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05.12.2021, . 12:04

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Section III: Summary and Recommendations

As stated previously, the State Duma elections were generally conducted in a positive manner. This is due in large part to the professionalism that the CEC members and their staffs have developed in the six years since democratic elections were instituted in Russia. This professionalism is beginning to manifest itself at the lower election commissions, which is an indication of the success the CEC is having in carrying out its oversight function of sub-level commissions.

However, there remains a need for significant improvements in the elections process in Russia. For example, the «life or death» approach to penalties is still the main sanction mechanism used by election authorities and the courts. IFES has long argued that campaigning which represents a violation of election norms should result either in a warning, penalization or the cancellation (for major violations) of the registration of the candidate or party list. The only form of penalization for violations should not be complete exclusion as currently is the case. Another example of a significant improvement in elections processes that IFES has recommended is changing the legal necessity for having a minimum level of participation of voters for elections to be valid. There should be no legal minimum participation of voters for elections to be valid if they are held in a free and fair manner - it is the citizens' right to vote or not to vote.

The purpose of this report is to provide the CEC with information that IFES believes will assist the Commission in making further improvements in the election process. Thus, the outstanding effort and solid performance of the election administration infrastructure in Russia are only briefly noted herein, while the areas identified as possibly needing improvement are highlighted.

These findings have noted the solid progress the Central Election Commission has made in improving the conduct of elections in the Russian Federation. Indeed, legislative changes and a conscientious effort by the CEC to meet international standards have resulted in fewer problems than existed in past elections. In addition, this progress has instilled greater confidence by voters and the international community in the electoral process of the Russian Federation. However, this report does note many important areas where shortcomings exist and where significant improvements could be made to continue the progress that has been accomplished in recent years. Below is a summary table of IFES' recommendations.

Pre-election Activities

Many pre-election activities conducted in the Russian Federation were fraught with excessive abuse and illustrated a need for major improvement in the conduct of elections throughout Russia.

Nomination and Registration of Candidates

A thorough review should be made of all the candidates who were nominated for the Duma election and those whose registration was rejected by election commissions. All complaints made by candidates should be carefully scrutinized as well as any court action or decisions of higher level commissions regarding appeals of registration rejections. It should be determined if a pattern existed whereby certain political parties or movements had an unusual number of rejections, the rejections resulted in only one or two primary parties or movements left on the ballot, or if certain election commissions rejected an unusually high number of candidates.
After such analysis, it should be determined whether the following actions need to be taken:


Changing the disclosure requirements in the law to lessen nomination/registration requirements or to provide more clarity for candidates and election commissions.


Requiring the Central Election Commission to provide more specific rules and procedures regarding the eligibility for registration of candidates.


Providing additional training of election commissions regarding the determination of eligibility for registration of candidates.


Accelerating the appeal process for candidates whose registration has been rejected.


Providing for sanctions against election commissions who unduly deny a candidate's registration.


Providing for sanctions against election commissions who ignore court and CEC decisions or act on them in an untimely manner.


Mass Media Coverage

That a journalist should provide information and analysis is hardly contestable in a democratic society. The only proviso is that the information is accurate and the analysis sound. The fact that there are unscrupulous journalists and that information can be manipulated (i.e. concealed advertising) does not to take away from the value of journalism as such.


Potential Problems


Manipulation and bias of the mass media. Apparent abuse of journalist practices.

Public is not given fair, equal and accurate information needed to make informed judgment on whom to support in election.

While journalists should be allowed to continue to do their job without fear of retribution or sanctions, the CEC should make a serious appeal to the mass media community to regulate their own activities. They should promote a code of ethics for all journalists.



Together with non-governmental organizations, the CEC could hold seminars for the media to promote fairness in the coverage of the election campaign.


Inappropriate Political and Economic Pressure by State and Regional Infrastructure

Public awareness of the influence on the part of government authorities contributes to the cynicism of the entire electoral process. On Election Day, the conduct of the elections could be a model of the democratic process, but public confidence in the election results may be zero, knowing how authorities have manipulated the process during the pre-election period to guarantee certain outcomes.
After a review and analysis of election-related activities on the part of local, regional and federal authorities, it should be determined whether the following actions need to be taken:


Providing sufficient oversight of governmental entities, possibly including the establishment of a CEC department specifically to deal with federal and regional electoral law enforcement, in coordination with sub-level commissions.


Clarifying the course of appeal for electoral violations between the commissions and the courts, and perhaps ensconce them within the relevant laws.


Increasing the mass media's capacity to assess and report government accountability.


Russian mass media outlets need better training in investigative journalism and its role in government accountability. Moreover, laws or regulations seeking to improve media independence may need to be instituted.


Promoting private, non-profit, non-governmental watchdog organizations to be independent forces for civic advocacy and government oversight. Laws governing non-profit status (including tax laws) might need to be set in place.


Lack of Clarity with Regard to Campaign Finance and Disclosure

The primary reasons for campaign finance disclosure are to provide as much information as possible to the voters about the candidates they will be considering as they cast their ballots and to ensure that all candidates are following the rules equally. Thus, it is vitally important that the information be complete and disclosed to the public for easy access as soon as possible.
After reviewing and comparing the reasons for the disqualification of candidates by the CEC and the DEC's, a determination could be made to implement one or more of the following actions:




Information on candidates was disclosed inconsistently or too late to adequately inform the voters.

Disclosing candidate information submitted on nomination papers, including financial disclosures, within 48 hours after registration has been confirmed.


Public was confused by the information which was disclosed.

Providing financial disclosure information to the general public in a user-friendly format, through which automated searches could be conducted, at a minimum, by name, donor, candidate, region and electoral association.


Candidates and associations/blocs appeared to skirt the law in the amount of funds raised and spent.

Significantly raising the ceiling for campaign finance expenditures as it is currently so low (candidates could not spend more than $65,000 and political association or bloc could not spend more than $1,700,000 for their party lists) that it acts as an encouragement for political associations and candidates to pursue other and technically illegal means of financing their campaign on the rails.


Arbitrary methods of disqualification resulted in a disparity within the Federation of who and who was not denied placement on the ballot.

Changing the penalties for non-disclosure of personal and/or campaign finances from only disqualification of candidacy to a range from modest monetary fines for minor breaches to heavier fines for more serious infractions to disqualification for only major violations.


Election Day

The integrity of the ballot is sacrosanct. Every effort must be made to ensure that only official valid ballots are used in the election; that they are counted fairly and accurately; and that there is adequate transparency. A determination might be made regarding the following strategies.

The Ballot

The integrity of the ballot is sacrosanct. Every effort must be made to ensure that only official valid ballots are used in the election. Moreover, only ballots cast by eligible voters should be counted. After a review of current practices, a determination might be made regarding the following strategies:


Potential problems


Ballot paper used did not have any special markings or watermarks.

Ballots could be produced and used fraudulently.

Use special paper and printing for the ballots, so that it would be impossible for fraudulent ballots to be printed and used in elections. As an alternative, the CEC could encourage the SEC to use micro-printing, where it is available. Micro-prints are generally not visible to the untrained eye.


Unused ballot papers not kept in any kind of numbered batch. No record kept of number of ballot papers issued to each election commission.

Opens up the opportunity for misuse and misappropriation of ballot papers.

Batch and number the ballots, and keep records of the distribution of the ballots to each commission. Special packaging with rubber glue would also provide officials with better control. Packaging in groups of 100 or 500 ballots would provide a more accurate and easier count during transfers.


Counting and stamping of bulletins before election day does not appear to be controlled.

The existence of pre-stamped and signed bulletins leaves valid ballots available for those with fraudulent intentions.

Final check of bulletins before balloting, placing of voter lists and ballots in safe should be seen by observers to insure integrity of process. Modify the practice of PEC members stamping the PEC seal and signing all the ballots prior to election day. Stamp the seal and one signature before election day; add the final signature when ballot issued.


Not all packages with ballots were sealed and recorded before and after delivery.

Opportunities for fraud and manipulation of ballots.

All packages with ballots and documents should be sealed before delivery to TEC. A transfer record for each point of ballot transfer from the printing organization to the TEC down to the PEC should show two signatures of the persons receiving the ballots, an exact count and verification of the number of ballots received and the time the transfer took place.


Confusion over candidates being added to ballot at last minute.

Not enough space on ballot to add name of candidate ordered on ballot at last minute.

If significant doubt exits regarding the number of candidates to be listed on the ballot due to the intricacies of the registration process (e.g., when cases are pending in the supreme court), the CEC may have to establish a ballot which allows for a candidate to be added to the ballot at the last minute. The preferred method for this is to have a stamp or a sticker that can be added, although such solutions are only favored in extreme cases. In the South African Presidential elections of April 1994, M'Buthelezi was reinstated as a candidate only three weeks before the election. His followers did not cause additional civil disturbances, as they were satisfied with the addition of the candidate at the bottom of the ballot, with a sticker. In this case, the Independent Election Commission had printed a longer ballot with extra space in response to the situation.


The Voter List

The purpose of the voter list is to ensure that eligible voters are the only ones who vote in an election. A determination of any shortcomings in the preparation and use of the voter list might be made, and the following actions contemplated:


Potential Problems


Voter lists are developed inconsistently and not coordinated between the 89 subjects of the federation.

Due to the increased mobility of voters throughout the Federation, citizens can be placed on voter lists several times in different areas and subjects.

Create a national computerized voter registry to update the voter list at each polling station and ensure that a voter is not on more than one voter list. Revise the procedures for compiling the voter list to take into account the fact that more and more Russians are moving and moving more often.


Dead voters and voters who have long moved away are still on voter rolls in some PECs.

Allows greater opportunities for fraud.

Improve the training for election commissioners so that they will be more effective in compiling the voter list. Increase the manner in which voters who have moved can more easily be added to the appropriate voter list and deleted from other voter lists.


In some polling stations, the list of voters is not bound together.

Manipulation of voter lists.

List of voters should be joined together; books should be numbered.


Conduct at the Polls

Local Authorities in the Election Process

Interference on the part of governmental authorities, political parties or other entities must be prohibited in democratic elections. Voters observing the control and intimidation of the election commissioners by the local authorities may conclude that the election is not being conducted in a free and fair manner. Therefore, the role of government authorities in elections may need to be further clarified.


A review of the election laws and the training of election commissioners on the appropriate role of local authorities may be needed.


In some situations, election commissioners may need additional assistance, in which case it might be logical to recruit from the government authorities. However, any such assistance should be clearly delineated with the election commissioners in charge, and government representatives subservient to the election commissioners.


The role of government representatives in the election process needs to be made clear to all voters and the public, so there can be no misunderstandings. Otherwise, the public may deem the election commissioners mere puppets of the authorities and the election a fraud.


Conduct at the Polls

Observers and Transparency in the Election Process

People must have confidence that elections are conducted freely and fairly, or they will not have faith in the process. The secrecy of the ballot is sacrosanct, and sufficient security measures need to be in place to prevent election fraud. Within that context, the election process needs to be as transparent as possible. Toward that end, the following steps might be implemented:


Create a voter education program to inform voters and the general public about all aspects of the election. Invite them to observe each step.


Encourage candidates and political parties to better train their observers to be more alert and effective.


Conduct at the Polls

Conflicts between Federal and Local Election Laws

Essential to the proper conduct of elections are laws that do not conflict and are written clearly, so there can be no misinterpretation leading to their misapplication. Manuals and training curricula must be based on these laws, being careful not to go beyond the laws. To clarify current confusion, the following steps may be helpful:



Election Commissioners from SEC's to PEC's complained about the difficulty they had when federal and local election laws were in conflict. One Subject Election Chairman stated that they had to decide which law applied on a case by case basis. At the PEC level, the commissioners generally chose to follow local laws.

Modify training of election commissioners to make it clear that where there are conflicts, federal laws and directives take precedence over local federal laws and directives.


Improve written instructions, election manuals and other documents to make them easier for election commissioners to understand. For example, this could be made by having a separate booklet for election day activities and vote count & transmittal, including in each training manual: an index, graphics, flow charts of decisions, a rapid «Basic Q & A» section, simple and direct language, phone numbers and guidance as to where to get help, a «What if» case study of real examples (i.e. what if the person has no ID and wants to vote), as well as a feedback form to be completed by the user and compiled after the election process for future improvements.


Conduct at the Polls

Polling Station Size and Voting Booths

The combination of crowded conditions and voters voting openly rather than in the secrecy of voting booths provide opportunities for unfair influence on voters, negative experiences for voters, a callous view of elections, and, even worse, public lack of confidence in the results of the election. An analysis may be needed to determine means to improve these conditions, which would include the following:



In every region IFES assessed, there were polling stations that were too small to accommodate the voters in that precinct. Voters were very patient, waiting as long as two hours in and around the polling station, to sign in and get their ballots. Having received their ballots, however, voters were no longer willing to wait to vote. Oftentimes, there were insufficient voting booths even in large polling stations. These conditions fostered more than one person in a voting booth as well as many voters using tables, ledges, and anything else they could to mark their ballots. Insufficient voting booths also encouraged the return of family and group voting, and consultations with relatives, friends, party representatives and/or others prior to voters marking their ballots.

Finding larger spaces for polling stations.


Re-drawing the precinct lines to increase the number of precincts, and thus increasing the number of polling stations.


Increasing the number of voting booths, when necessary, using inexpensive smaller and lighter booths. The Central Election Commission or the law should establish a formula for polling stations regarding how many booths should be available. If there is just one ballot to be marked, then there should be one booth for each 300 people on the voting rolls at the polling station. With a 70% turnout, a polling station with 1000 voters would have 700 voters casting ballots or about one person per minute. Assuming it took a voter about one to three minutes to mark one ballot, three booths should be adequate. It is recommended that the formula below be used when deciding how many booths should be at a polling station


Formula for determining the number of voting booths needed at Polling Stations

# of ballots to be voted

# of booths per # of voters

# of booths for 1000 voters


1 @ 300 voters



1 @ 275 voters



1 @ 250 voters



1 @ 200 voters


Conduct at the Polls

Mobile, Absentee Certificate, and Beyond the Border Voting


Potential Problems


In our assessment, Mobile Voting was fraught with election violations. In some cases, observers were not allowed to accompany the mobile ballot boxes. In others,
political party observers were asked to take the place of one of the two PEC members required to accompany the mobile boxes to voters.

Opens up the opportunity for voter fraud and manipulation. When there is only one commission left to conduct voting, it allows great potential for fraud.

Allow for a minimum of 4 PEC commissioners so that there is at least two left at a polling station when mobile voting takes place, or have additional PEC members, whose only responsibility would be overseeing the mobile ballot box.


Place more limitations on mobile voting to ensure that only those needing the service receive it.


Allow immediate family member to take ballot to immobilized voter and return ballot in sealed envelope after it has been voted.


PEC members appeared to be confused about their duties when presented with absentee voting certificates. The manner in which unused absentee voting certificates were handled was inconsistent. Some election commissioners ignored them, others counted them, yet others counted then invalidated them.

The inclusion of voters who are away from their precincts contributes toward the enfranchisement of all voters. Proper management of this process is essential as the opportunity for fraud is high.

Improve the instruction manuals and training programs so that election commissioners can more easily follow the laws for the issuance of the absentee voting certificates and the issuance of ballots to voters who present such certificates.


Improve the instruction manuals and training programs for the accountability of the absentee voting certificates from the point where the commissions receive them through to their disposition at the end of Election Day.


While voting abroad at embassies and consulates was laudable, there were still a significant number of Russian citizens who were disenfranchised due to the distance to the voting locations.

Disenfranchisement of voters.

Encourage overseas embassies and consulates to conduce greater public information campaigns to inform Russian citizens of their opportunity to vote overseas at designated sites. This can be accomplished though the mass media and by direct mail.


Conduct at the Polls

Campaign Materials in Vicinity of Polling Stations


Potential Problems


At several polling stations, campaign materials were seen near or even in the polling stations (this practice was pervasive in areas where local authorities were supporting a specific party list.

Such displays so near or in polling stations could have undue influence on how voters vote, as they are the last things voters see before getting their ballots.

Within 24 hours of Election Day, remove all campaign materials within 100 meters of each polling station. The PECs could perform this task, or under its supervision, the appropriate government department could be given this assignment.


Another option is to inform the campaigns where the polling stations are located and require the campaigns to remove their own materials no later than 24 hours before Election Day.


Conduct at the Polls

Counting Process and Transmittal of Results (Protocols)


Potential Problems


The counting process varied greatly in the polling stations assessed. There did not appear to be consistency in the method of counting and the reconciliation of ballot papers.

Mistakes that would lead to an inaccurate vote count. Delay in counting.

Improve the instruction manuals and include clear step-by-step illustrations for ballot counting and ballot reconciliation.


Improve the training for ballot counting and reconciliation of ballots issued.


Separate the reporting documents for ballot reconciliation and vote count. One set of protocols should exist for the accounting of ballots and one set for the overall vote count


For election night reporting, simplify the protocols for ballot accounting. Perhaps, the protocols should be done in a two-step process. The first step would be to report the number of valid ballots counted for each choice in each election. These numbers could be transmitted to the TEC immediately, where they would be entered into the «SAS Vybory» computer vote count system. The «SAS Vybory» system would need to be modified to accommodate this simplified two- step reporting process. The second step would be the complete reconciliation of the ballots issued to the PEC.


PEC members fatigued when counting ballots allowing for greater mistakes and repeat of counting process.

Inaccurate count.

Determine whether additional PEC members could be added just to assist in the count (they could also assist in the delivery of mobile boxes in the afternoon)


Ballots for one party or one candidate check and counted by one person.

Deliberate wrong checking or counting of votes.

The validation and counting of ballot stacks should be done two times by two different commissioners


Decisions about whether ballots are valid or not were made by commission chairman after consultation with observers.

Partisan decisions.

Decisions on questionable ballots should be made in accordance with law by all voting members of the commission.


Not all PECs had large protocols available.

Observers have no opportunity to observe process step by step.

All PECs should have large protocols posted and used.


Final protocol is reported by phone to territorial election commission.

Procedure could be used by territorial election commission to advise PEC how to change results.

Results of counting should only be responsibility of PEC. In case of differences (protocol not balancing), territorial commission should be obliged to report differences in a separate line.


Some PECs issued two sets of protocols- official 3 copies of protocols with signatures and stamps.

This gives TEC opportunity to change and replace protocols.

Signing and stamping protocols in advance should be prohibited.


Final PEC, TEC, DEC, SEC results could be presented to observer by request (A 85.1 of Duma Law). Law does not indicate whether results should be given free of charge.

Many commissions set their own price for copies of protocols.

Law should state that all certified observers are to be given copies of results free of charge.


Election Commissions conduct no audit of election results.

Opens opportunity for fraud.

There should be audit of results or selective recounting of ballots in the presence of observers.


Lack of Standardization and Need for Training

If there was one finding that was consistent in these findings, it is that there needs to be improvements in training procedures and training materials so that election commissioners, governmental bodies who provide assistance in the election, political party observers, and others can have a greater understanding of the law, procedures and their role in the process. Lack of such training led to great inconsistency in the applicability of many aspects of the election code and rules and confusion.


Potential Problems


Inconsistency in training of election officials. Subject Election Commissions appear to use widely-different methods to conduct training procedures. Some election commissions, particularly district election commissions, had major problems with the registration of candidates.

Arbitrary and incomplete application of election laws and procedures.

Develop procedure for consistent training of election officials, at all levels. Such a program could include improved training manuals complete with diagrams and graphic illustrations of various aspects of election procedures. A training video which is watched by all those who serve as election commissioners at all levels--including the 93,000 + polling stations --- would go a long way to improve the training process throughout the Russian Federation.


Creation of a training department within the Central Election Commission should be considered to provide consistent training to election commissions at lower levels; monitor the results of their training so they can modify their training efforts effectively and on a timely basis.


In some polling stations, PEC members had difficulty in understanding the laws and election manuals when trying to make a decision in unusual situations. They had trouble finding the section they needed. Some PEC members whose first language is not Russian had problems understanding manual and instructions.

Confusion, delays and inconsistent interpretations of proper procedures.

The election manual should be revised to make it easier for election commissioners to find the section they need. Diagrams, step-by-step instructions, a table of contents, and an index would be very helpful. Manuals should be printed in a local language, if necessary.


Some election officials appeared to have little knowledge of what constitutes voter fraud.

Opens opportunity for fraud.

In training manuals, include section on common methods of voter fraud and how to prevent and detect them.


Other Technical Considerations


Potential Problems


Unless voter is registered as living somewhere (»propiska»), citizen cannot vote.

Russian citizens not desiring to register with local authorities is denied ability to vote

Development of a national computerized voter registry.


There appeared to be no deadline for decisions regarding the registration of candidates.

Candidates attempting to register until last day.

Law fixing deadline for DEC to register candidate or deny registration.


No information in media about number of registered voters, as required by law.

Manipulation of voter lists, creation of lists with phantom voters.

CEC and PEC should publish number of voters, as law requires.


No information in media about number of ballots and absentee certificates issued and distributed, as required by law.

Manipulation of absentee certificates and ballots.

PEC should publish number of ballots printed and absentee certificates, as law requires.


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