Report of the International Observers
Elista, October 21st, 2002
First round of Presidential election in a Russian Federation Republic of Kalmykia took place on Sunday, October 20th, 2002. A team of international observers, representing the non-governmental organisation International Discussion Club - Moscow (IDC), was present during the course of the elections.
The members of the team were: Andrey Ozharovskii (Russia), Oscar Franklin (Great Britain), Ann-Kristin Wetterhall (Sweden), Alexander Kalninsh (Latvia), and Anita Bersina (Latvia).
The aim of the international observers is not to seek out or register infringements of the law, but to demonstrate international solidarity for the strengthening of democracy in Russia and to help in raising the legitimacy of elections amongst the citizens of Russia.
The observing was of a short-term nature. We did not ask questions related to the nomination of candidates, the financing of campaigns, or the conduct of election campaigns. Nor do we draw conclusions about these parts of the election process. Our task was to observe the process of voting and the tallying of votes in polling stations on election day, observe the work of the Territorial Electoral Commissions (TEC) on voting day and during the tallying of results, and support the activities of the local observers in the active fulfilment of the requirements of the law.
Our conclusions are based on actual observation carried out in a limited number of polling stations and cannot be regarded as a judgement of the elections in the Republic of Kalmykia as a whole. However, we hope that our observations and the remarks and recommendations included in this report will help to improve the electoral process. We visited 23 polling stations and their Precinct Electoral Commissions (PEC) and 4 TECs. In those polling stations and TECs at the time that the members of the team of international observers visited, polling proceeded smoothly and without problems. The members of the PECs worked competently, and their activities did not give rise to suspicion or the possibility of falsification. However we observed and were informed of several infringements of electoral law, which we discuss below. It is our opinion that the permanent presence of local observers at all polling stations that we visited lowered the possibility of infringing the law. The remarkable participation in the elections (more than 67%) illustrates the civil engagement of the citizens of the Republic of Kalmykia.
The majority of the infringements that we noticed had either already been registered by local observers or were rectified after our remarks. We registered two notifications of infringements with TECs.
The legal basis for our activities
Russian law allows the possibility for the presence of foreign (international) observers during the process of elections of every type. The non-governmental organisation International Discussion Club - Moscow (IDC) applied to the Central Electoral Commission of the Russian Federation for accreditation of Club members and members of partner organisations as international observers at the presidential elections in the Republic of Kalmykia on the 20th October 2002. Accreditation was received on 8th October.
Activities before the polling day
The team on international observers arrived in Elista, the capital of the Republic of Kalmykia, on Thursday, 17th October. Before polling day we informed the candidates' campaign offices of our arrival. We met with the Chair of the Electoral Commission of the Republic of Kalmykia, Mr. V. Andreiev, candidates N. Daginov and A. Ledshinov and attended a meeting of supporters of candidate N. Manshikova. We also attended a court proceeding connected with the election proceedings and several pre-election rallies. International observers met with activists of the Republic Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the non-governmental organisation The Kalmykian Human Rights Centre. We also took part in a press conference held by the Chair of the Central Electoral Commission A. Veshniakov and training for local observers, carried out by S. Danilenko of the Central Electoral Commission.
Monitoring during the course of polling and the tallying of votes
On polling day, 20th October, the international observers worked in mobile groups in Tselin, Chiornozemelskii, and Iashkul regions and in the town of Elista. We contacted the candidates' offices in order to receive information about the situation. International observers gave several interviews to print and television journalists.
Visiting the polling stations and TECs
To investigate the conduct of early voting, international observers visited Polling Stations Nos. 1 and 41. On polling day we visited polling stations Nos. 1, 18, 31, 32, 42, 44, 45, 46, 52, 182, 188, 189, 190, 197, 200, 241, 242, 246, 251, 252, 253, 254, as well as TECs in Tselin, Chiornozemelskii, Iashkul regions and in the town of Elista. On polling day in polling stations and the TECs, international observers met with the representative of the President of Kalmykia in Chiornozemelskii Region N. P. Tserenovii, Minister of Youth Affairs and Sport in Kalmykia Sh. N. Dshimbeev, representative of the Dagestan Central Electoral Commission S. M. Shapiev, observers of the Central Electoral Commission of the Russian Federation M. B. Tiboev and K. B. Kostoiev. Observers were present during the tallying of ballots in polling stations nos. 18, 241 and 251.
We observed the following positive aspects:
1. In all polling stations that we visited on polling day, from 3 to 26 non-voting members of PECs and observers from candidates, parties and non-governmental organisations were present. This confirms the high level of citizens' interest in the elections and the interest of political parties and candidates in observing electoral law.
2. All PECs that we visited opened on time and voting started without delay, according to local observers and PEC members.
3. Members of the PEC were familiar with the requirements of polling procedure. We saw no serious mistakes other than those noted below.
4. All polling stations apart from one were properly equipped for the carrying out of polling. All polling stations had from 2 to 5 booths to guarantee secret voting.
5. The majority of voters voted secretly and individually, using the booths. However we noticed isolated cases of open voting outside the booths.
6. Members of the PECs and TECs, and local observers had a positive attitude to the international observers everywhere. They talked freely to us, shared necessary information with us and allowed us access to documents.
7. At the times that international observers were visiting polling stations, voting proceeded smoothly and without obstacles. We saw no cases of pressure on voters or of campaign in the polling stations.
We noticed the following problems and negative instances:
1. Many of the advisory members of PECs and party and candidates' observers were passive, and did not know how to correctly register complaints about infringements they had noticed and how to fix the infringements.
2. Many cases were reported in which candidates' observers and advisory members of PECs were not given equal opportunity to travel with the ballot box during mobile voting.
3. In Polling station No. 240, ballot boxes were sealed only with scotch tape, which allowed for the possibility of falsification. Observer Oscar Franklin asked the Chair of the PEC Koniukov to seal the boxes in the proper manner. This was not carried out and Oscar Franklin notified the TEC of the infringement.
4. In a significant amount of polling stations, observers and members of PECs noted mistakes in the electoral registers, which made the work of PECs more difficult and aroused suspicion on the part of the observers.
a. In one of the polling stations we witnessed a serious altercation between members of the PEC and observers because of the problems with the electoral register.
b. In polling station No. 18 the register did not hold information on the day and month of citizens under the age of eighteen, i.e. year of birth 1984. This may have led to voting by underage citizens in this polling station. This came to the attention of local observers present at this station who made a complaint.
c. In polling station no. 52, the names of Rosa Ubushaieva, born 1936 and Vitalii Mokroucov, born 1983 were included twice. The members of the PEC and observers noticed this, and the mistakes were rectified.
d. In some cases, the names of deceased people were included on the register.
5. Many cases of unsatisfactory technical support were noted. This created difficulties for the committees in their work.
a. In Chiornozemelskii Region, the power supply to the polling stations was interrupted, which made voting and the work of the commissions more difficult.
b. We were told of the unsatisfactory condition of the transport available to support the work of the PECs, which made mobile voting more difficult.
c. In many polling stations the telephone connections were unsatisfactory, which made the work of the PECs more difficult.
d. Polling Station No. 242 was comprised of two small, cramped rooms, which complicated the work of the commission and the observers.
6. In two polling stations, (Nos. 197, 200,) the poster size protocols had not been filled after 14 hours. This was rectified after remarks by observer Alexander Kalninsh.
7. There were substantial delays at the TECs in examining and responding to complaints and declarations of infringements. Iashkul TEC took five hours to examine and respond to the complaint made by Oscar Franklin. Similar delays were reported in Tselinskii TEC.
8. In Polling Station No. 189 the mobile ballot box was not sealed at the same time as the remaining ballot boxes, at the opening of the polling station at 08.00 hrs. According to the commission, the mobile ballot box had been sealed and sent under way with a group of electoral officials earlier than 07.30 hrs. Observers Andrey Ozharovskii and Anita Berzina drew the attention of the commission and the observers to this infringement and reported it to the TEC.
9. In Polling Stations Nos. 18 and 251, the doors were closed after 22.00 hrs, and some observers, members of the electoral commissions and candidates' representatives were not allowed to attend the tallying of the ballots. International observer Alexander Kalninsh was forcibly ejected from polling station No. 18. International observer Andrei Ozharovskii made a notification of this infringement to the TEC of Elista.
10. In many polling stations in Chiornozemelskii Region, many citizens drew the attention of international observer Alexander Kalninsh to attempts to influence voters and «buy votes», in their opinion. According to information received, the night before the elections, representatives of one of the presidential candidates distributed sacks of second-grade flour to pensioners and underprivileged households in the town of Komsomolskoe. One of the candidates' observers was threatened with dismissal on the day after the elections.
11. In Sarulskii polling station observer Alexander Kalninsh was informed of the prolonged presence in the polling station of the manager of the collective farm, which observers interpreted as possible pressure on voters, apart from the fact that the law forbids the presence of unauthorised persons in the polling stations.
Recommendations for the improvement of voting practise.
1. It is vital to pay attention to the literacy of voters, their knowledge and familiarity with their rights as citizens.
a. It would be useful to prolong the practice of training for observers and members of the electoral commissions, and to invite to carry out such training relevant experts and representatives of non-governmental organisations.
b. Candidates and parties should cooperate with specialists and representatives of non-governmental organisations in raising the level of literacy of their observers.
c. Candidates and parties could make more effort in developing political culture, citizens' responsibilities and awareness.
d. We would consider the continuation of the training seminars for observers, started by representatives of the CEC of the Russian Federation, to be a positive step. This raised the authority of the observers.
e. We consider the continuation of educational activities between elections to be vital as well.
2. It is necessary to pay attention to the improvement of the technical support for the process of voting: suitable vehicles for mobile voting, communications networks and the improvement of polling stations rooms.
3. We recommend that the ballot boxes be prepared centrally and to a consistent standard.
4. The Electoral Commissions must pay special attention to improving the accuracy of the information contained on the Electoral Register, and to guaranteeing that it accurately reflects reality.
We thank the candidates who found time and opportunity to meet with the international observers, those electoral officials who provided us with necessary information.
This report was sent to the Electoral Commission of the Republic of Kalmykia, the Central Electoral Commission of Russia, the OSCE, candidates, journalists, and is published on the Internet as an open document. It can be quoted and reprinted with the reference to the International Discussion Club - Moscow as the source.
Information on the International Discussion Club - Moscow
The International Discussion Club (IDC) is an international Russian voluntary non-governmental organisation for international cooperation and development, with branches in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Minsk, Novorossiysk and Murmansk. The IDC connects people with an interest in international contacts and projects. The IDC has invited international observers to elections in Russia since 1993. The IDC also sends observers to elections in other countries. The IDC also organises international exchanges, study trips, seminars and other international activities and takes part in various international projects. Detailed information and reports of our monitoring activities is published on Election Observers' Site.
IDC Election Observers Group Coordinator,
Andrey Ozharovskii, IDC president
IDC: Election Observers' Site