Krasnoyarsk Crisis: Random or Normal?
Doctor of Legal Sciences
The decision of Krasnoyarsk Krai Election Commission on declaring the gubernatorial elections invalid came as a real thunderbolt out of a clear sky for most of us. However, it wasn't anything like a great sensation from the judicial point of view. The elections have been called invalid before. Today applying to courts with their appeals and claiming the elections invalid has become a common practice for many candidates having lost the elections, just like a «finishing touch» of the campaign.
The situation in Krasnoyarsk Krai is viewed as something extraordinary because of the special attention paid to this specific campaign and because the winner is pretty loyal to the federal center, so nobody really expected anything of such sort.
In other previous cases of invalidation of elections the public opinion has been much more tolerant: well, if they've called the elections invalid, it must have been something wrong there. The voluntary decisions on invalidation of elections were in many cases justified by the «willingness to put a barrier to criminals striving for power». The techniques of such cancellation of the results of the voting have been pretty well developed as of now. One can get a clearer and more detailed picture from a series of court decisions having been enacted in Primorsky Krai, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast and Yaroslavl Oblast (see the book by Postnikov and Alekhicheva on invalidation of elections). The general logic of those decisions was in stating several more or less significant violations of the electoral law during campaigning and the elections themselves, then all the facts were «piled up together» and one general conclusion was made about the impossibility to present the voters' will correctly and thus the impossibility to trust the results of the elections.
At the same time (with rare exclusions) no objective evidence of the impact the violations could have had on the citizens' will were ever provided. That is why the answer to the main question: is it possible to define the results of the voters' will authentically and accurately? - was, as rule, given subjectively, dependent on the court.
The fact that the decision on invalidation of elections was made by Krasnoyarsk Krai Election Commission looks more than questionable under the given circumstance. The major task of the election commissions is to organize the election process in full compliance with the acting law. During the period of campaign election commissions should undertake all possible measures to provide against the invalidation of elections. The situation in Krasnoyarsk Krai once again convinces us that it is completely wrong to grant the powers to invalidate the elections to the election commissions. The evidence proving that the violations could have influenced the voters' will should be reviewed by court only, with compliance with all the existing procedural guarantees.
If only we examine Krasnoyarsk crisis in depth, we should then acknowledge that it is just a natural result of the current development of the Russian electoral law. Unfortunately, its democratic potential has been substantially reduced during the last several years. The broad possibilities for cancellation of the registration of the candidates and for invalidation of elections by election commissions were presented to the public as measures protecting the citizens' rights and interests, so that no one gets a chance to cheat them. As a result we've witnessed numerous cases of cancellation of the candidates' registration and of elimination of them off the ballots, which in its turn leads to either very low turnout or to massive voting «against everyone». It is exactly this method of elimination of the candidates by canceling their registration that provides for manipulating the voters' will.
The extreme case of trampling upon the voters' will is intentional invalidation of elections without really significant grounds for that. Such practice doe not have any precedents in democratic countries. In order to avoid it substantial amending of the electoral law is required.
No one is allowed to turn election campaigns into the permanent struggle for eliminating the candidates off the ballots, and then for revision of the election results or for their invalidation. The federal legislation should stipulate serious barriers for such attempts to interfere with the expression of the voters' will. So the lessons of the Krasnoyarsk crisis should be learnt in Moscow first of all.