22 June 2021
by Grigory Melkonyants, co-chair of the electoral rights defence movement Golos [Voice] and laureate of the Moscow Helsinki Group prize
At this moment, at least 9 million Russians cannot be elected to positions of political authority. Hundreds of thousands of politically active citizens may soon be added to this list due to new “anti-extremist” amendments and the labelling of the structures of the supporters of Aleksei Navalny as extremist organisations. This has been explained by experts from “Voice” in a new report, “The newly disenfranchised: why Russian citizens are being deprived en masse of the right to be elected in the 2021 elections.”
The largest group of the modern “disenfranchised” is those who have dual citizenship or a foreign resident permit – this may be up to 6 million. In second place is those convicted of theft, which makes up 1.1 million in the last decade. In third place are those convicted of drug crimes – in the last decade this constitutes 300,000 people. We do not know how many of these cases are fabricated, but we do know that many of them are, the case of journalist Ivan Golunov being one example.
A comparatively smaller amount of people has been convicted on “political” criminal articles for extremism in the last decade – 3363. But statistics on similar administrative structures which lead to the deprivation of the right to be elected are more impressive – in 2020 alone, 4,096 people were convicted of the production or propagation of extremist materials or the propaganda or public demonstration of extremist symbols. It is precisely these people who are the most politically active: volunteers of various election headquarters, participants in opposition protests, political activists. 10,000 people were charged with organising or participating in illegal protests. The repeated breaking of these laws leads to deprivation of the right to vote, as happened in the case of the municipal deputy Yuliya Galyamina in Moscow.
What we are now witnessing is the fourth wave of legislative tightening since the fall of the Soviet Union, which has the goal of limiting the passive electoral rights of citizens. The first was in 2006-7, the second in 2012-4, and the third in 2020, when around fifty new criminal sentences were introduced through which citizens would be deprived of their passive electoral rights. In June 2020, amendments came into place were deprived those who were “involved” in the actions of organisations that have been declared to be “extremist”. It may be said that in this sphere, modern legislation is formally even stricter than in the Soviet Union. All of these measures are driven by a fear of real political competition and the insecurity of the government with regard to public support.
Further details can be read in our report:
Translated by Cameron Evans