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

Political and Legal Peculiarities of September 2021 Regional and Local Elections

According to the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation's 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.

In addition to elections in regional centres, there are 571 municipal elections for heads of municipalities and basic elections for representative bodies in 2,430 municipalities. Of these, 42 use a fully-proportional system, and 60 a mixed system.

Most regional elections were scheduled on the latest days permitted by law. Of the 59 most significant regional and local election campaigns, in 50 (85%) the final version of the law regulating elections was adopted less than 30 days before the campaign, making it difficult for candidates and parties without insider information about the legislative plans of the authorities to prepare for the elections.

This was largely due to the late adoption of changes to electoral legislation at the federal level. At the same time, some regions made such changes during the last revision of the election legislation that was not related to the latest amendments of the federal legislation. For example, four regions changed their electoral fund ceilings at the last minute, St. Petersburg changed the rules for splitting the party list into groups, Leningrad Oblast changed the number of candidates in the central part of the list, and three regions introduced the possibility of collecting signatures through the online state Gosuslugi portal.

Such delaying of the formal appointment of the elections is particularly disadvantageous to those parties and candidates who have to collect signatures, as every day counts in this case. There is no doubt that this is a systematic and deliberate action against some selected parties and candidates.

The rotation of governors in 2021 returns to 2017-2019, when there was a peak in the appointment of technocratic governors (falling in 2020 amidst coronavirus pandemic-related risks and uncertainties). Already at the stage of scheduling elections, which will take place in the fall of 2021, out of nine direct governor elections and three governor elections by regional parliaments, the federal government has replaced eight governors with new interim ones (that is, already before the elections the renewal rate is 67%). However, there is still a trend towards the appointment of politicians and officials with no direct connection to the regions they have been put in charge of (in six of the eight regions where new interim governors have been appointed, they are de facto 'outsiders'). Thus, the trend of high turnover of regional heads continues, not as a result of elections, but in a purely administrative way.

The basic conditions of gubernatorial elections in those regions where they are held in 2021 have not changed. The claims to lower the municipal filter1, including by the CEC chair, remained unfulfilled. In these elections, the minimum threshold is set at 5% only in Belgorod Oblast (where it had been the same before), in four regions, the threshold is 7%, and in four regions, it is higher than 7%. In absolute terms, however, the number of signatures has decreased in a number of regions, which indicates a decrease in the number of municipal deputies. Thus, in Mordovia, the number of signatures of all deputies dropped from 230 to 184, in Belgorod Oblast – from 150 to 106, in Tver Oblast – from 247 to 175, in Ulyanovsk Oblast – from 170 to 141.

The significance of political parties is continuously diminishing. In regional parliamentary elections, the proportional component has been significantly reduced in six regions. A fully proportional system is used in regional elections only in the three Caucasus regions where systematic election fraud was registered in previous elections – Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya. In the elections of the representative bodies of the regional centers, in two cities (Nalchik and Grozny), the system is fully proportional, and in two (Kaliningrad and Saratov) – fully majoritarian. In the remaining seven cities, the system is mixed, with five cities having equal or approximately equal majoritarian components and two (Perm and Stavropol) being dominated by the majoritarian component.

At the same time, the tendency to reduce the number of deputies continues. In five regions, the number of deputies in regional parliaments was noticeably reduced. The reduction in the proportional component leads to an increase in disparities in party representation, usually in favour of the party of power, and the reduction in the number of deputies reduces the level of representativeness of the regional parliament.

The continuation of these trends in regional and local elections of the Russian Federation will inevitably lead not only to a further reduction of the influence of political parties but also to a further reduction in their number so that it will become impossible to get a benefit for the registration of candidates for elections at a higher level.

The use of the 'Imperiali quota,' which cannot be considered a proportional mandate allocation method, is increasing. This method gives a clear advantage to the leading party. This time it will be used in 13 of the 39 regions with significant regional and local elections on 19 September 2021. Thus, the fairest method of simple quota (the Heir-Niemeier method) will remain only in three regions out of 85: Ingushetia, Tatarstan, and the Chechen Republic (all of them belong to the zone of so-called 'electoral anomalies'2).

In most regions, laws unnecessarily require parties to split their lists into a large number of territorial groups, which usually leads to territorial imbalances. In addition, laws require parties to include a large number of candidates on lists, most of whom have no chance of winning elections. Sometimes the minimum number of candidates on a list can be many times higher than the number of mandates distributed under the proportional system.

The limits on the spending of electoral funds per voter vary considerably in the regions: from 57.7 to 404 rubles per voter at the gubernatorial elections, from 15.1 To 459 rubles for parties, and from 17.9 to 1,052 rubles for candidates at regional elections. This indicates that no clear criteria for setting standards for electoral funds have yet been developed, and decisions are made on the basis of taste or opportunistic considerations.

In the 2021 general elections of regional parliaments, the possibility to collect signatures in support of the nomination of candidates and parties via the Gosuslugi portal is provided by the laws of ten regions. In the Orenburg oblast, however, the maximum percentage of such signatures is only 15%, in the Tver oblast – 25%, in the rest of the regions – 50%.

In all elections to regional parliaments and municipal elections in regional centers, the number of parties with registration privileges (exempted from collecting voter signatures) is significantly lower than the number of parties with such privileges in the State Duma elections. In many regions, only four parliamentary parties have this privilege (Mordovia, Kamchatka Territory, Amur, Kursk, Nizhni Novgorod, Samara, Tyumen Regions, Jewish Autonomous Region, Khanty-Mansi, and Chukotka Autonomous Areas). Moscow Oblast has the largest number of beneficiaries of this regulation (10), while in other regions, five to eight parties have the privilege.

References:

1 This provision, introduced after Dmitry Medvedev returned direct gubernatorial elections at the end of his presidential term in 2012, stipulates that potential candidates in these elections must collect signatures from 5 to 10 percent of local legislators. This provision is seen by Russian election experts as the main barrier for opposition candidates to stand in governor elections: https://komitetgi.ru/analytics/3389/ .

2 Several minority regions of the Northern Caucasus and Volga Region, characterized by highly authoritarian regional political regimes, tend to massively vote in favor of the ruling party – although independent electoral experts and the opposition claim rampant election fraud.

For a more detailed overview of legal regulations and peculiarities of 2021 regional elections, see this report by 'Golos' Movement and Liberal Mission Foundation: https://www.golosinfo.org/articles/145301 (RU)

CPRF rally in Moscow, 2011. Photo by Wikimedia

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.

Russian State Duma raises retirement age. Image by Wikimedia

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.

Election observation headquarters. Photo by Golos

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

Map of Violations, Screenshot Oct. 8, 2021

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.

REV-2021. By Nackepelo

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.

Regions by level of electoral fraud
#Analysis

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.

#Commentary

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

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

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%.

Voting. By Photobank Moscow-Live
#Report

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.

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

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"'.

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

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"'.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

The de facto impossibility to participate in elections for parties that must register candidates via signature collection turns their existence into a mere formality. This creates a vicious circle in which the system reproduces itself by welcoming only actors that are already 'in' and effectively barring new political players from elections.

Map of Violations Update - Aug 30-Sept 1
#Report

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.

Social media. Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay
#Report

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

 

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

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.

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

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."

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

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.

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

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.

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

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).