of their congress in March.

Last but not least, some parties are eligible for participation in the State Duma election without collecting signatures. This preference is enjoyed by the parties represented in the State Duma or at least one regional parliament. In 2016 State Duma elections, only those parties were finally able to run. This scenario is likely to repeat during the 2021 elections.

  1. Legal norms favoring the ruling party and hampering the genuine political competition, especially through the restriction of passive suffrage: The idea behind many amendments introduced since the 2016 elections was to favor the ruling party and disadvantage its opponents. First of all, while many new restrictions were introduced to deprive citizens of a right to stand for election, executive authorities gained new tools to bar political opponents from running.

Restrictions on eligibility to stand in an election

The Federal Law #153-FZ, dated 23 May 2020, added a new paragraph to Article 4 of the Federal Law on Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Right of Citizens of the Russian Federation to Participate in a Referendum, listing grounds for barring citizens of Russia from standing for election. The paragraph denies this right to individuals sentenced to imprisonment for crimes of medium gravity. Altogether, the paragraph specifies approx. 50 such crimes. Having been sentenced to imprisonment for these crimes, individuals shall lose a right to run as candidates within five years after cancellation or expungement of a criminal record.

The same paragraph was later added to Federal Law #89-FZ, dated 5 April 2021, on the Election of Deputies to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. By Golos' estimates, these legal provisions render at least 9 million persons ineligible to run for election. 9

It is worth reminding that a suspended sentence is also considered imprisonment. Analogous restrictions had been in place previously for individuals sentenced for serious and especially grave crimes. However, criminal penalties for crimes of medium gravity are much more common. In addition, the crimes listed in the abovementioned law include crimes that experts claim are politically motivated and which are used to convict opposition members and peaceful protesters. Among such crimes are 'repeated violation of the established procedure of assemblies, rallies, demonstrations, processions or pickets' (Article 212.1), 'public calls for extremist activities' (Article 280 Part 2), and 'public circulation of knowingly wrong information of public significance, resulting in grave consequences' (Article 207.2 Part 2). Election experts underline that this new law is being used to prevent the most outstanding members of opposition from standing for elections. 10

Dated 4 June 2021, Federal Law #157-FZ served another blow against the eligibility of potential candidates. Passed via fast track, it took legal effect right before designating several organizations of Alexey Navalny's supporters as extremist on flimsy grounds.

The bill was tabled by a group of MPs on 4 May 2021, passed on 18 May at first reading, 25 May at second reading, and 26 May at third reading. The Federation Council approved it on 2 June, and the Russian president signed and published it two days later. The passing of the law thus took an unprecedentedly short period of only one month, in violation of the deadlines set out in the Duma's rules and regulations. Five days later, on 9 June, a court recognized Navalny's supporters' organizations as extremist.

This law prohibits citizens from standing for election if they had been involved in a public or religious association or another organization liquidated or banned by court due to designation thereof as extremist or terrorist.

First of all, the law is legally unacceptable for its retroactive application: it penalizes acts not deemed illegal at the time of doing. Moreover, many acts punishable by such a severe sanction as deprivation of eligibility for election, e.g., expressing support on the internet or providing assistance, are rather vague and produce great opportunities for arbitrary treatment of pro-opposition citizens, especially given significant support enjoyed by pro-Navalny organizations in this group of population.

In line with these recent amendments, another novelty of Federal Law #91-FZ, dated 20 April 2021, prohibits new groups of organizations from joining electoral campaigns in any form: unregistered NGOs functioning as "foreign agents"11; foreign media functioning as "foreign agents"; and Russian legal entities designated as foreign media that function as "foreign agents."



  1. The changes to the ability of parties and the CEC to influence the formation of electoral commissions are two-sided. In particular, the newly granted right to parties to change the members of an electoral commission may allow for administrative pressure on the commission.

Changes in the rules for the formation of election commissions

Federal Laws of 31 July 2020 267-FZ and of 5 April 2021 No. 89-FZ amended the Federal Law "On Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Right to Participate in a Referendum of Citizens of the Russian Federation" in terms of the formation of election commissions. The first law allowed parties, on whose recommendation voting members of election commissions were appointed, to change them based on motivated submissions. The second gave the same powers to the CEC of Russia. But this right does not apply during the election campaign in which the relevant commission participates, and even six months before voting day.

The right of the Central Election Commission of Russia to change the members of election commissions appointed on its submission can be assessed rather positively, while the similar right of parties is rather negative. It can lead to increased administrative pressure on parties to get them to replace the most active and conscientious members of election commissions.



  1. Changes to the candidate registration rules: The evolution of legislation on registration ofcandidates and lists defies unambiguous evaluations. Declaring many previous norms of the electoral law unconstitutional, rulings of the Constitutional Court inspired many amendments. On the one hand, the decisions of the Constitutional Court of Russia prompted some changes that defend parties and candidates from abuse by electoral commissions. On the other hand, the signature collection process for candidates is greatly hindered, while one of the Constitutional Court's rulings has never been addressed.

Reduced opportunities for signature collection during registration

The Federal Law #154-FZ, dated 23 May 2020, introduced a number of new changes in the rules of nominating and registering candidates. Regarding the State Duma elections, complicate signature collection, and improve chances to declare them invalid. In particular:

  • The Russian CEC has to approve the signature list template;
  • In addition to the date of signature, each voter has to enter their full name singlehandedly;
  • A signature sheet shall have only five lines, and each folder not be more than 100 sheets.

Changes in rules of nominating and registering candidates and lists

In line with Ruling #11-P, dated 13 April 2017, the Federal Law #1-FZ on 5 February 2018 introduced a provision on excluding candidates from lists of single-district candidates in some cases, rather than disqualifying the whole list. This is a positive step in reducing the risks of political parties losing their candidates due to technical mistakes.

The legislator promptly addressed the Ruling of the Constitutional Court of Russia #6-P, dated 12 March 2021, by passing the Federal Law #115-FZ on 30 April 2021 and softening the language on judicial cancellation of the candidate registration due to incomplete data provided or breeching submission procedures. Following this amendment and according to good practice, the election commission should notify candidates about possibilities to correct shortcomings in the submitted documents. However, experts fear that acting in bad faith, election commissions may fail to inform some candidates of this possibility of correcting documents and, at the same time, pass on information about errors to other candidates to enable them to take steps to challenge the registration of their opponents.

The legislators were not so unambiguously welcoming towards another ruling of the Constitutional Court, #12-P dated 24 March 2020. The Federal Law #115-FZ, dated 30 April 2021, took the ruling into consideration and enabled candidates to appeal against registration denial to the higher-level commission and later to the court. However, the deadline for the lawsuit was shortened to 'five days since the commission's decision to dismiss the appeal.'

Reduced opportunities for candidates to stand for elections and defend their eligibility

The Federal Law #115-FZ, dated 30 April 2021, brought about two novelties reducing opportunities for candidates to defend their right to run. The term for appealing against denied registration to a higher-level commission is shortened from ten to five days. The right to appeal against the higher-level commission's decision to dismiss the complaint to a higher commission is abolished.



  1. Change in campaign rules stifles public discussion and reduces access to information about all election contenders: Many innovations will have a negative impact on the public discussion during the campaign and the general awareness of voters. It applies to the extended powers of extrajudicial blocking of materials during the electoral campaign and reduced information on candidates and parties on the ballot sheet. Additional amendments target candidates related to entities labelled as 'foreign agents', which are already quite a few among public political and civic organizations.

Such extended powers of extrajudicial blocking of materials in the course of a campaign may well be used as another tool to suppress the political discussion, with negative implications for voters in terms of access to different perspectives of information necessary for an informed choice.

Dated 30 April 2021, Federal Law #115-FZ adjusted the campaign silence rules for multi-day voting. In this case, campaigning is prohibited on all days of voting, while there is no prohibition on the eve of a voting day.

Regulations concerning organizations and individuals recognized as or affiliated with an entity recognized as a 'foreign agent'

Federal Law #91-FZ, dated 20 April 2021, sets forth another group of restrictions. This law applies to individuals or foreign media designated as foreign agents and individuals affiliated with foreign agents, such as founders, members, stakeholders, or managers of foreign agent organizations, as well as individuals receiving pecuniary aid from such organizations. These persons do not lose their right to stand for election. However, as candidates, they have to indicate their 'foreign agent' status or affiliation with a 'foreign agent' in all documents, such as candidacy application, signature sheets, ballot sheets, campaign materials, etc.

The change in the design of ballot sheets

It was already a rule for the previous State Duma election that, if more than ten lists are registered, it is allowed not to name candidates on the list. Federal Law #89-FZ, dated 5 April 2021, extended this rule to other levels of elections. At the same time, this law added another amendment applying to elections of all levels, including those of the State Duma of Russia. Now, if more than ten candidates are registered, it is allowed to not place information on the ballot sheet about them; in this case, it is provided in a dedicated information material placed in the booth or another place equipped for secret voting and/or on an information board at a polling station.



  1. On a pretext of convenience, a whole range of norms was passed to restrict possibilities for monitoring the vote count and to facilitate abuse of administrative resources and simple fraud. It is true primarily about the multi-day voting, online voting, and insufficient controls of homebound voting. These measures are accompanied by attacks on independent citizen observation.

Absentee certificates replaced by homebound voting

Federal Laws #103-FZ and 104-FZ, dated 1 June 2017, were the first to introduce homebound voting. Yet, these laws were about presidential and regional elections. Federal Law #150-FZ, dated 4 June 2018, extended this type of voting upon the State Duma elections. It was applied at by-elections in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and will first be used for general elections in 2021. As in the cases of presidential and regional elections, while this mechanism is not clearly defined by law, many important aspects are left to the CEC to regulate. The CEC regulations have also proved inadequate.

Multi-day voting

Multi-day voting significantly hinders the chances of citizens, candidates, and parties to ensure fair vote count, facilitates electoral fraud, and reduces trust in elections.

The 2020 Constitutional Referendum ('All-Russian Vote') was the first test for the multi-day voting; yet, it was regulated by special acts of legislation. Formally referring to 'early voting', the Federal Law dated 23 May 2020 de facto legalised multi-day voting; these provisions were used in September 2020. Federal Law #267-FZ, dated 31 July 2020, made a new step by defining that the voting may take 'several days in a row, but no more than three days.' On 18 June 2021, CEC adopted its decision on three-day voting in 2021: on September 17, 18, and 19.

Changes in voting rules

Federal Law #464-FZ, dated 11 December 2018, introduced the first minor change in voting rules. It defined the duty of a precinct commission to ensure homebound voting possibilities to people under house arrest. This law was passed when the list of grounds for mobile voting was still exhaustive.

However, Federal Law #154-FZ on 23 May 2020 made this list open. In addition to health reasons and disability, other reasons were added: "supervising people with special care needs and other valid reasons preventing voters from coming to polling stations."

This law also updated the rules of State Duma elections, e.g., by allowing remote online voting.

It also authorized early voting beyond polling stations, 'including territories and locations suitable for voting, such as courtyards, public spaces and elsewhere' and 'voting of groups living or staying in settlements and other locations with no premises for voting and with limited transport connections.' The Federal Law #267-FZ, dated 31 July 2020, implemented the same approach: these two modes of voting may be used by a CEC decision during multi-day voting.

Changes in observation rules

Dated 4 June 2018, Federal Law #150-FZ introduced a number of novelties to the procedures of the State Duma elections, which had been included in laws on referenda and presidential elections earlier. In particular, these are new provisions on the right of pubic chambers to appoint observers and on video surveillance in territorial commissions and clarification of rules on video cameras in polling stations.

Federal Law #267-FZ, dated 31 July 2020, relaxed limitations on the number of observers per delegating actor for multi-day voting, raising it to a 'maximum of two observers per voting day' with a right to rotate in the voting premises.



1 See "Deprival of passive suffrage – who cannot run in the 2021 Duma Elections and why"

2 The Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies, Communications, and Mass Media

3 See "Legal Peculiarities of the 19 September 2021 State Duma Elections in Russian Federation" (RU)


5 The new party Za Pravdu-For Truth has been dissolved by de facto merging with Just Russia.

6 Meaning multiple, primarily technical, violations of legal regulations applied to the political party activity.


8 The Prosecutor General has designated the British organizations Open Russia Civic Movement and Otkrytaya Rossia as undesirable. The Russian Otkrytaya Rossia/Open Russia announced the termination of activities due to concerns about the persecution of members.


10 See "Deprival of passive suffrage – who cannot run in the 2021 Duma Elections and why"

11 For a description of law on "foreign agents," see "What are 'foreign agents' and 'undesirable organizations'?"

Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos'. By Photobank Moscow-Live

From election observers to ‘foreign agents’: how voters' rights defenders of the ‘Golos’ Movement are persecuted

Since September 2021, twenty regional coordinators and experts of the 'Golos' Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights were added to the registry of foreign media outlets performing the functions of 'a foreign agent'. Here's an overview of how election observers are being targeted and persecuted.

Read more …

Plenary chamber of the Council of Europe's Palace of Europe. Image by PPCOE

Questionable credentials of the Russian Delegation to PACE after flawed Duma elections 2021

Independent election experts have described the 2021 Duma elections as the dirtiest elections in Russia's history. The lack of public control, the deprivation of millions of Russian citizens of their passive suffrage, massive manipulation of results through e-voting, holding of elections on the annexed territory of Crimea, and the inclusion of voters from the occupied Eastern Ukraine put the legitimacy of the current State Duma and the new PACE delegation under question.

Read more …

Detained Anti-corruption Foundation and Newcaster.TV staff, 2017. Photo by Ruslan Leviev

2021 Results. Laws of the year

The passing year built on legislative trends of the previous one and even brought about many innovations in censorship, limitations of online activities, and infringements on privacy. Such provisions include multiple prohibitions related to the Great Patriotic War, the ‘law against Anti-Corruption Foundation’, and infamous QR codes.

Read more …

Policemen block a street in Moscow. Photo by Sergey Korneev

On the liquidation of International Memorial

On 28 December 2021 Russia's Supreme Court ruled to close International Memorial. The lawsuit, filed by the Prosecutor General's Office, referred to a missing 'foreign agent' designation on some of the materials produced by International Memorial. This is only a formal pretext, though, and the court hearings showed that these allegations were groundless.

Read more …

Rally for the right to vote in Moscow (2019-07-27). Photo by Ilya Varlamov

Things Will Not Be The Same: OVD-Info on the Liquidation of Memorial NGOs

OVD-Info's statement on the liquidation of its partner - the 'Memorial' Human Rights Center.

Read more …

Navalny's Election Headquarters. Image by Dmitry Rozhkov

Departed Russia of the Future

Hardly any of Navalny's key allies currently remain in Russia. The Insider interviewed former coordinators of Navalny's regional headquarters to find out why and how they left, what they do in exile, and under what conditions they are willing to return to Russia.

Read more …

Basmanny District Court. Image by Photobank Moscow Live

Russia is liquidating the League of Voters

On December 8, the Basmanny District Court of Moscow ruled to liquidate the 'League of Voters' Foundation. Its leaders believe that the ruling is politically motivated and is aimed to destroy the organization which is a partner in the 'Golos' Movement and supports the training of independent citizen election observers in Russia.

Read more …

State Duma. Image by Moscow Live/flickr

Created and (or) distributed: Discriminatory aspects of the application of legislation on ‘foreign agents’

OVD-Info reviews the newly expanded 'foreign agents' law to identify and analyze discriminatory aspects of the legislation and its application.

Read more …

2019 Moscow City Duma election. Image by Krassotkin

Undercover: How observers are trained at the Civic Chamber of Moscow

A member of the 'Golos' Movement for the Defense of Voters' Rights recounts their experience observing elections on behalf of the Moscow Civic Chamber. According to the activist, the institution appears to purposefully instruct observers in such a manner as to limit their ability to make a real difference at the polling stations.

Read more …

Russian coach at Helsinki Central Railway Station. Image by Antti Leppänen

The Party's gold. How United Russia misappropriates Russian Railways’ money under the guise of "donations"

Last year United Russia collected a record amount of donations from legal entities, 4.8 billion rubles. The Insider learned that the party received about half of this money from major Russian Railways contractors, some of which seemingly could not afford to make such "donations". Despite claiming to channel funds towards charity and fighting the Coronavirus, the party spent it on the maintenance of its apparatus and election campaigning.

Read more …

Russian flag with gloomy clouds. Image by Pxhere

‘Golos‘ Movement supports Memorial and calls for an emergency civic meeting

Russian authorities have moved to liquidate the International Historical Educational Charitable and Human Rights Society 'Memorial' and its affiliate, Russian Human Rights Centre 'Memorial'. The 'Golos' Movement calls for solidarity with Russia's longest-standing human rights organization.

Read more …

Moscow, the Kremlin and Red Square. Photo by Vyacheslav Argenberg

Elections, totalitarian style

The political bloc of the Moscow Mayor's office has begun campaign preparations for the 2022 municipal elections. Meduza breaks down the key points in the preliminary campaign plan here.

Read more …

Man working on a computer in the dark. Image by Comstock

Golos' statement on the online voting in Russian elections

Following the observation of the September 19, 2021 elections, the 'Golos' Movement stated that 'the current electronic voting system does not meet the high standards of public accountability of electoral procedures', which the Russian Constitution and legislation establish as mandatory. Despite this position, some promoters of online voting in Russia have been claiming otherwise.

Read more …

Ufa, Bashkortostan. Photo by Sasha India/flickr

Election Day-2021 in Bashkiria: 'Put in the target number I set'

Preliminarily evaluating the elections to the Ufa City Council and the State Duma in the Republic of Bashkortostan, the 'Golos' Movement regretfully cannot recognize the elections as truly fair, i.e., fully compliant with the Constitution, the laws of the Russian Federation, the laws of the Republic of Bashkortostan, and international election standards.

Read more …

Krasnodar 2021 election results, by S. Shpilkin

Statistical analysis of elections in Kuban

According to the analysis by Sergey Shpilkin, 889 thousand out of 1.7 million votes for United Russia in Kuban do not fall into the normal mathematical distribution. This can result from direct falsifications, pressurized voting of the employees of state-owned enterprises, public institutions, and local authorities, and the use of an administrative resource.

Read more …

CPRF rally in Moscow, 2011. Photo by Wikimedia

When they came for the Communist Party: Arrests, sieges, and pressure on supporters after the State Duma elections

The Communist Party received 19% of the votes in the last elections to the State Duma. After that, the party's supporters faced unprecedented pressure for the 'systemic opposition.' They were detained, fined, sentenced to administrative arrests, and blocked in the party premises. CPRF continues to challenge the election results and demand an investigation by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Read more …

Russian State Duma raises retirement age. Image by Wikimedia

Hot potato: Nearly a fifth of Russia’s new State Duma deputies owe their jobs to secondhand mandates

On Tuesday, October 12, the new convocation of Russia's State Duma convened for its first session. Roughly a fifth of all lawmakers — 88 of 450 deputies — received their seats from higher-ranked candidates on party lists, winning the jobs because others didn't want them.

Read more …

Election observation headquarters. Photo by Golos

'Golos' Movement: It won't be easy, but we can do it

Statement of the 'Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos"' on inclusion of its members into the Foreign Agents Registry, October 5, 2021.

Read more …

Map of Violations, Screenshot Oct. 8, 2021

Map of violations: three record-setting days

In total, from the beginning of voting dated September 17, 'Map of Violations' by the 'Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos"' published 4592 reports. The Map is a project that collects information about possible electoral violations using the principle of crowdsourcing – observers, voters, members of commissions may report alleged violations witnessed during the electoral campaigning or voting using a submission form on the website or a telephone hotline.

Read more …

REV-2021. By Nackepelo

First Findings of the Moscow's Remote Electronic Voting Technical Audit

The "remote electronic voting" or online voting held in the Russian capital during the September 17-19, 2021 elections was scandalous, to say the least. In response, two groups have been formed by the Russian public to scrutinize the results.

Read more …

Regions by level of electoral fraud

Levels of electoral fraud in the Russian regions

In order to help assess the outcomes of 2021 State Duma elections, the 'Movement in the Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos"' provides a reference analysis, dividing Russian regions into six groups based on the level of falsifications in the federal elections of 2016 and 2018 and in the all-Russian voting in 2020.

Read more …


Remote electronic voting: results cannot be verified

A scandal in the capital: lengthy vote tabulation, a radical overhaul of the whole election results, and shut down of the observers' node.

Read more …

"We don't trust Churov - we trust Gauss". Image by Golos

2021 State Duma elections: first statistical estimates

Sergey Shpilkin analyzes data from 96,840 polling stations that cover 107.9 million registered voters out of 109.2 million on the list. His analysis demonstrates that at the polling stations where the results appear genuine, the turnout is on average 38% and the United Russia's share of votes is between 31% and 33%.

Read more …

Voting. By Photobank Moscow-Live

Preliminary findings of observation of the September 19, 2021, State Duma elections

This is a preliminary statement on findings of observation on the main voting day, September 19, 2021, by the 'Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos".' Golos ran long-term and short-term observation of all stages of the campaign. In the course of the elections, the united call center's hotline received 5,943 calls. The 'Map of Violations' received 4,973 reports of alleged violations by noon 20 September, Moscow time, including 3,787 on the voting days.

Read more …

Voting. Image by Photobank Moscow-Live. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Voting. Image by Photobank Moscow-Live

Voting Day II: A Brief Overview

This is a brief overview of election monitoring findings on the Second Voting Day, September 18, 2021 by citizen observers of the 'Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos"'.

Read more …

Duma elections. by George Shuklin, CC BY-SA 2.5

Voting Day 1: A Brief Overview

This is a brief overview of election monitoring findings on the First Voting Day by citizen observers of the 'Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos"'.

Read more …

Campaigning in Samara. 2011 elections. Image by Golos

The election campaign and administrative mobilization of voters in September 19, 2021 elections

The September 19, 2021 elections are marked by growing pressure on media and individual journalists, attempts at blocking information about "Smart Voting", and massive coercion of voters to vote and register for e-voting and mobile voting. In parallel, social media has been growing in importance for years as a space of more freedom and an alternative information channel. Here are the main findings of the report that focuses on the impact of these two antipodal trends.

Read more …

Victor Vasnetsov. Three bogatyrs (Medieval Russian Heroes). Photo by flickr user paukrus

'The three heroes': more than a third of social media mentions are related to United Russia, CPRF, and the New People party

This report covers the monitoring of social networks from the 10th to the 11th week of the election campaign (August 23 to September 5) to the Russian State Duma, scheduled for September 19, 2021.

Read more …

Russian passports. Image by MediaPhoto.Org, CC-BY-3.0

Residents of Russia-Occupied East Ukrainian Territories Encouraged to Vote in 2021 State Duma Elections

One aspect of the 2021 Russian parliamentary elections that differentiates them from previous federal elections is the potential participation in the voting process of dozens of thousands of people located on the Ukrainian territories outside of control of the Ukrainian authorities and not recognized as part of Russia by the Russian Federation itself.

Read more …

Map of Violations Update Sept 6-12. Image by REM

Arrests, bribery, threats

This is the seventh overview of reports of possible violations of electoral legislation gathered via the 'Map of Violations' by the 'Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos"' between September 6 and September 12. Since the beginning of the election campaign, 945 messages from 72 regions have been published on the Map.

Read more …

Map of Violations Update - Aug 30-Sept 1

Arrests, arson, and being fired for refusing to register for remote voting

This is the sixth overview of reports of possible violations of electoral legislation gathered via the 'Map of Violations' by the Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos' between August 30 and September 5. In total, from August 30 to September 1, 125 messages have been received by the Map.

Read more …

Social media. Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

Two universes: unlike on television, in social networks, United Russia and the Communist Party are almost head-to-head

This report covers the monitoring of social networks from the 5th to the 9th week (July 20 - August 22) of the election campaign to the Russian State Duma, scheduled for September 19, 2021.

Read more …

Vladimir Putin on XVII congress of United Russia in 2017. Image by Wikimedia Commons

Vladimir Putin plans to win Russia’s parliamentary election no matter how unpopular his party is

Despite its dismal approval rating, Russian President Vladimir Putin's ruling political party can – and likely will – win a constitutional majority in September's legislative elections.

Read more …

Map of Violations, Golos website. Screenshot - Sept. 1, 2021

‘Imaginary’ campaign boards and an assignment to vote in prisons

This is the fifth overview of reports of possible violations of electoral legislation gathered via the 'Map of Violations' by the Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos' between August 23 and August 29. In total, 100 messages have been received by the Map during this period.

Read more …

2019 Rally for right to vote in Moscow. Image by Wikimedia Commons

Consequences of the ‘law against the Anti-Corruption Foundation’: opposition candidates are denied participation in elections

The Moscow City Court has designated the Anti-Corruption Foundation, Alexey Navalny's Headquarters and the Citizens’ Rights Protection Foundation as 'extremist' organizations. Inter alia, it implies the prohibition to participate in elections.

The authorities have proceeded to banning pro-opposition candidates from running to the State Duma and other legislative bodies on a pretext of involvement in Navalny's projects.

Read more …

State Duma elections in Sochi, Dec 4. 2011. Image by flickr/Andrew Amerikov

The outcomes of nomination and registration of candidates to the State Duma of the Russian Federation

The elections of the State Duma of Russia of the eighth convocation are marked by considerable tightening of rules for candidate nomination and registration. In fact, the rules are much worse than in 2016, when the current membership of the parliament was elected. Run on the background of harsh restrictions on freedom of expression and information and freedom of assembly and association, the elections are accompanied by a political crackdown against the most active pro-opposition citizens.

Read more …

Map of Violations, Golos website. Screenshot - Aug. 20, 2021

Pressure on voters and state control over social media accounts

This is the fourth overview of reports of possible violations of electoral legislation gathered via the 'Map of Violations' by the Movement for the Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos' between August 16 and August 22. In total, 98 messages have been received by the Map in that period.

Read more …

Behind a camera. Photo by Bicanski on Pixnio

Uneven access and unbalanced coverage: media monitoring findings after eight weeks of the campaign

Equality of rights of candidates in media coverage of their election campaign is one of the most important conditions for holding free and democratic elections. For a significant part of Russians, television remains to be one of the main sources of information. During the election campaign, the influence of television in shaping the attitude of the majority of voters towards elections and candidates is often decisive. Here is a summary of monitoring findings for the five main federal television channels during the first eight weeks of the campaign.

Read more …

Map of Violations, Golos website. Screenshot - Aug. 20, 2021

PCR tests for voters and candidate flights at public expense

This is the third overview of reports of possible violations of electoral legislation gathered via the 'Map of Violations' by the Movement for the Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos' between August 9 and August 15. Since the beginning of the election campaign, 452 messages from 62 regions have been published on the Map.


Read more …

Screenshot of Golos' statement cover image

Statement on the continuation of the work of the Movement 'Golos' after being included in the 'Foreign agents' registry

On August 18, the Ministry of Justice of Russia included the Movement 'Golos' as the first unregistered organisation into the registry of unregistered public associations performing the functions of a foreign agent. Here is the translation of their statement.

Read more …

Russian regional elections in 2018. Image by Wikimedia Commons

Political and Legal Peculiarities of September 2021 Regional and Local Elections

According to the CEC data as of 9 July 2021, 4,370 elections and referenda are scheduled for 19 September 2021, including elections to the State Duma, nine gubernatorial elections (new heads will be elected in three more regions), 39 elections to regional parliaments, and 11 elections of representative bodies of regional centres. Here's an overview of legal regulations and peculiarities of these races.

Read more …

A screenshot of a live broadcast of the voting process. Image by 'Golos' Movement.

Open appeal of the 'Golos' Movement to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin

In 2021, the Russian Central Election Commission decided to scrap open video broadcasts from the polling stations – a feature of Russian elections since 2012. The Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos' has appealed to the President to help overturn this decision.

Read more …

Map of Violations, Golos website. Screenshot - Aug. 12, 2021

The administrative resource is gaining momentum, and independent candidates continue to face registration denials

This is the second overview of reports of possible violations of electoral legislation gathered via the 'Map of Violations' by the Movement for the Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos' between August 2 and August 8.

Read more …

The Rt. Hon. Sir Alan Duncan represented the UK at the 23rd OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg, Germany, 8-9 December 2016.
OSCE Flags. Photo by Alex Hammond / FCO. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Russian elections again without OSCE observation

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the Parliamentary Assembly will not deploy international election observation missions to the 2021 State Duma elections due to major limitations imposed on the institutions. Announcing the decision, ODIHR Director noted that the ability "to independently determine the number of observers necessary for us to observe effectively and credibly is essential to all international observation."

Read more …

Reporter's notebook. Photo by 2008 Roger H. Goun. CC BY 3.0

CEC restricts journalists' access to the electoral process

On 28 July 2021, the Central Election Commission adopted a new media accreditation procedure that restricts media access to observe and report on the electoral process. The new rules violate the freedom of media editorial policy and may significantly reduce the transparency of the election process.

Read more …

Map of Violations, Golos website. Screenshot - Aug. 5, 2021

‘Extremists’, ‘foreign agents’, and the abuse of administrative resource

This is the first overview of reports of possible violations of electoral legislation gathered via the 'Map of Violations' by the Movement for the Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos' between June 22 and August 1.

Read more …

Ballot stuffing, elections March 18, 2018, Lyubertsy. Image - Golos

No public video broadcast from the polling stations during the September elections

Less than two months before the elections, the Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) decided to scrap open video broadcasts from the polling stations, which have been the feature of Russian elections since 2012.

Read more …

Ballot box for voting on Constitutional Amendments 2020. Photo - Wikimedia Commons

19 times: How the election law was changed before the 2021 State Duma elections

Since the last State Duma elections in 2016, lawmakers have introduced 19 amendments to the election law. In the year leading up to the State Duma elections in September 2021 alone, seven significant legislative amendments have been introduced, six of them in less than four months before the start of the campaign.

Read more …

TV reporter, Bryansk. Photo - pxfuel

No tolerance for dissent: the state of Russian media ahead of 2021 elections

After almost a decade of crackdowns on big players, the landscape of critical journalism in Russia is dominated by local or smaller niche projects. But if the 2020-2021 trend of relentless attacks on media, journalists, and bloggers continues, many of these small projects are not likely to survive into the autumn. The regime makes it pretty clear that it no longer intends to tolerate any dissent.

Read more …

"1941- ssshhh!" - Image by James Vaughan / flickr

What are "foreign agents" and "undesirable organizations"?

The laws on "foreign agent" and "undesirable organizations" continue to hamper the work of affected organizations, stigmatize and damage their reputation, and isolate the civil society from international cooperation and support. What are these provisions and how are they being applied?

Read more …

Vladimir Putin Speech at State Duma plenary session 2020-03-10. Image - Wikimedia Commons

Five years of silence: More than 20 State Duma lawmakers haven't said a word in parliament since they were elected in 2016

The Russian State Duma's seventh convocation is coming to the end of its five-year term. And according to a new report from iStories and, dozens of its deputies haven't said a word in a parliamentary session since they were elected in 2016. Others haven't put forward a single bill. Be that as it may, this hasn't stopped these lawmakers from collecting high salaries and planning to put their names on the ballot for the State Duma election coming up in September.

Read more …

Arrest by the police. Image - Wikimedia Commons

Deprival of passive suffrage – who cannot run in the 2021 Duma Elections and why

According to election observers, recent amendments further limiting citizens' passive suffrage constitute a "fifth wave" of depriving Russians of their right to stand for election since the collapse of the USSR. New restrictions have a particular impact on politically active citizens.

Read more …

Programming, computing and information concept. Image - Peshkova, Getty Images Pro

Online Voting Testing in the Russian Federation: Observers’ Assessment

In May, the Russian Federation has tested a new system of remote electronic voting. The Movement in Defense of Voters' Rights "Golos" observed the testing phase, took part in the voting, and shared their conclusions and recommendations in a respective report.

Read more …

"I have the right to choose!" Photo - EPDE.

Conditions for Citizen Election Observation in the Russian Federation Ahead of the 2021 Duma Elections

Opportunities for independent citizen election observation and civil society space in general have been shrinking steadily in Russia over the past decade. Recently, further restrictions have been adopted that limit the ability of citizens to independently monitor electoral processes.

Read more …

May 1st Demonstration of the Communist Party, 2012. Image by _TMY2892/flickr

How Authorities Stripped Russians Of Choice

Over the past 14 years, the authorities have blocked 120,000 candidates from participating in elections of various levels, depriving millions of Russian citizens of the right to choose their representatives.

Read more …

A demonstration in Moscow. Image - by Andrey, Pxhere.

Hundreds of Thousands of Extremists

Russia has finally outlawed Alexey Navalny's political and anti-corruption movement. Here's how the crackdown affects activists, journalists, and ordinary supporters.

Read more …

Plenary meeting of the State Duma. Image - Wikimedia Commons

The Law Prohibiting People Involved in Activities of Extremist Organizations from Participating in Elections Is Adopted

The President of Russia approved the law prohibiting those who are "involved" in the activities of an extremist organization from running in elections.

Read more …

Electoral headquarters of Alexey Navalny. Photo - Wikimedia Commons

Now Extremists. How Alexei Navalny's Supporters May Be Persecuted

On June 9, the Moscow City Court, based on the charges by the Moscow Prosecutor's Office, recognized the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), the Foundation for the Protection of Citizens' Rights, and the headquarters of Alexei Navalny as extremist organizations. Now, many citizens are under a threat of pressure and persecution.

Read more …

Meeting of Central Election Commission Chair Ella Pamfilova with OSCE / ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. Photo - CEC

Implementation of OSCE/ODIHR Recommendations to Russia Following 2003-2018 Federal Elections

Between 2003 and 2018, OSCE/ODIHR published 139 recommendations on how to improve the conduct of elections in Russia. In the run-up to the State Duma elections in 2021, Russia has fully implemented just over 10% of them. Some have been tackled more promptly than others.

Read more …

Man using computers. Photo by: Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Online Elections in Russia: Manipulating Votes in a New Digital Realm

Ahead of the State Duma election on September 19, 2021, Russia just tested its remote electronic voting system. While the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation (CEC) is preparing the report about the results of the test, election monitors say Russia's electronic voting system is a black box.

Read more …

Alexei Navalny. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

New Legislation Aims To Block Opposition Candidates

The Russian authorities are expected to orchestrate a result in the upcoming State Duma elections that will give United Russia a clear majority of seats. This does not mean, however, that the manipulation of the electoral process by the authorities is complete. In a limited number of competitive districts, true opposition candidates including candidates who are associated with Aleksei Navalny have a real chance of winning if they are allowed to run. In recent weeks, steps have been taken to block these 'undesirable' candidates from participating.

Read more …

Central Election Commission (CEC) of Russian Federation during April 21, 2021, meeting. Photo by: CEC.

The new-old Central Election Commission: an authentic renewal or a superficial touch up?

On March 19, 2021, the new composition of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of the Russian Federation was revealed. Out of 15 members, eight new people joined the CEC. In particular, the new Commission has been 'reinforced' by bureaucrats from the Presidential Administration, the State Duma, and the Civic Chamber (a consultative civil society institution closely linked to the government).

Read more …