20 Frequently Asked Questions And Answers
Q. What is on the ballot for the December 19,1999 election in the Russian Federation?
A. This is a parliamentary election to select all 450 members of the State Duma (lower house of the Russian Parliament) for a four year term. Half of the Duma seats (225) will be filled by deputies elected in single-mandate election districts, while the other 225 seats will be allocated according to a system of proportional representation (PR). Under the PR system, voters cast their ballots for a political party's national list of candidates. There will be two separate ballots, one for voters to choose who they would like to have as a representative from their single-mandate election districts, and one to make a choice among the lists of candidates nominated by political parties.
Q. For the 225 single-mandate election districts, how is the winner determined?
A. The winner is the candidate with the highest vote tally (plurality) provided that more votes were cast for this candidate than against all candidates; there are no run-off elections. There are approximately 2,700 candidates running for the 225 single member seats, averaging 12 candidates per district (some districts have up to 29 candidates, others only two). The winner in each of the 225 single-mandate election districts will be separately declared by each District Election Commission.
Q. How are seats for party (federal) lists determined?
A. There are 26 registered electoral associations and blocs (i.e. political parties) competing on the federal ballot with a total of 3,699 candidates. Each party nominates a national election list of up to 270 candidates. The party determines the order of candidates on their list; only the top three names of party candidates are actually printed on the ballot. Each list contains 18 «federal candidates» while the remaining candidates must represent various regions. «Federal candidates» receive seats on a priority basis, while the ones running within a regional list receive seats according to their proportional support within the party.
Political parties must receive at least 5% of the votes cast to be eligible for the distribution of seats. However, if these political parties together represent less than 50% of the votes cast, then the threshold is gradually reduced down to a minimum of 3% of the voters in order to include as many parties as necessary until they collectively represent at least 50% or the voters.
The results of the federal list voting will be tabulated nationally by the CEC. Each party passing the threshold will gain seats in the new Duma. The number of seats will be adjusted proportionally among the winning political parties. First, the deputy seats received by a political party are distributed within the federal part of the list of candidates; then, the remaining seats are distributed between the candidates included in the regional groups.
Q. Is it allowed for a candidate to compete for a single-mandate election district seat AND to be included on an political party's federal list?
A. Yes. A candidate may be on political party's federal list and be registered as a candidate at the same time in one of the single member electoral districts, but must be nominated for both by the same party. If a candidate wins a single member seat, his/her name is dropped from the federal list, and the party's seat is filled by the next candidate on their list.
Q. How many voters are eligible to participate in the December 19 election?
A. Approximately 107 million people; the minimum age to participate in the elections is 18 years old.
Q. Is early voting permitted?
A. Yes. Early voting is allowed on a very limited basis and must be done in person (not by mail). It is allowed only in separate electoral precincts formed on ships which will be at sea on voting day, at polar stations, in remote and hard-to-reach localities. Early voting may also be organized for separate groups of voters included in the voter list of an electoral precinct, if they are located at places which are far away from the voting premises and are inaccessible or hard to reach by any means of transport. Early voting is held not more than 15 days prior to voting day. When early voting is conducted outside the voting premises people vote in mobile ballot boxes.
Q. When and where can voters use Absentee Certificates?
A voter who anticipates being away from his/her precinct on voting day may get an absentee certificate from the corresponding territorial election commission or precinct election commission up to one day prior to voting day. With an absentee certificate in hand, a voter can cast his ballot for the party list anywhere within the Russian Federation on December 19. If the voter is within the electoral district where he is registered, then s/he has the right to also cast a single-member district ballot on voting day. When issuing an absentee certificate, the precinct makes a special mark next to the name of the voter on the voter's list.
Q. Besides the two separate national ballots, will voting occur for any other offices?
A. In some regions elections for governor and mayor are being held concurrently and in these locations there will be separate ballots for each of these races. For example, in Tatarstan, there will be five separate elections - and ballots - held simultaneously on December 19,1999.
Q. Who is allowed to be an election observer and where may they observe?
A. Observers representing candidates and political parties, as well as international observers and mass media representatives, are entitled to be present at polling stations during voting, counting of the votes, and drafting of the election results protocols. Observers are entitled to access the third copy of the protocols from each level of election commission, although this often proves impractical in some locations.
Although observers are technically allowed to be present at each level of election commissions, space limitations could make it physically difficult to accommodate observers at the Territorial, District, and Subject level election commissions. Observers may not interfere with the work of these commissions; use common sense if crowded conditions arise, perhaps rotating various observers into the tabulation areas of the upper level commissions. The CEC in Moscow will set up a central election results release location.
Q. How many members sit on the Central Election Commission (CEC) and how were they appointed?
A. There are 15 members of the Central Election Commission; five each are appointed by the President, Duma and Federation Council; by law they must have a legal education. The three leadership positions of Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Secretary are selected by secret ballot cast by the 15 members. This current commission was formed hi March 1999; Alexander A. Veshniakov is the Chairman of the CEC.
Q. What are the levels of election commissions?
A. For Duma elections, there are five levels of election commissions:
The Central Election Commission (CEC); 89 Subject (Republics, Oblast, Krais, etc.) Election Commissions (SEC); 225 District (Constituency) Election Commissions (DEC); and more than 2,700 Territorial (cities, raions, villages, etc.) Election Commissions (TEC); and 93,500 Precinct Election Commissions (PEC).
Q. How are the ballots tabulated and election results transmitted up the election commission hierarchy?
A. Ballots are tabulated manually at each of the 93,500 precincts and results are compiled on precinct protocol forms. Ballots and protocol forms are then transmitted to one of the assigned 2700 Territorial Electoral Commissions. Typically between 30-50 precincts report to a Territorial Election Commission. They calculate the vote totals from precinct protocols and transmit the cumulative results to the appropriate District Election Commission (DECs - 225 constituencies). The DECs are responsible for declaring the winner of their single member electoral seat.
Each DEC transmits cumulative vote totals for the single-mandate election district directly to the Central Election Commission and the federal list balloting to one of 89 Subject Election Commissions (in less populated areas the SEC is joined with the DEC). The SECs then transmit the results to the CEC.
Q. Who is entitled to copies of election results?
A. The first copy of the protocol is taken to the appropriate Territorial Election Commission. The second copy of the protocol remains with the Precinct Election Commission. All categories of observers are entitled to access what is called the «third copy» of the election results «protocol» form. Poster-size copies of the protocol must be displayed at the voting premises after commencement of voting; data is entered concerning voting returns and the number of ballots received as it's available.
Q. What is the State Automated System (SAS) for accumulating vote totals?
A. A nationwide system of computers is linked together to transmit cumulative election results quickly to the CEC. Called the State Automated System (SAS), this computerized ballot accumulation system first employed in the 1995 elections to the State Duma in order to increase the both the speed and the accuracy of reporting election returns. Although ballot counting will still occur manually at all 93,500 Precinct Election Commissions (PECs), the election results (protocols) for the PECs will be data entered into computer terminals at the approximately 2,700 Territorial Election Commissions (TECs) and the results are transmitted to the CEC. Official election results, by law, must be compiled using the actual protocols up through the election commission hierarchy.
Q. When will election results be released?
A. UNOFFICIAL ELECTION RESULTS: Unofficial cumulative results are expected to begin to be reported at 9 p.m. Moscow time after the polls in the farthest western area of Kaliningrad close. TECs are required by law to report the accumulated vote total of the precincts in their territory within two days.
OFFICIAL ELECTION RESULTS: The general election results and the data concerning the number of votes received by each registered candidate, federal list of candidates and the number of votes cast against all candidates will be officially published by the Central Election Commission three weeks after voting day. Chairman Veshniakov has repeatedly promised to announce the results prior to the New Year.
Q. Is there a voter turnout requirement to validate the election results?
A. Yes. The minimum voter turnout threshold is 25%. For the 225 seats allocated to the political parties by proportional representation, the 25% is based on overall national voter turnout. If the voter turnout threshold is met and at least one political party exceeds 5% of the total votes cast, these 225 seats will be distributed according to the formula cited above.
For the 225 single-mandate election district seats, the voter turnout is determined separately in each district. If any district falls below 25%, the election to that seat is declared void and repeat elections must be conducted.
Q. When must campaigning end?
A. According to the election law, candidates, political parties, and political campaigns must cease campaign activity by midnight on December 17.
Q. May candidates and political parties have free media air time? Paid advertisement?
A. YES. Candidates and associations can have access to free air time on TV following strict allocation procedures established by the CEC. Furthermore, they can purchase advertising for up to twice the amount of free air time, which is available to them.
Q. What are the campaign finance requirements?
A. The revised State Duma election law requires political parties and candidates for single-mandate election districts to establish special election accounts in a state bank, (Sberbank). All receipts and expenditures for the campaign must go through these election funds, and total spending is limited by law. Account activity is reported to and monitored by the CEC and DECs. Political parties and candidates may receive funds allocated to them by election commissions, and may also receive donations from individuals and legal entities subject to specified limitations.
Q. How will the members of the Federation Council (upper house of the Russian Federal Assembly or parliament) be selected?
A. There are 178 seats in the Federation Council - two for each of the country's 89 republics Oblast, krais, okrugs, autonomous oblasts and autonomous okrugs. Chairpersons of the legislative bodies of state power and heads of bodies of executive power of the Subjects of the Russian Federation are included in the Federation Council ex officio.
USEFUL WEB SITES:
Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation: www.fci.ru International Foundation for Election Systems (Russia): www.ifes.ru Institute for Election Systems Development: www.democracy.ru
Material Developed by IFES Moscow