#Report
Ufa, Bashkortostan. Photo by Sasha India/flickr

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

On September 17-19, 2021, members of the Movement for the Defense of Voters' Rights 'Golos' in the Republic of Bashkortostan observed elections to the State Duma and the Ufa City Council. The observation was organized in the following cities: Ufa, Neftekamsk, Sterlitamak, and Uchaly. In addition, Golos received violation reports through the 8-800-333-33-50 hotline. Messages were published on the 'Map of Violations' website (www.kartanarusheniy.org).

Below we offer an abridged translation of the report by regional branch of the movement in the Republic of Bashkortostan. The full version may be found here: https://www.golosinfo.org/articles/145571 (Russian).

 

Preliminary findings

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.

The election results were obtained in an unfree, unequal, and non-competitive election campaign. It is also worth noting that the recorded facts of election fraud require additional inspection, including official video records. Once reviewed, we can make the final assessment.

Methodology and statistical data

Observers mainly monitored whether Precinct Election Commissions (PECs) respected electoral rights of citizens, electoral procedures, organization of voting, and vote counting.

Quantitative indicators of the elections of deputies to the State Duma of the Russian Federation in the city of Ufa are as follows:

  • Total number of polling stations: 441, of which observers covered 77 PECs;
  • The number of polling stations equipped with the automatic Ballot Processing Complexes (BPC): zero (0%);
  • The number of voters included in the voter lists at the end of voting: 800,676.

Golos conducted long-term and short-term observation during all stages of the election campaign from July to September 2021. Short-term observation (on the election days, from September 17 to September 19, 2021) was carried out in a stationary mode. Recorded data and violations were provided for verification and data processing through such services as 'SMS-HQ', 'SMS-CEC', a hotline, and the Map of Violations. 1

Violations

Numerous violations have been recorded on the days of voting, from September 17 to September 19. Below is an non-exhaustive list of violations recorded by voters, observers, and candidates:

  • Unlawful denial to provide access to a polling station: PECs No. 205, No. 211;
  • Unlawful restrictions on movement inside a polling station: PECs No. 6, No. 252, and others;
  • Illegal restrictions on taking photos and videos at a polling station: PECs No. 175, No. 252, No. 219, No. 3538, No. 3508, and others;
  • Refusal to allow to sign a safe-package2: PEC No. 252;
  • Refusal to provide data: PECs No. 252, No. 273, No. 219, and others;
  • Psychological pressure on observers, commission members: PEC No. 252;
  • Incorrect filling out of official forms (numbers of safe-packages not indicated, incorrect number of voters): PEC No. 406, and others;
  • Packing safe-packages in a safe box without filling out accompanying forms: PEC No. 6;
  • Removal of a protective (red) strip on the safe-package thus disabling the protection from tampering: PEC No. 170, and others;
  • Substitution of a safe-package: PEC No. 252;
  • Violation of vote counting procedures: PECs No. 252, No. 390, and No. 391.

At almost all polling stations where Golos' active non-governmental oversight took place, attempts to deny access to Yabloko members of commissions with a consultative vote had been recorded. The [formal] reason to deny their access to PECs was the presence of other, supposedly, Yabloko party members who had come earlier. (In fact, the party did not delegate them to these PECs). Such facts had been recorded en masse at PECs No. 252 and No. 219 on September 18 and 19. At some polling stations, valid consultative capacity authorizations issued by Yabloko were withdrawn based on fake 'requests for withdrawals' received by PECs No. 170 and No. 175.

Discrepancies between the official and actual turnout

In many polling stations, actual and official turnouts differed by several hundred voters. E.g., there was an excess of 700 voters at PEC No. 252, an excess of 850 voters at PEC No. 3538, and an excess of 900 voters at PEC No. 391. Observers recorded discrepancies between the number of people that voted according to the PEC protocol and the actual number of voters at PEC No. 141; a corresponding complaint was filed with the prosecutor's office. A safe-package filled with ballots was substituted on September 17 at PEC No. 252, which was recorded on video.

A commission member with consultative vote had their fingers slammed by a door at PEC No. 266. At PEC No. 170, observers have obtained an audio recording of the following directive to a commission member with a decisive vote: '[In the protocols] all of us shall write the target number I set. Who cares what they counted, observed: no such excuses are accepted [from you]. We are putting down the number, which I've set as your objective. If they have any questions, let them complain.' This message perfectly demonstrates the approach to conducting elections and determining their outcome at PECs in Bashkiria.

Formal complaints and the 'observer effect'

These and many other recorded violations have been documented in numerous complaints: PECs received over 50 complaints; Territorial Election Commissions (TECs) in Ufa got over 50 complaints, and several complaints were submitted to the Central Election Commission of Bashkiria. Only at a few polling stations out of 70 where Golos organized uninterrupted observation for the three days of voting; namely, at PECs No. 361 and No. 371, observers recorded no substantial violations and submitted no complaints.

Based on official election data, we have again detected the so-called 'observer effect': polling stations with active independent oversight had lower turnout, and the party of power (or its candidates) received fewer votes. The 'observer effect' manifested most vividly in the homogeneous urban areas. E.g., neighboring polling stations in Kirovsky Precinct of Ufa - see charts below where non-observed PECs are marked black and precincts where 3-days-observation (including during vote counting) took place are marked green.

Turnout in Kirovsky Precinct of Ufa, Bashkortostan. Sept 2021

Noticeably, the turnout at the polling stations where observers were present was almost two times lower, United Russia's result was two times lower, while the Communist Party of the Russian Federation's (CPRF) result, on the contrary, was two times higher.

The turnout at the polling stations where Golos' representatives were present was 6.06% lower than in Ufa in general, United Russia's result was 6.55% lower, and the CPRF result was 2.02% higher.

2021 elections results in Kirovsky District of Ufa, Bashkortostan

Administrative resource

Analyzing the elections in Ufa, Neftekamsk, and Sterlitamak, the following election interferences were recorded on September 17-19 in all cities:

  • various methods of denying access to observers and commissioners with consultative votes: a fake consultative vote authorization or a fake request for withdrawal of an actual consultative vote authorization on behalf of the party;
  • various types of pressure on observers: calls from universities threatening expulsion, calls from employers threatening loss of a job to commissioners with a consultative vote or their parents;
  • falsification methods: pressurized voting with compulsory reporting right from the polling stations, organized bussing of voters, stuffing of ballots during mass home voting, stuffing of ballots into poorly sealed safe-packages, the substitution of safe-packages, long pauses during vote counting, announcement of fake figures instead of conducting accurate vote count with the announcement of real figures, manipulating data when moving data from draft protocols into the final PEC protocols.

All this indicates that the elections in Bashkiria were conducted under strong pressure from the administrative apparatus, which interfered in the voting process and summing up the election results. At the same time, the number of volunteers willing to observe elections during the three challenging voting days increased. We attribute this, firstly, to the increased population's interest in political issues and, secondly, to a lower average age of volunteers.

Golos' observation standards and acknowledgments

In its work, Golos is guided by the internationally accepted standards of election monitoring and has been strictly adhering to political neutrality as one of the basic prerequisites for independent and unbiased election observation.

The election campaign was monitored for compliance with the free election standards and the principles of equality.

Golos draws attention to the violations of the law and the violations of the standards of free democratic elections. These standards are enshrined, for example, in the CIS Convention (see here).

Golos conduct monitoring based on the data received from the election participants and organizers, observers, and voters through various channels, including the 8-800-333-33-50 hotline, the 'Map of Violations', the media, and the Internet. Golos has also launched special information collection services: 'SMS-HQ' and 'SMS-CEC.'

 

References:

1 Golos has launched several election observation initiatives, among them publicly crowdsourced 'Map of Violations' (several reports may be found on our website), a special hotline, and data collection via SMS - REM.

2 A safe-package is a tool designed to ensure the safety and integrity of the ballots contained in it, which has an individual serial number and an indicator seal indicating an attempt to open it - REM.

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