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17.10.2021, Sunday. Moscow time: 04:20

Life's Becoming More and More Fun

Updated: 02.10.2002
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The second round of gubernatorial elections in Krasnoyarsk Krai has taken place, the results have been drawn and the winners have been declared. This was a week ago - a pretty long term. Long enough to change something in the minds of the election authorities, which reported about the successful ending of the campaign. So now all of us have the opportunity to watch the circus.

What has happened in Krasnoyarsk?

The Election Commission started to search for the violations by the candidates (violations of campaign regulations and violations of financial and accounting reporting). And such violations have indeed been found - lots of them. After that the Election Commission session conducted by its vice-chairman Alexander Bugrey declared the results of the gubernatorial elections in Krasnoyarsk Krai invalid.

The Commission has stated the following:

    1. Illegal methods of campaigning were used.
    2. The administrative resource (capacity of a candidate being in office) was used (by candidate Khloponin in Timyr, for example).
    3. The regulations of campaign funding were violated.

And thus the Commission decided to declare the gubernatorial election invalid.

Currently different experts and organizations have started the discussions on the following:

    1. was the Commission right or wrong?
    2. are certain actions by the candidates and their agents legal or illegal?
    3. are certain violations substantial or minor ones?
    4. could or could not the revealed violations lead to misrepresentation of the voters' will?
    5. to what extent could the voters' will be misinterpreted?

The winner of the elections has brought the issue to court, so we can now see the start of the trials. There are different opinions on what level of court or other organization could issue the final decision on this matter:

  • the Krasnoyarsk Krai Court,
  • the Supreme Court,
  • the General Prosecutor's Office,
  • the Central Election Commission.

However, the problem, to our opinion, is much broader:

Why are such things possible? Why is it that practically each one of the election campaigns in Russia cannot go on smoothly, without any scandals or conflicts? Why the expert opinion during such conflicts is being asked from anyone , BUT the voters?

Let's discuss the legal framework of the elections

Are the events in Krasnoyarsk random or is it normality?
What is the probability rate for repetition of such conflict in the future?

Before we start discussing these questions, let us review the specific features of the legal framework for the Russian elections:

1. The latest version of the Federal Law On Basic Guarantees of the Electoral Rights and the Right for Referendum for the Citizens of the Russian Federation was enacted on July 22, 2002. However, the elections announced before this date are to be conducted under the old version of the Law. The gubernatorial elections in Krasnoyarsk Krai were announced in spring, thus they were regulated by the older version. The same is true for the Mayor's elections in Nizhny Novgorod. The first elections to be held according to the new version are the ones in the most Western subject of the Federation - Kaliningrad Oblast: on October 6 the Mayors of two cities - Kaliningrad and Sovestsk are to be elected. Soon after that we are to see the presidential elections in Kalmykiya (October 20) - to be held according to the older version of the Law, and elections to the Legislative Assembly of Krasnodar Krai (November 24) - to be held according to the new version of the Law.

2. The Election Commissions have received exclusively high authorities. They've got the right to eliminate the candidates from the lists (ballots). Elections administrations in other democratic countries cannot do such things, because they are in charge of organizing the election process and are not authorized to select the candidates. In Russia Election Commissions can eliminate the candidates off the ballots in the following cases:

    - violation of the campaign regulations,
    - violation of the elections funding regulations...

(Article 64.1 of the old version and Article 76.5 of the new version of the Federal Law On Basic Guarantees . . .).

At the same time the term campaigning is not clearly and univocally described be the Law: according to it campaigning means some activities aimed at ...(Art.2. of both old and new versions of the Law). Whether to attribute some specific activity to campaigning or not is to be decided either by Commission itself or by the Court.

3. On one hand, Russian law does not describe the term of administrative resource abuse. On the other hand, the law authorizes Election Commissions to punish candidates for using their official status in the purpose of their campaigning (Art. 64.1 of the old version and Art. 76.6. of the new version of the Law On Basic Guarantees ...).
The new version of the Law undertakes an attempt to regulate the abuse of administrative resource (for example, in case the candidate holds an official position he/she now must take an administrative leave for the period of campaigning). However, this can hardly be called a true defense from the abusing the official authorities: the officials have annual leaves regularly, but their real powers aren't terminated because of this. That is why the administrative resource is still used both for the campaigning purposes, for funding purposes and for making Election Commissions adopt certain resolutions.

4. The Russian law limits the electoral fund to the amount, which is dozen of times less the money actually used for campaigning (in Krasnoyarsk Krai the regional Law on gubernatorial elections provided for a limit of 20 million Rubles, which makes a small portion of the money really spent on each candidate's campaign). That is why practically EVERY ELECTION CAMPAIGN in Russia is financed with violations of the law. So it is the Election Commission who decides, whether to pay attention to such violations or to let them pass this time.

5. The electoral law is being reformed in such a way, so that the Election Commissions members are becoming more and more dependent on the federal and regional/local administration (according to the new version of the Federal Law On Basic Guarantees... they now have the status of government officials). In such conditions Election Commissions are turning into governmental agencies receiving the budget and other resources from the state (at the federal level), and receiving salaries, apartments, transport and other things from the regional/local governments.

6. The Election Commissions have got the right not only to execute their authorities (to count the votes and to declare the elections results), but also to judge on whether certain activities of a candidate are within the legal framework or are violating the law (the Commissions have the right to eliminate the candidates from the ballot or to declare the elections invalid). They continue to use such powers.

Only a very naïve person can believe that such holes in the legislation were made incidentally. It is always done on purpose: to enable the federal government or other key players to influence the situation and to denounce the election results in case they do not suit some important parties. Interpretation of the law should be the prerogative of the court, in our country, on the contrary, it becomes the prerogative of the executive power.

The enforced misrepresentation of the citizens will

So now we have got the system, which permits to influence the results of elections practically at any stage. Below you can find the three cases when Election Commission can reinforce its own will over the will of the voters:

1. For a formal reason a candidate (political party) can be eliminated from the ballot before the first round of elections.

2. For a formal reason a candidate may be eliminated from the ballot between the first and the second rounds.

3. The elections may be declared invalid (as it happened in Krasnoyarsk on Sunday, September 29, 2002).

All these methods have become really customary for Election Commissions, so practically there isn't an election campaign in Russia without them being used. They have become a system.

The system of ENFORCED MISREPRESENTATION of the citizens will. The system more dangerous, than just INFLUENCING the citizens will.

Influencing the citizens will

All of the three methods of misrepresentation listed above are hidden under the fatherly care about the citizens' minds. For some reason it is a priori stipulated that the results of elections are dependent not on what citizens think, but on what somebody puts into their heads during two months of the campaigning.

It is stipulated that in case one candidate puts 10 leaflets into the postboxes of the voters, and the other three candidates put only 5 leaflets, the citizens will definitely vote for the first one. So the only way to ensure the correct representation of the citizens' will is to eliminate the candidate who put 10 leaflets - and maybe a couple of those who put 5 leaving the ones which are suitable for the federal government or other interested parties. After which the second round of elections may be declared. But in case the suitable candidate doesn't win in the second round either, there still is the possibility to declare the elections invalid, because the law permits to put only 3 leaflets per each candidate.

But this approach is wrong. It would be much more productive to anticipate that the voters are not fools and are capable of making their choice independent of what methods the candidates use for campaigning and of how much money they spend.

Generally speaking, everyone understands this. Here is how the Chairman of Krasnoyarsk SEC G.M/ Kostrykin characterized the impact of election campaign technologies and funding over the voters' minds a week and a half ago: Yes, the so called Black PR has double bloomed. But what cheers me up is that such technologies today do not have any significant impact, I think, over the minds and hearts of the voters.
He acknowledged that the impact wasn't of any significance. And indeed, it may be a very dissatisfying job - to try to influence people's will. The enforced misrepresentation of the will is quite another thing, though. In such case the will of each specific voter doesn't really mean anything. For example, in case one candidate out of three (the one who is not wanted) is eliminated from the ballot, his voters would be divided between four groups: (1) the ones that won't vote; (2) the ones that will vote against everyone; (3) and (4) the ones that will vote for either one of the two remaining candidates.

Or let's take another case - declaring the elections invalid. In such case the unwanted votes are simply ignored. Declaring the invalidation of elections makes the unwanted candidate (winner) known to everyone, and further on he can be eliminated from the ballot using the first or the second way.

Now what?

The hole in the law may grow wider and wider, especially if it is not mended by the court judgments. Anyone who gets to know about such a hole starts using it. That's why we can anticipate more and more interesting and peculiar cases, when a candidate who is not wanted by either federal or regional/local power, is not able to become an elected official. It may be done by either one of the three listed methods (elimination off the ballot before the first round, elimination before the second round, invalidation of elections).


IESD Publication Invalidation of Elections, by legal experts Postnikov and Alekhicheva, is here.

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