#Report
Voters queuing in Sverdlova village of Leningrad Oblast. 'Map of Violations' screenshot

Election Day-2021 in Leningrad region: how United Russia won a parliamentary majority

Author: Natalia Menkova, Chairperson of the regional branch of the Movement 'Golos' in Leningrad Oblast

The election campaign in the Leningrad Oblast ended on October 4 with the first meeting of the new convocation of the Legislative Assembly of the Leningrad Oblast. Our review will describe how the seventh convocation of the Oblast Parliament was formed.

Rewritten precinct protocols and home voters

593,140 voters out of 1,375,177 visited polling stations on September 17-19 (three voting days). The peculiarity of the election campaign was a large number of voters who voted outside polling stations — 75,357 or almost 13% — which completely replicated the federal trend. At that, 75% of home voters were registered at one-third of all polling stations. However, at the end of the first two days, it became clear that even despite the outstanding numbers of home visits, those votes would not bring the expected outcome; thus, apparently, a decision was made to 'make up' protocols1. On the night of September 19 and 20, 87 Precinct Electoral Commissions (PECs) issued protocols with the figures that had nothing to do with the actual will of the voters, enabling United Russia to gain a parliamentary majority. The protocol figure-faking champions were electoral commissions in five districts: 20, 15, 3, 6, and 8.

The 'aggressive observer' technique was used in districts No. 6 and 8 to neutralize independent scrutiny at the polling stations (and thus enable distortion of the election results). These (pro-government – REM) 'observers' created discomfort for the representatives of independent candidates, forcing them to leave polling stations before vote counting started. The results proved to be favorable for United Russia candidates. Striking examples included PECs No. 162 and 165 in Toksovo or all of the PECs in the Sverdlov village.2

It is possible to analyze the quality of the electoral process in each district according to two criteria: unrealistically high number of off-premises (home) voting and anomalously low votes for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF)3 that signal made-up protocols. By reviewing election results per each polling station, we can assess the level of distortion of election results district-wide:

'Golos' analysis of election results by district. Leningrad Oblast

The table shows only six districts with minimal or no interference in the final results. This success was achieved due to high scrutiny by non-government actors for all three voting days. Notably, only in districts No. 21 and 25 did candidates recommended by the so-called 'Smart Voting'4 system win, while in the remaining four, where Golos representatives were present, the opposition candidates were unable to win against United Russia.

In the remaining 19 districts, interference in the final declaration of the will of voters occurred in one-third of the polling stations and more. At that, distorted results amounted to over 60% PECs in districts No. 8, 15, and 20. District No. 10 stood out: Mr. Aleksandr Smirnov, a Smart Voting candidate, won there as he was able to defend his seat despite interferences in the final results and thanks to the good work of independent observers.

Court appeals

Candidates and parties have ten days to dispute the election results in the courts; only the CPRF representatives have fully exercised this right. They have filed lawsuits regarding more than 119 PECs out of 1,004. The Zanevsky District No. 8 became the main contender for complete results invalidation. At PEC No. 186 in this district, a United Russia candidate supposedly got 1,100 votes out of 1,100 valid ballots issued. Candidate Mr. Said Aliyev supposedly received 590 out of 595 votes at the neighboring PEC No. 187. If CPRF wins the case in court, the party may get another single-mandate district seat.

Distribution of mandates

CPRF has become the main beneficiary of Smart Voting: 11 candidates of the party were on the list of recommended candidates. A Just Russia —Patriots — For Truth (Just Russia — For Truth) was next from the top, as far as the number of recommended candidates was concerned (the initiative recommended seven Just Russia — For Truth candidates) and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) had five candidates. The Smart Voting initiative did not recommend candidates in two districts.

As a result of the elections, United Russia got 46.37% (13 seats), CPRF got 20.7% (5 seats), Just Russia — For Truth received 15.2% (4 seats), and LDPR got 10.6% (3 seats). Yabloko got only 3.22% of the votes and did not get any seats. In the single-mandate districts, 22 representatives of United Russia won seats in the Legislative Assembly; CPRF candidates won in two districts, and Just Russia — For Truth won in one district.

Mandates distribution in the Leningrad Legislative Assembly of the seventh convocation

Compared to 2016, the Oblast Parliament also got four parties, but with a different internal composition. The party of power was able to retain its parliamentary majority due to direct interference in the voting results in districts 20, 8, and 15. CPRF and Just Russia — For Truth have seriously strengthened their stand in the new convocation as they have managed to almost double the number of their elected deputies. The main loser of the campaign was the Russian Liberal Democratic Party, which lost seats by party list and lost in all the districts where its representatives had been recommended by Smart Voting. Overall, the oblast parliament of the seventh convocation became more diverse, and voters will clearly benefit from this.

References:

1 A PEC protocol is an official document reflecting the final results of voting at a particular election precinct – REM

2 See, for example, election violation reports here, here, and here.

3 A major 'systemic' opposition party, CPRF became the main beneficiary of the Smart Voting recommendation system – REM

4 'Smart Voting' is a tactical voting strategy put forward by the team of Alexei Navalny with the aim of depriving the United Russia party of votes – REM

 

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