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06.04.2020, . 18:32

Main Provisions of the Federal Law On the Election of Deputies of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation

The text of the Federal Law «On the Election of Deputies of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation» was officially published in the newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta on 1 and 3 July, 1999 and, therefore, the Law has come into force.

It is expected that the President of the Russian Federation will sign a decree calling the elections to the State Duma of the new convocation and the decree will be published approximately in mid-August. The Law exactly designates the voting day in the forthcoming elections: the first Sunday after the elapse of four years from voting day in the previous elections to the State Duma. Consequently the elections must take place on 19 December 1999.

With the adoption of the Federal Law «On the Election of Deputies of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation» the activity of the mass media highlighting the electoral process is comprehensively regulated by the electoral legislation.

All TV and radio companies and editorial offices of print media which participate in highlighting the electoral process may be tentatively divided into the following three categories.

The first category is formed by the mass media which are founded (co-founded) by the state bodies, organizations, institutions and/or which, in the year preceding the day of official publication of the decision calling the elections, were financed by not less than 15 percent of their budget from the funds allocated by the federal bodies of state power, bodies of state power of the subjects of the Russian Federation (Clause 1 of Article 55).

The second category consists of the mass media which are founded (co-founded) by the bodies of local self-government or which, in the year preceding the day of official publication of the decision calling the elections, were financed by not less than 15 percent of their budget from the funds allocated by the bodies of local self-government. The Law allows these mass media to refuse to publish any election propaganda materials provided they fully abstain from election campaigning (Clause 4 of Article 55).

The third category of the mass media comprises:

non-state-owned print media founded by registered candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs;
editorial offices of print media founded by the bodies of legislative (representative), executive and judicial power, bodies of local self-government solely for publication of their official materials and reports; these media are not allowed to publish election propaganda materials;
specialized TV and radio companies and specialized print media (cultural, educational, children's, technical, scientific) which, too, may refuse to publish any election propaganda materials provided they completely abstain from election campaigning.

The TV and radio companies and the editorial offices of the print media belonging to the first category must provide free air time and free space to election commissions for clarifying electoral laws, informing voters about the periods and procedures for the performance of electoral actions and about the progress of the election campaign. Thus, the Central Election Commission is entitled to not less than 15 minutes of air time weekly on the channels of the TV and radio companies whose reliable reception zone extends to the territory of a half or more than a half of the subjects of the Russian Federation. The editorial offices of similar print media must allocate to the Central Election Commission not less than one-hundredth of their space every week. The election commissions of the subjects of the Russian Federation and district election commissions are entitled to air time of the TV and radio companies and space in the print media whose reliable reception zone extends to, or which are circulated within the territory of, less than a half of the subjects of the Russian Federation (Clauses 16, 17 of Article 31).

The Federal Law sets forth in detail the procedure for provision of free air time and free space by regional and national mass media to, respectively, candidates registered in single-mandate electoral districts, regional groups of candidates and electoral associations, electoral blocs (Articles 55 - 57).

Free air time on the channels of state-owned TV and radio companies is provided on weekdays, in the period which commences 30 days and ends one day prior to voting day (Clause 3 of Article 56). Free space is provided by the editorial offices of state-owned print media in the period which commences 40 days and ends one day prior to voting day (Clause 3 of Article 57). Such time limits for the provision of free air time and free space by state-owned media are established so as to observe the principle of equal conditions for the provision of free air time and free space, i.e. all candidate (lists of candidates) must be registered by the time when election campaigning starts. This requirement of the new Federal Law does not apply to the mass media with no state or municipal participation. In these media election campaigning may start directly after registration of a candidate, federal list of candidates.

The total amount of free air time to be made available for election campaigning to electoral associations, electoral blocs must be not less than one hour daily and to regional groups of candidates and candidates registered in single-mandate electoral districts not less than 30 minutes daily (Clause 5 of Article 56). The total weekly amount of free space to be made available to electoral associations, electoral blocs and to regional groups of candidates and candidates registered in single-mandate electoral districts must be not less than 10% of the total weekly space of the publication (Clause 4 of Article 57). Both free air time and free space are provided for election campaigning only on weekdays.

The dates and time for broadcasting free election propaganda materials are fixed by lot-drawing organized by the Central Election Commission for electoral associations, electoral blocs or by the election commissions of the subjects of the Russian Federation for registered candidates, regional groups of candidates. The dates of free publication of election propaganda materials are fixed by means of lot-drawing organized by the editorial office of the publication.

The expenses incurred by TV and radio companies and editorial offices of print media in the provision of free air time and free space are covered from the current budget financing of these media (Clause 11 of Article 56 and Clause 8 of Article 57).

The law also regulates election campaigning of candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs in non-state-owned (private) mass media

Under the Federal Law non-state-owned TV and radio companies and print media may, on a contractual basis, provide paid air time, paid space to candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs, regional groups of candidates. The rates and the terms of payment must be the same for all candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs (Clause 8 of Article 55).

The contracts for the provision of paid air time must indicate the kind of election campaigning, the date and time of transmission, the length of air time, the amount and terms of payment. The publications carried by the print media and paid from an electoral fund must indicate the candidate, registered candidate, electoral association, electoral bloc from whose electoral fund the payment for the publication was made. A registered candidate, an electoral association, electoral bloc must issue a payment order to a branch of the Savings Bank of the Russian Federation for transferring the full amount of the payment for the air time, space not later than two days before the day on which air time is to be provided or the material is to be published (Clauses 18, 19 of Article 56, Clauses 15, 20 of Article 57).

Payment for air time and for space provided by state-owned and non-state-owned TV and radio companies and print media must be effected in the full amount before actual provision of air time and space and only out of electoral funds (Clauses 19, 20 of Article 56, Clauses 15, 16 of Article 57).

The Federal Law regulates the procedure of election campaigning carried out by candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs in the mass media on a paid basis.

Within 20 days after official publication of the presidential decree calling the elections both state-owned and non-state-owned TV and radio companies and print media (their editorial offices) must publish the rates charged for air time and space to be provided for election campaigning purposes and must notify the Central Election Commission of Russia and the election commissions of the subjects of the Russian Federation of their readiness to provide air time, space. Without such publication provision of air time and space is not allowed (Clause 8 of Article 55).

All TV and radio companies and all editorial offices of print media which have published the aforementioned information must provide air time, space for election campaigning at equal rates and on equal terms to all electoral associations, electoral blocs which want to use this air time, space.

Editorial offices of print media, save those founded by a registered candidate, an electoral association, electoral bloc must provide space for election campaigning to all participants therein on equal terms (Clause 19 of Article 57).

All mass media, regardless of the form of ownership, must keep records of the amount of air time and space provided by them and submit these data to appropriate election commissions (Clause 9 of Article 55).

The Federal Law establishes that reports concerning election events must be always presented in the TV and radio news programs in the form of a separate block, as a rule at the beginning of such

programs, and without any comments. These news blocks are not paid for by candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs and must not give preference to any candidate, electoral association, electoral bloc, particularly, with regard to the time devoted to highlighting their election campaigning (Clause 24 of Article 56).

The mass media are charged with important functions of highlighting the election campaign, ensuring the publicity and openness of electoral actions. Accordingly, under the law, TV and radio companies and the editorial offices of print media which are founded (co-founded) by the state and municipal bodies, organizations, institutions and/or which, in the year preceding the day of official publication of the decision calling the elections, were financed by not less than 15 percent of their budget from the funds allocated by the federal bodies of state power, bodies of state power of the subjects of the Russian Federation, bodies of local self-government publish (broadcast) reports concerning:

the calling of the elections and postponement of the voting day, if it was postponed (Clauses 2 and 3 of Article 5);
the scheme of formation of single-mandate electoral districts, including their graphical representation (Clause 7 of Article 12);
the list of electoral precincts, indicating their boundaries and numbers, location and telephone numbers of precinct election commissions and polling stations (Clause 7 of Article 14);
the registered candidates, lists of candidates; the electoral associations, electoral blocs; the biographical data of registered candidates, including information about convictions that have not expired and have not been cancelled, the income and property of candidates (Clause 3 of Article 45; Clause 11 of Article 47);
the amounts contributed to and paid from electoral funds of candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs (Clause 6 of Article 66);
the time and place of voting in the elections (Clause 2 of Article 73);
the election results for the given electoral district and full official data about the general election results (Clauses 2 - 4 of Article 85).

A new provision has been added, according to which the commercial and other activity of the participants in the electoral process must be advertised on the conditions established by the new Federal Law. In other words, advertising of commercial and other activity is subject to the general conditions for the access of candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs to the mass media and to the conditions for dissemination of printed propaganda materials. In particular, payment for such advertising must be made only from the corresponding electoral fund (Clause 3 of Article 60).

There is no legislative definition of political advertising. Such definition was given in the instructions of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation issued in 1995 and 1996 to regulate the procedure and conditions of election campaigning through the mass media. In these instructions political advertising was defined as information about candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs disseminated by participants in the electoral process through the mass media with the use of ways and means which distinguish advertising materials from other forms and genres of information (predominately emotional, catchy, terse, repetitive) for the purpose of shaping public opinion in support of or against various candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs.

Political advertising in favor of various parties, movements, public associations carried out in the period between elections must be regarded as being outside the framework of regulation of the electoral legislation. Its purpose is to popularize parties, movements, public associations and their leadership. The expenses on this advertising are paid by the advertisers from the funds of political organizations. These expenses are not connected with electoral funds.

Political advertising carried on within the framework of electoral legislation as one of the kinds of election campaigning has a different legal nature and a different organizational framework. It is carried on only by definite participants in election campaigning (registered candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs) and is paid for from the electoral fund of the candidate, electoral association, electoral bloc, unless such advertising is conducted within the limits of free air time and free space provided to registered candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs.

The new Federal Law sets amplifies and corrects the conditions for conducting public opinion polls and publishing their results.

First, publication (dissemination) of the results of public opinion polls, forecasts of election results and other election-related studies is prohibited within 3 days prior to voting day and on voting day. Second, when publishing these materials the mass media must indicate the organization which conducted the poll, the time when it was conducted, the number of respondents (sample), the polling method, the exact formulation of the question, the statistical assessment of the possible error. Third, the organization which conducts a public opinion poll and the mass media which publish the results of such polls and forecasts of election results must furnish copies of these publications to, respectively, the district election commission and the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation for formation of a data bank to allow interested persons to use these materials in future. This requirement comes in force after the end of registration of candidates, federal lists of candidates (Article 54).

To guard voters against excessive information pressure, ensure equal conditions for candidates in the struggle for election and protect candidates against dissemination of false information about them the legislation imposes certain restrictions on the information activity of the mass media and some journalists.

Registered candidates who work in the mass media must be suspended from their jobs for as long as they participate in the elections and must not take advantage of their official position. Within three days after their registration these candidates must submit a certified copy of the relevant order signed by the CEO to the election commission which registered them (Clause 3 of Article 48)

Journalists, other creative workers and officials of editorial offices of print media, state-owned TV and radio companies are prohibited from highlighting the election campaign through the mass media, if they are candidates or agents of candidates (Clause 6 of Article 48).

There is one more important requirement which the law establishes for TV and radio companies: in their news programs they must not give preference to any candidate, electoral association, electoral bloc, in particular, in respect of the time devoted to highlighting their campaigning activity (Clause 24 of Article 56).

The Federal Law devotes great attention to the problem of putting an end to abuses in the course of election campaigning.

The concept of bribery in election campaigning is now interpreted more broadly. The Federal Law prohibits candidates, registered candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs, their agents from paying or promising to pay remuneration to voters who have carried out organizational work for them, making the payment conditional on voting returns, and from rendering services to such voters free of charge or at reduced rates (Clause 2 of Article 60).

If a registered candidate, an electoral association, electoral bloc misuses the freedom of mass information (warmongering propaganda or propaganda calling for violent seizure of power, inciting social, racial, national, religious hatred and enmity) the appropriate election commission must apply to a court for canceling registration of the candidate, federal list of candidates (Clause 1 of Article 60). If a registered candidate, an electoral association, electoral bloc violates other rules of election campaigning established by the new Federal Law, the election commission may issue a warning to the offenders, request law-enforcement and other bodies to put an end to unlawful propaganda or cancel registration of the candidate (list of candidates). These violations are: campaigning before a candidate or a federal list of candidates is registered; charity activities in the course of the election campaign; campaigning in the territory of a military unit, in a military organization or institution; dissemination of printed, audio-visual election propaganda materials without indication of the necessary data or without prior submission of these materials to an election commission.

TV and radio programs on the channels of state-owned and municipal TV and radio companies and editorial offices of print media must not make public (publish) information that may damage the honor, dignity or business reputation of registered candidates, if these TV and radio programs and editorial offices of print media cannot give these registered candidates a possibility to make public (publish) a denial in defense of their honor, dignity or business reputation before the end of the election campaigning period. The failure of these mass media to provide a possibility for registered candidates to make public (publish) a denial may serve as a reason for bringing to responsibility these TV and radio companies, editorial offices of print media and their officials under Russian Federation laws (Clause 4 Article 60 of the Federal Law).

If a TV and radio company, an editorial office of a newspaper or periodical violates the election campaigning rules laid down by this Federal Law, an election commission may apply to law enforcement bodies, courts, executive bodies of state power which implement the state policy vis-a-vis the mass media and request them to stop the unlawful propaganda activities and to bring the TV and radio company or the editorial office to responsibility under Russian Federation laws.

(Clause 7 of Article 60).

The law provides that electoral associations, electoral blocs which have not received the necessary number of votes according to the voting returns and have not taken part in the distribution of deputy mandates or which have recalled their federal list of candidates without any compelling reasons must fully compensate the TV and radio companies and the editorial offices of print media for the cost of free air time and free space provided to them. The Central Election Commission will furnish the information about such electoral associations and blocs to the TV and radio companies and the editorial offices of print media within three days after official publication of the general election results (Clauses 5, 7 of Article 67).

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