Russia: elections do not reflect the will of the people
according to Bjørn Engesland the general secretary of Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Duma elections in Russia from the very start seem to be unfair and undemocratic. There have been serious complains regarding election monitoring, vote counting and other related procedures. Independent national observers all over the country have registered countless violations in the election legislation, including pressure against voters to vote for the ruling party United Russia
Monday, 05 December 2011, by HRH Oslo, based on Norwegian Helsinki Committee information
Violations during pre-election phase
Seven parties were registered to take part in the elections: 1) United Russia; 2) the Communist Party, 3) Fair Russia, 4) the Liberal Democratic Party, 5) The Party of Patriots, 6) the Right Course, and 7) Yabloko.
The non-governmental organization Golos, which has specialized on election monitoring, has registered widespread violations of election legislation and procedures. Among the main problems are:
Similar to previous Russian elections, administrative resources have frequently been used in campaigns for the party in power, United Russia. In the party’s list of candidates one can also find judges and prosecutors; professions that according to Russian legislation do not have a right to run for a seat in Parliament;
The parties did not have equal opportunity to conduct their election campaigning, as for example access to media. According to Communist Party monitoring of main television channels (including The First Channel, Russia, NTV, TVTs and REN TV) in the period from September 1 to November 6, United Russia got 29 hours and 44 minutes of coverage, while the Liberal Democratic Party got 7 hours and 6 minutes, the Communist Party got 5 hours and 31 minutes, and Fair Russia got 4 hours and 9 minutes.
Golos has published a number of documented cases of violations, based on reports by 2700 Russian citizens. Cases have been documented where government officials as well as representatives of local authorities threaten with budget cuts or other kinds of pressure against teachers, other professions in public service, pensioners, and students in order for them to support United Russia. There are also reports that political parties and their representatives were hindered by United Russia representative in spreading campaign material and to meet their supporters.
The country’s most experienced election monitoring group is being under scrutiny by prosecutors and pro-government media. –The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is concerned that these are deliberate attempts at hindering Golos important work, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary-General. “By limiting monitoring of the elections, authorities are also undermining trust in elections being conducted in compliance with international standards of freeness and fairness.”
Golos has been working on election issues in Russia since 2000. The organization is an important partner of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) and in 2009 representatives of Golos even took part in election observation in Norway organized by NHC. The opportunity of non-state actors to monitor elections is an important component in a democratic society. Financial support from abroad for such activity is an internationally recognized and common practice world-wide, and in many countries the only possibility for ensuring independent monitoring, says Engesland. “We appeal to Russian authorities not to hinder the work of Golos. We also appeal to Norwegian authorities and to the international community to criticize Russian efforts to impede independent monitoring.
On Thursday 1 December, the Prosecutor’s Office in Moscow opened an dministrative case against Association Golos; charging that the organization has violated election laws by establishing a website for registration of election fraud and irregularties. According to Russian law, publication of statistics and polls that may influence election results is prohibited duringthe last five days prior to an election. The administrative case is heard by a Court in Moscow today. Russian pro-government TV channel NTV, in an apparently coordinated move, will broadcast this evening an “investigative report on the financial sources of Golos”. – The purpose of the NTV report seems to be suggest that Golos is working against Russian interests; being financed by grants from the West”, says Engesland.
Amid credible reports of election fraud, Russian election results do not fully reflect the will of the people
The tendency in the result of the voting yesterday nevertheless shows that the Russian population is getting wary of the tightfisted rule of the Medvedev/Putin tandem, says Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee Bjørn Engesland. -Independent national observers all over the country have registered countless violations in the election legislation, including pressure against voters to vote for the ruling party United Russia.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has been present in St. Petersburg during the last few days, and among others visited our partner Golos. Golos, a non-governmental organization specializing in election monitoring, has registered widespread violations of election legislation and procedures on Election Day, although their websites were blocked since Saturday.
Yesterday’s Duma election in the Russian Federation took place in an environment where fully fair elections are not possible, says Engesland, - Some of the basic conditions for holding elections are public debate, a free press and equal conditions for all political forces in the country. These conditions are challenged in Russia, says Engesland. - We have registered serious obstacles related to nomination of delegates and registration of parties, as well as lack of equal opportunities to campaign. In addition, the threshold of minimum 7% of the vote to enter the Duma appears to have been introduced in order to obstruct the smaller parties in opposition to the ruling forces.” Additionally, more than 5300 violations are reported by more than 2700 Golos volunteers all over the country. Both Golos and political parties like Yabloko have experienced a large growth in the number of people volunteering to observe the elections. At a Yabloko training for new observers in St. Petersburg on Saturday, the NHC monitors met with a variety of people showing an interest in politics for the first time. This trend should be embraced by the authorities of the Russian Federation.Access for independent monitoring of the election process is an important factor of democratic elections. Last Friday’s trial, and other pressure against Golos and other observers indicated that Russian authorities have not fully understood this. It is important that Russian authorities restore the rights.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee representatives Lene Wetteland and Anders Nielsen are currently in Russia.
HRH Oslo, based on Norwegian Helsinki Committee information