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

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

The Russian legislation provides for observation of an electoral process by representatives of electoral contestants, media, and international observers. However, it does not explicitly grant possibilities for long-term election observation and access to electoral institutions and processes.

At odds with international standards, there are no provisions for direct accreditation of citizen observers. They are forced to get accredited on behalf of contestants or media, or, since 2017, resort to nominations through the state-controlled civic chambers. The absence of a possibility for direct accreditation of citizen observers contradicts the idea of independence and neutrality of citizen election monitoring. Any affiliation might create expectations or perceptions of their loyalty to nominating actors rather than to the principles of unbiased observation.

Further restrictions include rules that no more than two observers may be nominated by any entity per polling station, with only one observer having the right to be present at a time. The same person can be appointed as an observer only to one election commission, which effectively prevents mobile observation. Another limitation defines constituencies within which observers can be nominated. This restriction further limits the mobility of observers since during regional and local elections it would only be possible to recruit observers to work within their respective regions or localities. Finally, an additional administrative hurdle requires lists of observers nominated to polling stations to be submitted three days in advance to respective territorial commissions.

At the same time, election observation through civic chambers, actively promoted by Russian state, has been long criticized by domestic and international experts due to the lack of consistent observation methodology, focus on election-day procedures without any long-term observation components, and, in particular, the chambers' perceived affiliation and loyalty to state authorities.

On 30 December 2020, provisions of the already oppressive "foreign agent" legislation were further expanded and now are also applicable to unincorporated public associations and private individuals that engage in excessively broadly defined "political activity" and receive foreign support. The latter not only includes funds, but also any material, organizational, or methodological support, even via an intermediary. The election legislation prohibits non-commercial organizations recognized as performing functions of a "foreign agent" to carry out activities in support of or thwarting the organization of elections, to nominate candidates, as well as to participate in electoral campaigns in any other form. The totality of restrictions imposed by these provisions will continue to considerably impair the ability of civil society organizations and their supporters to engage in observation or in any other activities in connection with elections, including voter education and awareness-raising campaigns.

Following pilots conducted during the September 2020 voting in Kursk and Jaroslav Oblasts, the CEC has announced the intention to expand the use of distance electronic voting to six regions during the 2021 Duma elections. While gradual introduction of new voting technologies is consistent with good international practice, electronic voting continues to carry the dangers associated with voting outside the controlled environment of polling stations, including threats to the principles of secrecy, freedom, and integrity of the vote, as well as to public confidence. The expanded use of electronic voting is likely to continue to pose challenges for election observers during the 2021 elections due to the intrinsic limits on observability of technological solutions.

Since 2012, polling stations in Russia have been equipped with video cameras to record election day proceedings and to stream footage online – measures that were argued to have been aimed at increasing the transparency and public confidence in electoral processes. Given the aggregate limitations on independent citizen observation, distance monitoring does constitute a valuable – and in some cases the only – observation mechanism, and observer organizations were able to develop tools and tactics to put it to good use. However, there should be no illusions that video observation is a replacement for and genuinely supports independent election observation. Apart from the fact that web cameras are unable to capture everything that happens at a polling station, it is difficult to carry out a large-scale observation via an online stream, nor is gaining access to and performing analyses of recordings after election day a simple task. It is hardly feasible for citizen observers to receive official recordings from election authorities for further scrutiny. The courts, as a rule, ignore the evidence of fraud based on the official video recordings captured by citizen observers.

 

Original text by Tatyana Hilscher-Bogussevich for Russland Analysen, based on her analysis for the European Platform for Democratic Elections. Re-published with permission.

Voting. By Photobank Moscow-Live
#Report

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

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

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Campaigning in Samara. 2011 elections. Image by Golos
#Report

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

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

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#Report

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Poll worker displaying an empty ballot box before the opening of a polling station in Moscow, 18.03.2018. Photo OSCA PA, CC BY-SA 2.0
#Analysis

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#Report

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Social media. Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay
#Report

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

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.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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Behind a camera. Photo by Bicanski on Pixnio
#Report

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.

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

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Screenshot of Golos' statement cover image

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.

Russian regional elections in 2018. Image by Wikimedia Commons
#Report

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Participants of Just Russia rally take off their uniforms 5 minutes after the start of the Yekaterinburg rally on May 1, 2019. Image by Wikimedia Commons
#Analysis

PART 4: JUST RUSSIA-PATRIOTS-FOR TRUTH

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?

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

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.

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

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.

May 1st, 2009. LDPR Rally. Photo by Photobank Moscow-Live / flickr
#Analysis

PART 3: LDPR

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?

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
#Commentary

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

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

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May 1st Demonstration of the Communist Party, 2012. Photo by Photobank Moscow-Live / flickr
#Analysis

PART 2: CPRF

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 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

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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

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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

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Arrest by the police. Image - Wikimedia Commons
#Report

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

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

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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

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Alexei Navalny. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
#Analysis

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

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