#Report
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

Introduction

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.

 

I. LEGAL FRAMEWORK

  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.

 

II. ELECTORAL SYSTEM

  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."

 

III. ELECTION COMMISSION FORMATION

  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.

 

IV. REGISTRATION OF POLITICAL PARTIES AND CANDIDATES

  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.

 

V. ELECTION CAMPAIGN

  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.

 

VI. VOTING AND ELECTION OBSERVATION

  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.

 

References:

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)

4 https://www.venice.coe.int/

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.

7 https://www.golosinfo.org/articles/145285

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.

9 https://www.golosinfo.org/articles/145272

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'?"

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PART 3: LDPR

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PART 2: CPRF

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

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.

1st of May Demonstration in Moscow. 2010. Image - Photobank Moscow-Live / flickr
#Analysis

PART 1: United Russia

According to sociologists, the same four parties represented in the parliament now: United Russia, the Communist Party of Russian Federation (CPRF), the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), and Just Russia will probably be elected again in 2021. How are these four parties organized? What is their support base in regions?

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

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.

TV reporter, Bryansk. Photo - pxfuel
#Analysis

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.

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

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?

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

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 Znak.com, 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.

Kaluga. A Holiday. Image - flickr
#Analysis

During the United Russia primaries, experts detected possible falsification of the results and instances of interference in the electronic voting process. According to some analyses, 99% of votes for the first 22 candidates on the United Russia party list were falsified while the amount of falsified votes for candidates in single-mandate constituencies reached 80-95% of the votes cast.

Arrest by the police. Image - Wikimedia Commons
#Report

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

Plenary meeting of the State Duma. Image - Wikimedia Commons
#Commentary

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

Electoral headquarters of Alexey Navalny. Photo - Wikimedia Commons
#Analysis

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.

Vladimir Putin at the United Russia Congress (2011-11-27). Image - Wikimedia Commons
#Analysis

Between May 24 and 30, United Russia held its preliminary selection of candidates for 2021 State Duma elections. Nearly 12 million citizens participated in the party's primaries. Yet, a more careful examination shows an increasingly controlled and non-transparent process, aimed at having the public formally 'endorse' a carefully vetted list of pre-selected candidates.

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

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.

Man using computers. Photo by: Lisa Fotios from Pexels
#Analysis

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.

Alexei Navalny. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
#Analysis

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.

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

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).