General Guide For International Observers
The Election Of President Of The Russian Federation
16 June 1996
International Founda Tion For Election Systems
1101 15th St., N.W., 3rd Floor, Washington, D.C. 20005
This brief guide has been prepared to provide you general information about the election process in the Russian Federation. It also provides a brief description of some of the procedures which will be followed by officials on election day during the election of president on 16 June 1996. . Finally, it offers you suggestions about the kinds of questions or points of examination you may wish to pursue as you conduct your observations. It is offered only as a supplement to the guidance you have been given by your sponsoring organization. In addition, although this guide attempts to identify some key areas which will more than likely deserve attention, you will need to adapt your work to particular circumstances as you encounter them.
The presence of observers serves multiple purposes:
- to provide openness and transparency for the public, candidates, and electoral associations (parties), blocs and citizen initiative groups who have nominated a candidate for president:
- to raise public confidence in the process;
- to deter those who would engage in improper practices or fraudulent activities;
- to reduce opportunities for frivolous or misguided allegations of impropriety; and,
- to provide information on which lawmakers, election officials and activists can assess the process and plan for future improvements.
As a delegate from a foreign state or international organization, you serve in a unique capacity. The presence of international observers takes on an important significance because citizens, officials and election participants look to your views as key to the evaluation of the freeness and fairness of the election. Sometimes, the very presence of international observers is perceived as «legitimizing» the process. Therefore, it is very important that your efforts be unbiased, thoughtful and thorough if your observations are to be meaningful.
Scope of Observation
The first objective of neutral observation is to monitor election activities from a positive perspective. With this view as a starting point, the second objective is to identify circumstances, issues or irregular practices that jeopardize or hinder the fair and fair conduct of the elections. This is particularly important if irregularities appear to be deliberate, pervasive or part of an organized scheme.
In fulfilling these key objectives, it is also important to consider that the elections do not begin and end with the conduct of the poll on election day. To evaluate the election, therefore, observers should familiarize themselves with the political context in which the elections are taking place, the legal framework underpinning the elections, and the pre-election and campaign environments.
To prepare yourself for a successful observation effort on election day, there are a number of activities you should pursue. The scope of your pre-election enquiries can be quite broad. Be sure to read the Constitution and laws related to the conduct of the elections. These should be available from the Central Election Commission or your sponsoring organization. If possible, try to arrange for meetings with key election participants such as Election Officials at central, subject territorial and precinct levels, a variety of electoral associations and initiative groups who have nominated candidates, human rights organizations and other politically active organizations. Try to assess their attitudes and general confidence in the process.
Attempt to ascertain the how the media is handling the coverage of the process and whether campaign coverage appears to be open and fair. Determine what civic education efforts appear to have been made and how well citizens appear to be motivated. As you pursue your activities you will become aware of other areas of investigation which only help to broaden your understanding of the election process as a whole, and assist you in assessing your findings in a meaningful context.
General Standards of Conduct for International Observers
As you carry out your mission it is important that you adhere to a few general standards which will ensure that your sensitive role is not compromised.
- Maintain absolute neutrality and impartiality throughout your observation mission.
- You are simply an observer. Observe, but never disrupt or interfere with the voting, counting or any other phases of the election process.
- Ask questions and express concerns, but do not instruct, give orders or attempt to countermand decisions of the election officials. Comments should generally be addressed to the chairman of the election commission.
- Be vigilant and take detailed notes regarding positive aspects of the process as well as those describing questionable or irregular voting or counting practices. Include information as to the place and time as well as identifying witnesses, if circumstances warrant them. Your conclusions should be based on verifiable, factual evidence.
- Recognize that some mistakes may be made by election officials because of inexperience or unfamiliarity with the new law, rather than because of any deliberate intention to compromise the integrity of the process. Do not treat every mistake or variation in established practice as deliberate cheating. When minor mistakes come to the attention of the chairmen of the precinct electoral commissions, they are usually prepared to correct the problem immediately.
- If serious problems are encountered at a particular polling site, you may choose to bring them to the attention of a superior election commission. You may want to consider contacting your delegation's headquarters for instructions or advice. Consider returning to the polling site later in the day, if serious concerns about irregularities or potential fraud justify another look or increased observer presence.
- On election day, refrain from contacts with the news media and follow the guidance given you by your sponsoring organization. If contact with a journalist is unavoidable, limit your remarks to information about the nature of your activity as an observer. Refrain from providing opinions to the news media as to the general fairness or honesty of the election based on your individual experiences or observations. Through your organization, you will have an opportunity to share your information immediately after the election. Follow the guidance of your sponsoring organization as to the reporting of your delegation's cumulative findings.
Rights of Observers Provided by the Law on the Election of President of the Russian Federation
Article 20 of this law provides for «Publicity in the Activities of Electoral Committees.» Under this article election committees are required to conduct their activities publicly and openly. Candidates, their attorneys and authorized representatives, as well a authorized representatives of public and electoral associations, electoral blocs, initiative voters' groups and representatives of mass media are entitled to be present at the sessions of the election committees.
On election day observers designated by candidates, public or electoral associations and blocs, international observers and representatives of the mass media are also entitled to be present at polling stations from the beginning of the work of the polling station election committee to the completion of processing of the documents of the voting results. According to the law, no preliminary notification of the intent to send an observer to a polling station is required.
In addition to these basic entitlement afforded by the law, observers are also entitled to:
- be present at voting by voters who cannot come to the polling place because of health reasons or other a circumstances;
- familiarize themselves with the voter lists;
- make suggestions or remarks to polling station election commissions;
- appeal actions or omissions of polling station election committees to higher election commissions.
The law restricts observers from interfering with the actions of polling station election commissions. However, its provisions also mandates that chairmen of the polling station election commissions are to consider suggestions of observers, even if they warrant hearing at a session of the polling station commission.
Resolution of the Central Election Commission Regarding Activities of Foreign Observers
On February 26,1996, the Central Election Commission adopted Resolution No. 79/642-II clarifying the rights of international and national governmental and non-governmental organizations and individuals who will be participating as observers during the Election of President. During their presence on the territory of the Russian Federation, international observers will be afforded state protection.
Under this resolution certain general rules will apply.
- Individuals serving as international observers are to be accredited by the Central Election Commission.
- Each accredited foreign observer will be issued an official Credential Card approved by the Central Election Commission which will serve as the person's authorization to engage in observer activities.
- International observers perform their duties independently.
- Financial support of foreign observers is provided by their sponsoring organizations or by the individuals themselves.
- International observers are not allowed to use their status for activities which are not connected to the observation of elections.
- The Central Election Commission has the right to withdraw accreditation from an international observer in case the person violates the Constitution of the Russian Federation, federal election laws, or universally recognized principles and norms of international law.
Under the Central Election Commission's Resolution international observers are afforded the following rights:
- to be in a polling station on election day;
- to observe the vote counting and the issuance of the final protocols containing election results;
- to meet the candidates of the presidential elections of the Russian Federation, authorized representatives of electoral associations, electoral blocs and initiative groups of voters;
- to offer comments and express opinions and conclusions on the process and results of the voting to chairmen of electoral commissions;
- to conduct press conferences and present reports and materials to the mass media;
- after the election, to inform the Central Election Commission about findings and conclusions regarding the protection of electoral rights of Russian citizens.
2. Brief Overview of the Election System
At the foundation of the legal framework for the conduct of elections is the Federal Law on the Basic Guarantees of the Electoral Rights of the Citizens of the Russian Federation. This legislation which was signed into law in December of 1994 establishes the principles on which all elections in the Russian Federation are to be based. This law is fundamentally a «voting rights act,» elaborating on guiding principles for the enactment and implementation of electoral laws. Among the constitutional rights affecting citizens as voters are:
- recognition that the observation and protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens are the obligation of the state;
- adoption of political pluralism and multi-partyism as a basis for the political system;
- guaranteed freedoms of thought and speech;
- freedom of the mass media and prohibition of censorship;
- the right of association and freedom of activity of public associations;
- the right to peaceful assembly, without weapons, and the rights to hold rallies, meetings, demonstrations, marches and pickets;
- the right to elect and to be elected;
- the rights of citizens to participate in managing state affairs both directly and through their representatives.
The Law on Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights of Citizens provides the ground rules or the application of electoral laws guaranteed to protect the constitutional rights of citizens to elect and to be elected to the bodies of state power and local bodies of self-government. In its preamble, this Law on states:
«Free democratic elections of the bodies of state power and the elective bodies of local self-government of the Russian Federation shall be the supreme and direct expression by the nation of the power belonging thereto. The State shall guarantee free will of the electing citizens through the protection of democratic principles and standards of the electoral right.»
In augmenting the guarantees provided by the constitution, the Law on Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights provides for equal, direct and voluntary participation in elections. It also provides for universal suffrage for citizens at least 18 years of age and provides protection against discrimination. The only citizens precluded from voting are those who have been found incompetent or who are imprisoned by decision of a court. Under the law voters are afforded the right to participate in elections on an equal basis and by secret ballot to eliminate any control over the expression of their free will.
The principles and legal directives of this legislation underpin all other electoral laws subsequently enacted to guide the conduct of specific types of elections such as elections of deputies to the State Duma and the election of the president. The Law on Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights also guides the application of laws enacted by local elective bodies for conduct of election of governors and representative bodies of state power at the local level. Included under its umbrella are general provisions which:
- elaborate on the administrative organization and responsibilities of electoral commissions in the conduct of elections and ensuring the protection of the electoral rights of citizens;
- establish fundamental principles for forming electoral districts and precincts;
- form the basis for the creation of voter lists;
- provide for transparency and openness of the elections and create opportunities for election partisan as well as neutral observers;
- elaborate on the general rules for the nomination and registration of candidates;
- establish conditions for pre-election campaigns and candidate use of the mass media;
- dictate general guidelines of funding elections and campaign fund-raising and expenditures; and,
- define basic polling, vote counting and summarization procedures.
Based on the general principles encompassed in this law, specific legislation has been adopted to more definitively direct the conduct of each type of election. The Law on the Election of President under which the 16 June 1996 election will be conducted, was signed into law in December 1995. It further augments the rights of citizens by ensuring their right to freely participate in the electoral process and to vote for or against a candidate independent of any control over the exercise of their free will. The law also provides citizens and public associations the right to participate in pre-election campaigns and to engage in any legal activity encouraging voters to vote for or against candidates for president. Under its provisions, candidates and electoral associations are guaranteed equal access to state mass media.
Elections are administered by a hierarchy of election commissions supported by an administrative staff at the Central Election Commission level and by local executive authorities at the subject, territorial and precinct levels. The Russian Federation is divided into 89 subjects, which have been subdivided into ____ territories. The territories within the subjects represent cities, raions and other local administrative units. There will be over 95,000 polling stations established for the presidential election involving the recruitment and organization of approximately 3/4 of a million polling station officials. Each polling site may serve up to 3,000 voters. Under the law, special polling stations may be formed in diplomatic and consular offices outside the Russian Federation, on vessels at sea, military installations and polar stations, as well as at hospitals, sanatoriums, rest homes, and university residence facilities.
A key feature of the electoral commission structure in the Russian Federation is the potential for involvement of representatives of the candidates on electoral commissions at every level. Each registered candidate for the office of president is entitled to appoint one representative to each election commission. These representative members have the right of deliberative vote for the purpose of debate and discussion of issues and policy questions that may arise. However, they do not serve as members with deciding vote.
Opportunities for this type of representative participation are afforded all registered candidates participation who can appoint their delegates to serve with the Central Election Commission as well as at the subject, territorial and precinct commission levels. Although their representatives do not have the right of a deciding vote, through there participation candidates can remain fully informed with reared to the actions and decisions being taken by electoral commissions and the interests of all candidates can be equally represented.
Working Organization Within Electoral Commissions
The chairmen, vice chairmen and secretaries of individual commissions are elected by secret vote from among their appointed membership with deciding vote at their first session. Representatives and attorneys of the candidates, representatives of electoral associations and blocs, initiative groups and mass media are entitled to be present at sessions of electoral commissions. Sessions may be held by electoral commissions as long as a majorityofits members with deciding vote are present. Decisions are adopted by an open vote and are decided by a simple majority. In the event that there is a tie among the voting members present, the vote of the Chairman is the deciding vote. Any member who disagrees with a decision of the commission has the right to express his dissention in writing. It is the responsibility of the Chairman to advise a higher election commission of the dissenting opinion within three days. If the dissention occurs in less than three days prior to the election, notice must be given to the higher commission immediately. Any decision of a commission may be appealed to a higher commission. If a decision of an election commission is found to be in conflict with federal laws or is adopted outside the commission's authority or competence, it is subject to cancellation by a higher election commission or by a court of law. Representatives of the concerned parties are entitled to be present during adjudication of complaints or grievances.
The Central Election Commission
At the top of the hierarchy is the Central Election Commission (CEC) whose membership is governed by the Law on Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights of Citizens. It is comprised of 15 members. Five members are appointed by the State Duma of the Federal Assembly selected from among nominees proposed by associations of deputies within the Duma. Five members are appointed by the Federation Council, the upper house of the legislative body. The Federation Council, presently comprised of the governors and presidents of the elective bodies of Subjects of the Russian Federation , select their 5 members of the Central Election Commission from nominees proposed by the legislative and executive bodies of the Subjects. The additional five members of the Commission are appointed directly by the President of the Russian Federation.
Under the Law on Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights of Citizens, members of the Central Election Commission must have a higher juridical education or a degree in law. The Central Election Commission is recognized under the law as a «legal entity» and acts on a permanent basis.
The CEC is charged with responsibility to organize the preparations for the conduct of the elections, and to guide the activities of lower level commissions, establish policy and oversee the uniform application of election legislation. Within its competence, the CEC is also authorized to adopt decisions which are, in turn, binding on lower commissions, state bodies and bodies of local government, public associations, state enterprises, agencies and organizations throughout the Federation. Under the law, the CEC is authorized to issue instructions and other normative acts on questions of application of the law. In addition, the CEC registers electoral blocs as well as the candidates for the office of president. In coordination with Subject Electoral Commissions, the CEC organizes the national system for the registration of voters.
The CEC bears the burden for significant administrative and logistic management functions including distribution and use of funds allocated from the federal budget for the conduct of the election, and provision of lower level commissions with facilities, transport, communications and other material and technical support. Although actual printing is accomplished through lower level commissions, the design and content of forms, protocols and other election documents as well as the text of the ballots are the responsibility of the Central Electoral Commission.
The Commission is vested with the authority to adjudicate complaints or appeals regarding decisions or actions of subordinate election commissions. As warranted, the CEC is authorized to take decisions regarding complaints Ultimately, the CEC has the authority to override decisions of lower commissions.
Under the law, it is the CEC which is mandated to establish uniform procedures for the processing of the election results. They are also required to make the announcement of final results in the mass media and establish the process for the transfer of documents related to the conduct of the election to archives. As necessary the CEC is also responsible for organizing repeated voting and second round elections.
Lower Level Commissions
For the presidential elections there are 3 subordinate levels of electoral commissions:
Subject Electoral Commissions(SEC), Territorial Electoral Commissions (TEC) and Polling Station Electoral Commissions (PSEC.)
- Subject Electoral Commissions are appointed to serve in each of the 89 Subjects of the Russian Federation. Comprised of 10 to 14 members who are appointed by the representative and executive bodies of the subjects who must take into account the suggestions of public organizations, elective bodies of local governments, meetings of voters at places of work, service, study or residence. At least ½ of the members of the SECs must be appointed by the representative bodies of the relevant Subjects. As a general rule, Chairman, his Deputy and a secretary of the Subject Electoral Commissions are required to have a higher legal education. Their members serve 4 year terms.
The SEC provides for the interaction of the Central Electoral Commission with the bodies of state power within the subjects, and coordinates the activities of subordinate electoral commissions within the boundaries of the Subject. The are vested with the authority to hear complaints and adjudicate disputes regarding actions or decisions of lower commissions and to overturn their decisions when warranted. It is the Subject Electoral Committee that is responsible for the printing and distribution of the ballots in the format directed by the CEC. The SECs enumerate the polling stations within their jurisdiction and will ultimately be responsible to summarize the voting results within the Subject as a whole.
- Territorial Electoral Commissions are appointed each territorial subdivision within the Subjects. A TEC has 5 to 9 members who are appointed by the elective body of local government within the city, raion or other local unit making up the territory. The elective bodies are required to take into consideration the suggestions of public associations, and meetings of voters at places of work, service, study and residence in making their appointments. Based on a joint decision of a Subject Commission and Central Electoral Commission, more than one Territorial Electoral Commission can be established within an administrative territorial unit if the area has an exceptionally large number of voters.
The TECs inform the voters as to the locations of the polling stations. They are also responsible for ensuring that ballots, materials and supplies are distributed to the polling sites and oversee the work of Polling Station Election Commissions within their territories. The Territorial Electoral Commissions play a key role in providing for equal legal conditions for the pre-election campaigns of the candidates at the territorial level through coordination with their supervisory Subject Electoral Commission. In addition, the TEC is authorized to hear complaints about actions or decisions taken by Polling Station Commissions and may overturn their decisions as warranted. The TEC is responsible for summarization of the election results reported from the precincts within their jurisdictions. The terms of TEC members expire after the official publication of results of the election of the President.
- Polling Station Electoral Commissions have 5 to 9 members who are appointed by the elective bodies of local government who are also required to consider the suggestions from public associations and citizens groups. The PSEC plays a significant role in notifying voters about its members, working hours as well as the polling hours and location of voting on election day. They also compile the final list of voters assigned to the voting station and make the list available for public scrutiny so that errors and omissions can be corrected. On election day, the PSEC is responsible for organization of the polling station, processing of voters, and the counting of votes at the end of the voting day. The terms of PSEC members expire after the official results of the election of President are published.
Nomination of Candidates
To run for the office of President, a person must be a citizen at least 35 years of age, who has resided within the Russian Federation for at least ten years. Candidates may be nominated by
- electoral associations (political parties) which were registered by the Ministry of Justice at least 6 months prior to the announcement of the day of the election and whose charters provide for participation in elections through the nomination of candidates;
- electoral blocs made up of two or more qualified electoral associations; or,
- initiative voters' groups formed by at least 100 citizens who are eligible to vote.
Decisions to form electoral blocs are adopted at the congresses (conferences) of the electoral associations involved. Blocs are registered by the Central Electoral Commission upon receipt of the minutes of those conferences where the decision to form the blocs were adopted.
Registration of Nominating Groups
Each electoral association or bloc is entitled to nominate one candidate for president who need not be one of their members. Electoral associations and blocs intending to nominate a candidate for president submit an application to the Central Election Commission. Documents related to the candidate being nominated must include the candidate's full name place of work, occupation or office held and place of residence. In addition to the minutes of the nominating conferences, they are also required to submit identification data regarding their authorized representatives who will represent them in all election-related matters, copies of the certificates of the registration of the associations by the Ministry of Justice, copies of their charters, and powers of attorney for their authorized representatives.
Initiative voters' groups submit similar information to the Central Electoral Commission regarding their proposed candidate, and identifying their members by providing their full names, dates of birth, places of residence, and passport or identification numbers. A single candidate may be nominated by more than one voters' initiative group, however, each group must complete the nomination process separately. No provisions exist in law for the merging of voters' initiative groups even if they propose the same candidate.
Upon verifying that application documents are in satisfactory order, the Central Electoral Commission registers the authorized representatives of the electoral associations, blocs and voters' initiative groups that have successful applied and issues registration certificates to them. If an application is rejected, the CEC issues its decision to the association, bloc or initiative group. A refusal of registration may be appealed to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.
Collection of Signatures on Nominating Petitions
Immediately upon the registration of their authorized representatives electoral associations, blocs and voters' initiative groups embark on the next phase of the nomination process. The nominations of candidates for president must be supported by petitions containing not less than 1 million signatures of qualified voters from at least 15 subjects. No more than 7% of the total number of required signatures may come from voters residing in any one Subject of the Russian Federation. Supporters may also gather signatures from qualified voters residing outside the Federation. Signatures supporting the nomination of a candidate may not be acquired prior to the registration of the authorized representatives of the nominating organization. If a single candidate has been nominated by more than one group, each nominating organization must gather the required number of signatures separately.
Voters may sign nominating petitions for more than one candidate, however are prohibited from signing more than one petition for the same candidate. Signatures may be collected by any voter authorized by the nominating organization. Each signature sheet must contain the full name, date of birth, place of work, occupation or office held and place of residence of the candidate as well as the name of the Subject in which the signatures are being gathered. In addition, the name of the electoral association or bloc supporting the candidate must be identified. Each sheet must also contain the full name of the person collecting the signature, with his or her address and passport or other identification number as well as confirmation by an authorized representative of the nominating organization.
The law authorizes the gathering of signatures at places of work, service, study or residence as well as at pre-election events and other places not specifically prohibited by law. Administrations and work groups of enterprises, agencies and organizations are required to make suitable arrangements for the collection of signatures on an equal basis for all candidates. The law specifically prohibits the forcing or bribing of any citizen for the purposes of soliciting his or her signature.
Petitions containing the signatures of qualified voters must be organized, bound and numbered by Subject. The authorized representatives of the nominating group are responsible for counting and preparing a protocol which reports the number of signatures gathered in each Subject, the number gathered from qualified voters outside the Russian Federation and the number of total signatures contained in the petition. The submission must be accompanied by an application of the candidate's consent to be nominated. In addition, the candidate must submit a declaration of income for the two years preceding the year of the election. The deadline for submission of the petitions and related documents to the Central Electoral Commission is 60 days prior to the election.
Registration of the Candidate
Within 10 days of the receipt of the petitions and related documents, the Central Election Commission must rule on the registration of the candidate. Under the law the CEC is required to review the petitions to determine whether they comply with the legal requirements. Authorized representatives of the nominating groups, proposed candidates and their attorneys are entitled to be present during the review. If doubts arise regarding the validity of the signatures contained in the petitions or the accuracy of information provided, the CEC is authorized to organize a more detailed review. The CEC must make its decision regarding the registration or rejection of the candidate within 10 days. A refusal to register a candidate may be appealed to the Supreme Court where adjudication must be accomplished within 3 days. Under Article 35 of the Law on the Election of President, the ruling of the Supreme Court is final.
Every registered candidate is issued a certificate of registration indicating the date and time of registration. Information about the registration of a candidate must be published in the mass media within 2 days of registration. It is only after receipt of the official certificate of registration that the candidate may begin to campaign officially.
For this presidential election a total of 78 applications were submitted by associations and voters' initiative groups seeking to nominate a candidate. Of that number only 14 completed the process and submitted nominating petitions. Of that number 5 were rejected by the Central Election Commission. The refusal to register candidates was appealed to the Supreme Court in 5 cases. Ultimately, 11 candidates were successful in gaining access to the ballot for the 16 June 1996 election.
The Pre-Election Campaign
From the date of their registration candidates holding a state or municipal office or working in the mass media (with exception of President of Russian Federation) are relieved from performance of their normal duties during their term of their participation in the election campaign. Other candidates are also relieved from their normal work, including military service, from the date of their registration to the date of publication of official election results. During this period, candidates receive monetary reimbursement from the Central Electoral Commission in the amount of the person's average monthly income up to 20 times the minimum wage set by federal law as of the date of setting the election. The law also provides that no candidate may use the advantage of his or her office or official standing during the pre-election campaign. This provision also covers an incumbent president seeking a second term. A candidate may not be permanently dismissed from his job or transferred without his or her consent during the period of the election. Nor may a candidate be drafted into military service.
Under the law the candidate is immune to prosecution, arrest or administrative punishment imposed by the court without the consent of the Procurator General. If such consent is given, the procurator General is obliged to notify the Central Electoral Commission. The law further protects candidates by dictating that the time period of their participation in the election is to included in their length of service where he or she had worked prior to the date of registration. Candidates are also entitled to free use of public transportation during the campaign period. Payment for the trips within the territory of the Russian Federation is paid by the Central Electoral Commission from the general funds allocated for conduct of the election.
Each candidate is entitled to appoint up to 200 attorneys to assist them in their pre-election campaigns and represent their interests throughout the election cycle. The candidate must submit an application for each attorney accompanied by a document acknowledging the consent of the person to serve in this capacity. The Central Electoral Commission issues each attorney a registration certificate. At their requests, attorneys must be granted unpaid leave by their employers.
Campaign Activities and Use of Mass Media
The Law on Election of President provides that candidates, electoral associations, blocs and voters' initiative groups are entitled to conduct campaigns freely. Restrictions from participation in conduct of political campaigns cover federal, subject and bodies of local governments as well as officials in the process of fulfilling their official duties. In addition, military units and institutions, charitable organizations and religious associations are precluded from engaging in political campaigns or distributing campaign propaganda, as are members of electoral commission. Under the law campaigning may include use of the mass media, public pre-election events such as assemblies, meetings with voters, debates, demonstrations and marches, and distribution of print and audio/visual materials. All forms of campaigning must end by 12 p.m. local time on the day preceding election day and is prohibited on polling day.
Under the law candidates are granted a pre-determined amount of equal broadcasting time at no charge on radio and television channels that are financed from the federation and subject budgets. They are also entitled to purchase additional air time, including broadcast time on municipal television and radio.
Candidates and the nominating organizations are entitled to determine the form and content of their campaign messages. Programs giving information on the conduct of pre-election campaigns by candidates or nominating organizations are to be aired in a separate bloc of time and any interruption of this kind of programming with commercial advertising for goods or services.
With regard to print media, publications established by legislative bodies, executive authorities or the judiciary for their official notifications, normative acts, and materials are not entitled to publish any pre-election campaign materials. In addition, publications and papers founded or co-founded by state or municipal bodies, state enterprises agencies or organizations who have granted a candidate or nominating organization space for their campaign messages may not refuse to grant space to others. Rather, they must provide space under the same conditions and in the most immediate subsequent issues as possible.
State and local government bodies are required to provide assistance in arranging appropriate facilities and opportunities for pre-election assemblies and meetings. Suitable premises owned by state or municipal authorities, state enterprises, agencies and organizations must b provided for such events free of charge.
The law applies a number of restrictions related to conduct of the pre-election campaigns and the content of propaganda promoted by the candidates and their nominating groups. Among the restricted activities are campaigns containing messages that appeal to violent change in the principles of the constitutional system or breach of the integrity of the Russian Federation, proclamations of social, racial, national, religious or lingual superiority, or information advocating social, racial, national or religious hatreds. It is also prohibited to attempt to influence voters through free or preferential offers of goods or services, securities or payment of any kind. Candidates, electoral associations, blocs and voters' initiative groups may also be held liable under the Civil and Criminal Codes for violations during the pre-election campaigns.
Dissemination of anonymous or counterfeit printed propaganda materials is prohibited under the law. The laws also restrict journalists, officials on boards of editors of mass media, and creative staff of state television and radio who are candidates or attorneys of candidates from participating in any reporting on the election. Misuse of the freedom to use mass media or violations of the laws and regulations guiding pre-election campaigns can result in severe penalties. The law places responsibility for the exercise of control over adherence to the rules with election commissions. By law, they are entitled to take measures to prevent unlawful propaganda activities and to appeal to relevant bodies, agencies and enforcement authorities to prevent continued. Ultimately, the Central Electoral Commission may appeal to the Supreme Court to rescind the registration of candidate should violations continue to occur.
Campaigns of the candidates are supported by funds allocated to each candidate from the budget of the Central Electoral Committee as well as funds derived from other sources. Candidates are entitled to use their own funds which may not exceed 1000 times the minimum salaries established by law. In addition, candidates may accept contributions from the electoral association, bloc or voters' initiative group how nominated him. These contributions are limited to 50 thousand times the minimum salary. Voluntary donations from private individuals as well as from legal entities may also be accepted up to limits established by the law. The maximum amount that may be spent by the candidate for his or her campaign may not be more than 250 thousand times the minimum salary prescribed by law as of the date of the election. Donations are prohibited from:
- foreign states, organizations and citizens:
- Russian legal entities whose registered capital assets include a foreign investment share of 30% or more;
- international organizations and international public movements;
- bodies of local government and state or municipal enterprises, agencies and organizations;
- military units, institutions and organizations; and,
- charitable or religious organizations and associations.
Each candidate is required to place all election funds, regardless of the source, into a special temporary account in a division of the Savings Bank of the Russian Federation. All contributions and expenditures are to be deposited and expended through this account. The Banks are required by law to report all credits to the account to the Central Electoral Commission within 3 days of the deposit. They are also required to make written report of the expenditures processed though the account.
Within 30 days after the publication of election results, the candidates are to submit a full report of all campaign funds and expenditures to the Central Electoral Commission who is required to provide the information to the mass media. Unexpended funds in the amount proportional to the funds initially allocated from the state are ultimately transferred to the account of the Central Electoral Commission. If additional campaign funds remain unused, they must be transferred by the candidate to the individuals and organizations who had made the contribution in proportion to their donations.
Candidates are not allowed to use other monetary resources outside those deposited and expended through their campaign fund account. Anonymous contributions revert back to the revenues of the state. Violations of the campaign finance laws can result in cancellation of the registration of the candidate, based on an appeal a ruling of the Supreme Court in response to an appeal by the Central Electoral Commission.
Elections are deemed valid only if more than 50% of the eligible voters appearing on the voters list participate.
In order to be elected, a candidate for president must receive the majority, or more than 50%, of all the votes cast. If no candidate receives enough votes to be elected, the two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes run against each other in a run-off election known as «repeated voting.»
To win in the repeated voting, a candidate receiving the majority of votes is elected as long as the number of votes he or she received is greater than the number of votes marked for the choice offered on the ballot «against all candidates.» If only one candidate remains due to the withdrawal of the other candidate slated for the repeat voting, the second place on the ballot will go the candidate who received the next greatest number of ballots in the first round.
In the event that the 50% threshold was not met in the first round election, or no candidate has been elected on the basis of the initial election or second round, the entire election process must be repeated. A repeated election must be held no later than 4 months after the day of the original election, under the same procedures required under the federal law. However, nomination criteria may be cut by one third. Under the law, candidates whose actions or in actions served as the basis for declaring the initial election and repeated voting void are precluded from being nominated for the repeat election.
Registration of Voters
Voter lists are prepared by the Polling Station Election Commissions for the eligible voters residing within the boundaries of the precinct served by the polling station. The inclusion of a voter's name on the list is based on information provided by the local executive bodies. Compilation of the voter lists may be in alphabetical order or in some other order such as by address or in order of streets or settlements. The list includes each voter's surname, first name, patronymic name, year of birth (including the date of birth for voters who are 18) and address of permanent residence. Copies of the voters lists are made in duplicate with one copy being retained by the Polling Station Electoral Commission, and the other being provided to the respective Territorial Electoral Commission.
Full time students living in dormitories are identified on lists established for the location of the dormitory. Individuals serving in the military and living on the premises as well as their families are added to lists based on information provided by the commanders of military units. The voter lists prepared for precincts set up in hospitals, sanatoriums and isolated sites, and diplomatic missions outside the Federation are compiled based on information provided by the heads of those institutions and missions.
Voters are given the opportunity to verify their inclusion on the voter lists or request appropriate corrections, and have the right to appeal any adverse decision which affects them. Voters lists for the election of president are made available for public scrutiny not later than 30 days prior to the election. Should the application of a citizen to be added to the voter list be refused by the Polling Station Electoral Commission, the voter will receive written notice of the rejection within 24 hours.
Special Voter Services
Voters who are ill or otherwise incapacitated may apply orally to have a ballot brought to them at home on election day. An request to vote outside the polling station must be confirmed by the voter in writing in writing upon arrival of the members of the commission at the indicated address. The written application must contain the same information about the voter as contained on the voter list and must be signed by the voter acknowledging receipt of the ballot. Officials delivering ballots to voters voting outside the polling station are required to sign a receipt for a number of ballots equal to the number of applications. An accounting of the number of used and unused ballots allocated for the purposes of assisting voters at home are to be reported on a separate statement. In addition, a notation that the voter voted outside the polling station is made on the voters list. Polling stations are equipped with a small, mobile ballot box which is used for this purpose. Authorized observers are allowed to be present for voting that takes place outside the polling place.
A voter who discovers within 30 days prior to the election that he will not be able to come to his regular polling station on election day, may receive a free certificate of the right to participate in the election of president. At the time the certificate is issued to the issued the voter is asked to sign the voters list acknowledging his receipt of the document. Issuance of the certificate is also noted in a special register. Upon presentation of the certificate at any polling station on election day, the voter will be added to the voter list for that station and will be allowed to vote.
Election Commissions of the Subjects of the Russian Federation are entitled to permit early voting on vessels of the commercial, fishing, scientific research, navy and river fleets which will be on expeditions, at foreign ports or polar stations, or at sea on the day of the election. Early voting may not be conducted sooner than 15 days before election day.
3. Opening of the Polls
The polling hours are from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time.
Polling stations are to be equipped with secrecy cabins or booths which will allow voters to cast their votes in secret. The voting cabin is supposed to be equipped with tables and writing accessories. Use of pencils for these purposes is not allowed. In the voting premises or immediately in front of it, the Polling Station Electoral Commission is to install a stand on which a sample of a completed voting ballot that does not contain the actual names of candidates running in the election is to be displayed. Information materials on all candidates are also to be available, however, the information on the candidates and their pre-election platforms may not contain specific campaign appeals.
Before voting begins on election day, the Chairman of the Polling Station Electoral Commission ensures that several tasks are completed. Members of the election commission, voters and authorized observers are entitled to be present. The Chairman should display the empty ballot box to the members of the commission and the authorized observers prior to sealing it in their presence.
Suggestions for Observers
- Begin your observations even before you arrive at the polling station. Survey the town or neighborhood for evidence of campaigning or suspicious activity nearby. Take note of any buses or carloads of voters approaching the polling place or any unusual number of voters coming to the polling station from one particular place.
- Note the location, accessibility and sufficiency of the polling station. Observe indications of disorganization such as unusually long lines or people who appear to be milling around without purpose. Also note the presence of police or other government officials lingering at the polling station.
- Campaigning is prohibited beginning 00:00 a.m. on the day before the election and on election day. Look for presence of unauthorized partisan campaign materials such as candidate pamphlets, party literature or unofficial voter instructions. Take note of campaign activity or incentives which may be being offered to voters as they come to the polling site.
- Upon arrival, identify yourself, show your credentials and ask to speak with the Chairman of the Commission. With the least possible disruption of election activities, try to talk with other members of the commission as well as candidate's representatives and observers representing public associations. Look for peculiar signs of tension or dissention.
- Confirm that all persons working as election officials and issuing or handling ballots are duly appointed members of the commission.
- Notice whether there are individuals or groups lingering about who are not officials, voters waiting to vote or authorized observers.
- Take notice of the layout and organization of the polling site, including the division of tasks among commission members, placement of the tables and election materials, voting booths, and the ballot box. Determine if the layout provides for a reasonable flow of traffic, efficiency and adequate security of materials.
Does the layout and placement of the voting booths provide adequate privacy to safeguard the secrecy of a person's vote?
Is the ballot box in plain view of officials and observers?
Does the layout provide a clear view by observers? Are representatives of the candidates or electoral associations being restricted or hindered in their observations?
- Ask the chairman to verify and acknowledge the number of ballots initially received by the station and the number of total voters on the voter list.
4. The Ballots
Design and text of the ballots in the Russian language are determined by the Central Electoral Commission. Ballots are to be printed only one side. Ballots are delivered to the polling stations not later than 4 days prior to the election. The number of ballots issued to each station may not exceed the number of voters on the voters lists by more than 5%.
Based on a decision of the Subject Electoral Commission, ballots in republics which are part of the Russian Federation may be printed in the state language of the republic as well as in Russian. As necessary, ballots may also be printed in a second language in locations where minority populations are concentrated.
Ballots contain the full names of the registered candidates in alphabetical order. In addition, the candidate's place of work, occupation or title of office held, and residence address is listed. If the candidate was nominated by an electoral association or bloc, the name of the association or bloc is identified as is the candidate's affiliation to a specific political party or other public association. Candidates who are nominated directly a voters' initiative groups may include identification of party affiliation at their own discretion.
At the end of the listing of candidates, voters are offered the option of voting for «None of the Candidates.» Ballots also include instructions as to how they are to be marked. The ballots are traditionally not sequently numbered and are not generally padded or attached to a counterfoil. They are usually loose, and maintained in stacks.
Each ballot that is issued to a voter must be signed in the upper right hand comer by 2 members of the Commission and confirmed with the official stamp of the polling station. Usually the ballots are signed and stamped in advance.
In the event that a candidate withdraws from the race after the ballots are printed officials at the polling stations are instructed to cross out the information related to the withdrawn candidate by the Central Electoral Commission.
Voters mark their ballots by placing their mark in the box to the right of their choice.
Suggestions for Observers
- Observe the handling and method of issuance of the ballots. Are they handed to the voter by the official, or is the voter allowed to take the ballot from the pile himself?
- Note whether the ballots are maintained in tidy, secure piles. Are they secured from being handled by unauthorized persons?
- Determine if the ballots are appropriately signed by commission members and stamped with the official seal of the polling station. Determine when the required marks are affixed, before voting begins, or as the ballots are issued.
- Inquire as to when the ballots and other voting materials were received and how they were secured prior to election day.
5. Processing of Voters
Each voter is required to vote in person. Voting on behalf of another person is prohibited. In the event a voter is unable to vote without assistance, he is entitled to be accompanied by another person who is required to sign on the list of voters for receipt of the ballot next to the signature of the voter who is being assisted. The assistant may not be a member of the Polling Station Electoral Commission, an observer or representative the a candidate.
Each voter must present his or her passport or other type of identification in order to receive a ballot. The officials finds the voter's name on the voter list and requests the voter sign next to his or her name. If the voter requests it, the official will write the voter's identification number in the list next to the voter's name.
The voter is directed to the voting booth where he or she marks the ballot in private. Only one person is supposed to be in the voting booth at a time.
When the voter has completed marking the ballot, the voter deposits the ballot in the ballot box personally. The ballot box is supposed to be placed in plain view of the officials and observers who can ensure that the voter deposits the ballot before leaving the polling station.
Exceptions to the Routine
- If a voter recognizes that during the process of voting they have mismarked their ballot or the ballot is damaged in some way, they are entitled to return it to the election official and receive a new ballot. The official makes a notation on the list of voters in front of the name of the person who has been issued a replacement ballot and immediately renders the spoiled ballot void. The voided ballots will ultimately be enumerated during the preparation of the protocol at the end of the count.
- At some point during the polling hours, officials will take the mobile ballot box to assist voters who will be voting outside the polling station. Each voter voting outside the polling station is required to complete an application and sign the acknowledgment for the receipt of the ballot. When the voter has confirmed the application, he is given the ballot which he should mark in private. When the ballot has been marked the voter deposits the ballot in the mobile ballot box. Observers are allowed to accompany the mobile ballot box if they choose. Officials are required to sign a receipt for the number of ballots issued to them equal to the number of applications of voters voting outside the polling station. Upon return to the polling station officials are to account for the number of applications as well as the number of used and unused ballots on a separate statement. A notation is to be made in the voter list for each voter who voted outside the voting station.
- If a voter presents himself at the polling station but his name cannot be found on the voter list, he may be added to the list if he adequately demonstrate his eligibility through the presentation of appropriate identification establishing his residence within the precinct served by the polling station. In addition, voters who are away from their normal polling station on election day and who present their certificates of the right to participate will also be added to the list and allowed to vote.
Suggestions for Observers
- Ask how many voters are on the list and how many have actually presented themselves to vote. Write down the numbers and make a note of the time. As you proceed throughout the day you will get a feel for the turnout trend.
- Compare the total number of voters on the list and the number of voters who are noted on the list to have voted outside the polling station. Determine if there seems to be seemingly high number of voters voting outside the polling station. Ask to examine the lists and note how names have been so marked.
- Watch to see if voters are attempting to vote on behalf of others. Observe whether officials are allowing them to do so.
- Ask if anyone has been turned away because their name did not appear on the list or they did not have appropriate ID. Ask how these situations were handled and the problems were resolved.
- Note whether secrecy of the voters' votes is being maintained or whether people are being allowed to enter the voting booth together.
- Ask if anyone seems to be assisting more than one voter.
- If feasible, try to accompany the mobile ballot box and observe whether ballots are being properly accounted for, and note the procedures that are being followed.
- Determine if mobile voting is being used for its intended purpose, or also to solicit participation by voters as a means of increasing voter turnout to ensure that the 50% threshold is met.
- Ask the Chairman if there have been any disturbances, irregularities or complaints. Ask how they have been resolved.
- If confidentiality and discretion is possible, try to ask candidate and association observers if they have been generally satisfied with the processing of voters and the performance of the commission. Be aware of any unusual tension that might exist.
- Determine if undue pressure appears to be being applied to voters or if instructions
- given to voters appear to be tainted with unwarranted bias.
6. Counting the Votes
Ballots are counted at the polling station by the Polling Station Electoral Commission immediately after the close of the polls at 10:00 p.m. Any voters who remain in the polling station at that time who have not yet voted are allowed to cast their ballots. Authorized observers are allowed to remain present for the count.
Before the ballot boxes are opened and counting begins, the commission is required to count and render void all unused ballots in the presence of all authorized observers. The number of the unused ballots is to be declared and entered into the protocol which will ultimately be completed to report the results at the polling station. The commission then inspects the seals on the ballot boxes allowing those authorized to be present to verify that they have not been damaged. Ballot boxes are then opened in turn with the mobile ballot boxes being opened first.
Ballots from mobile ballot boxes are counted first. Their total number should not exceed the number of applications signed by voters voting outside the polling station. If the number of ballots contained in the mobile ballot boxes exceed the number of applications, they are to be declared null and void by a decision of the Polling Station Electoral Commission. An acknowledgment of the decision must be made in writing, and must include the names of the members of the commission responsible for assisting voters voting outside the polling station. The statement must be attached to the protocol of results reported for the polling station.
The votes are to be counted directly by members of the Polling Station Electoral Commission with the right of deciding vote without a break until the results are established. The actual manner in which counting is accomplished is left to the discretion of each Polling Station Commission. Generally speaking, however, during the counting the ballots are sorted by candidate and the stacks for each candidate are counted separately. A separate stack is created for ballots on which voters marked the box for «None of the Candidates.»
As each ballot is reviewed, the commission must make a determination as to whether the ballot can be counted or whether it must be declared invalid. A ballot is determined to be invalid if:
- it is not in the approved format (is not an official ballot);
- it does not contain the signatures of two commission members and the stamp of polling station;
- more than one choice is marked;
- it is left blank with no choice marked;
- the intent of the voter cannot be determined.
If there is a dispute with regard to whether a ballot should be accepted or rejected a decision is arrived at by a vote of commission members. When such a vote is necessary, if the ballot is determined to be invalid, the grounds on which the decision is based is to be written on the back side of the ballot. The notation must be signed by no less than 3 members of the commission.
Invalid ballots are maintained in a separate stack.
Completion of the Protocol
When the ballots have been counted, the officials complete the protocol of the election results. The protocol includes the following information:
- the number of voters on the voters lists including names that have been added during the course of the polling, (but excluding those voters originally on the list but who applied for a certificate of the right to participate because they would not be able to vote at their regular polling station on election day;)
- the total number of ballots originally issued to the polling station;
- the number of ballots issued to the voters at the polling station on election day verified by counting the number of signatures in the voter list;
- the number of ballots issued to voters outside the polling station;
- the number of ballots declared void;
- the number of ballots contained in the stationary ballot boxes, excluding ballots which are not in the official format;
- the number of ballots contained in the mobile ballot boxes, excluding those which are not in the official format;
- the total number of valid ballots;
- the total number of ballots determined to be invalid;
- the total number of ballots containing no marks at all;
- the full names of the candidates, and in the event of their similarity, other data necessary to distinguish them, and the number of votes each candidate received;
- the number of ballots cast for «none of the candidates.»
The protocols are prepared in triplicate in the presence of all authorized observers and signed by all members of the Polling Station Commission. Use of pencil for the completion of the protocols is not allowed. In addition, the protocols must be devoid of any corrections or erasures. Any member who does not agree with any or all of the information provided on the protocol is entitled to put his remarks in writing. A record is made of the dissenting opinion on the protocol and the written statement is attached to the first copy. In addition, certified copies of complaints and related decisions of the Polling Station Commission are also attached.
One copy of the protocol and relevant attachments are immediately forwarded to the Territorial Electoral Commission. The second copy along with the sealed voted ballots, lists of members of deciding votes, observers of the candidates, electoral associations, blocs, foreign observers and representatives of the mass media who were present for the counting is filed and kept by the secretary of the Polling Station Electoral Commission. The third copy of the protocol is made available for scrutiny by attorneys of the candidates, observers members of the commission with right of deliberative vote, and representatives of the mass media.
Ultimately, voting documents, including the ballots are transferred to the Territorial Electoral Committees no later than 10 days after the election.
Summarization of Results
Results for the territory as a whole are summarized by the Territorial Electoral Commissions who report their calculations to the respective Subject Electoral Commissions. The SECs summarize Subject-wide results which are then reported to the Central Election Commission. Ultimately, the Central Election determines and reports the final results for the Federation as a whole.
If at any point discrepancies are noted, or if there are reasons to doubt the results reported by a specific precinct, a recount can be ordered by a higher level commission. The recount will be conducted by the respective precinct commission in the presence of the superior commission members.