22 January 2020
Lev Ponomarev is chair of the NGO For Human Rights and a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Ekho Moskvy]
I am publishing an Appeal relating to the parliamentary elections of 2021. It was prepared before the President’s message to the Federal Assembly, so it contains no reaction to the message, or to the events which followed related to it. However, the significance of this Appeal to the citizens of Russia has only increased, since all legislative initiatives of the preseident are actually aimed at taking full control of the parliamentary elections of 2021.
The public figures and experts who signed this appeal intend to distribute it as widely as possible, because ahead is a substantial task of putting pressure on the authorities with the aim of changing the law and electoral practices.
In the event that this does not happen and the parliamentary elections of 2021 follow old patterns, after such obviously unfair elections we can confidently expect real riots, not those of the kind that supposedly took place in Moscow in 2019. They are not needed either by civil society or the government.
Please read and distribute.
Appeal to the citizens of Russia on the eve of the 2021 elections
We, citizens of Russia, are extremely concerned about the state of elections in our country. We note with great regret that elections, at least in the last decade and a half, have not been fulfilling the role assigned to them by the Constitution – to be the highest direct expression of the power of the people – and have not met international democratic standards. This leads to a situation where faith in the elections and their results is rather low, and a significant section of the electoral authorities lacks legitimacy.
We do not want this to continue. We want the State Duma which will be elected in 2021 to become a legitimate and full-fledged government body, trusted and respected by Russian citizens.
We base our assessment of the elections on the Constitution of the Russian Federation and on international documents, including the Chisinau Convention, which sets forth standards for free, fair and genuine elections.
In particular, the Convention states: “genuine elections suppose equal and fair legal conditions for the registration of candidates, lists of candidates and political parties (coalitions). Registration requirements should be clear and not contain conditions that could become the basis for privileges or restrictions of a discriminatory character. Arbitrary or discriminatory applicationof the rules on the registration of candidates, lists of candidates and political parties (coalitions) is not allowed.”
We cannot consider the situation with the registration of candidates and lists of candidates in Russian elections to be in compliance with the provisions of the Convention and other democratic standards. It cannot be considered normal that in the 2016 State Duma elections not a single list of candidates was registered on the basis of voters’ signatures, and in the single-mandate constituencies out of 348 candidates only 23 were registered. Moreover, some well-known and popular candidates were denied registration, and the majority of those who were registered received fewer votes during the election than they had received signatures.
We have observed a similar abnormal situation in the Moscow City Duma elections in 2019, and at many other elections. It cannot be considered normal when representatives of leading parties are regularly denied registration. It cannot be considered normal when candidates are refused registration on the grounds of the so-called conclusions of handwriting experts, which are basically unfounded alegations unsupported by any arguments. It cannot be considered normal when candidates are denied registration on the basis of certificates from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, from which it is impossible to understand what are the specific claims regarding information about the voter. It cannot be regarded as normal when a candidate is removed from the elections due to a minor shortfall in one of the submitted documents – especially against the background of the carelessly formulated documents of the election commissions and even the courts.
In recent years, we have seen some positive developments in the transparency of the electoral process: the installation of video surveillance cameras and minimising the removal of election observers, amongst other things. However, we consider it unacceptable to reduce this level of openness by potentially reducing video surveillance, complicating access to video archives, and imposing restrictions on observers at polling stations.
The principle of voluntary participation in elections must remain unshakeable. We believe that any pressure placed on voters is unacceptable. This also applies to home voting.
There can be no justification for direct fraud in voting, or indeed during vote counting. Although this can rarely be proved in court, there is a lot of evidence available to the public. This includes direct eyewitness accounts, videos and verifiable statistical data.
We understand that these shortcomings can be addressed in a variety of ways. This includes changes to the law, tightening control over the work of election commissions, and bringing potential violators to justice. Nevertheless, we are sure that there are a number of legislative norms that require changing, if shortcomings are to be addressed. In particular, these require the abolition, or radical revision, of the so-called “municipal filter” that cut off unwanted candidates from gubernatorial elections and required a list of observers (and media representatives) to be submitted three days prior to voting.
We emphasise that any election manipulations (exclusion of popular candidates, direct falsifications etc.) aimed at ensuring that the government remains in power affect the interests of all citizens, including those who support the government. We understand that those who are in power wish to remain in office. In our opinion, the government has only one honest way to maintain the support of its voters: to pursue a policy that would meet their interests, and not simply to create favourable conditions for themselves in elections, while simultaneously making it difficult for their opponents to participate in the electoral process. This approach will lead the country towards disenfranchisement and poverty. Therefore, by seeking fair elections, citizens are seeking greater attention to their needs from the authorities.
However, we are also sure that the government itself is in need of fair elections. Falsifications hamper any attempts to ascertain the real feelings and opinions of citizens. Electoral corruption (falsifications, manipulations during registration of candidates, etc.) contributes to the development of other forms of corruption.
We have no doubt that there are people in the corridors of power who understand this. But when making decisions, tactics prevail over strategy.
By demanding changes in electoral legislation and practices, we are seeking to implement the provisions of the Constitution. By defending fair elections, we are fighting for the country’s future.
In solving these tasks, we expect to rely on initiative groups that already have experience in protecting their rights and are committed to protecting them in the future. We look forward to the support of active citizens from various civil society organisations, including observer associations.
Our appeal is addressed to them, as well as everyone who cares about the fate of the country.
Akhedzhakova, Liya Medzhidovna, National Artist of the Russian Federation
Badrin, Garri Yakovlevich, cartoon animator, director, script writer, State Prize of the RF Laureate
Basilashvili, Oleg Valerianovich, National Artist of the USSR, Honorary Citizen of Saint Petersburg
Belavin, Aleksandr Abramovich, theoretical physicist, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Berger, Anatoly Solomonovich, author, member of the Saint Petersburg PEN Club, member of Memorial
Borshchev, Valeriy Vasilevich, Co-chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Deputy of the State Duma: 1993-1999
Buzin, Andrei Yurevich, Candidate of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Candidate of Law, Co-chair of the voters’ rights movement Golos, member of the Expert Advisory Council of the Central Election Commission of Russia
Bykov, Dmitri Lvovich, author, literary critic, columnist
Verkhovsky, Aleksandr Markovich, Director of the Sova Center for Information and Analysis, member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights
Vorobev, Nikolai Ivanovich, Candidate of Law, professor, member of the Expert Advisory Council of the Central Election Commission of Russia, Election Commission Chair for Tambov Oblast: 1993-2003
Gannushkina, Svetlana Aklekseyevna, Chair of the committee Civic Cooperation, member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights: 2004-2012
Gelfand, Mikhail Sergeyevich, Doctor of Biological Science, professor, member of Academia Europaea
Golosov, Grigori Vacilevich, Doctor of Political Science, professor, member of the Expert Advisory Council for the Central Election Commission of Russia
Gordin, Yakov Arkadevich, historian, author
Yevdokimova, Nataliya Leonidovna, Executive Secretary of the Saint Petersburg Human Rights Council, member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights
Katerli (Efros), Nina Semenovna, person of letters, member of the Saint Petersburg PEN Club, member of the Saint Petersburg Human Rights Council
Krivenko, Sergei Vladimirovich, Candidate of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Director of the public human rights initiative Citizen and the Army, member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights: 2009-2018
Kynev, Aleksandr Vladimirovich, Candidate of Political Science, member of the Expert Advisory Council of the Central Election Commission of Russia
Lavrov, Aleksandr Vasilevich, Doctor of Philology, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Lyubarev, Arkady Yefimovich, Candidate of Law, Chair of the Inter-regional NGO Expert Forum: Election Laws – For the Voter, member of the Expert Advisory Council of the Central Election Commission of Russia
Melkonyants, Grigori Arkadevich, Co-chair of the voter rights movement Golos, member of the Expert Advisory Council of the Central Election Commission of Russia
Mintusov, Igor Yevgenevich, President of the European Association of Political Consultants, member of the Expert Advisory Council of the Central Election Commission of Russia
Oreshkin, Dmitri Borisovich, Candidate of Geography, political scientist, member of the Expert Advisory Council of the Central Election Commission of Russia
Podosokorski, Nikolai Nilolayevich, Candidate of Philology, literary critic, cultural studies expert, member of the Saint Petersburg PEN Club
Ponomaryov, Lev Aleksandrovich, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, chair of the national civic organization For Human Rights, People’s Deputy of the RSFSR: 1990-1993, Deputy of the State Duma: 1993-1995
Ryzhkov, Vladimir Aleksandrovich, Candidate of History, Chair of the All-Russian social movement Choice of Russia, member of the Civic Chamber of the City of Moscow, Deputy of the State Duma: 1993-2007
Svanidze, Nikolai Karlovich, telejournalist, political correspondent, member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights
Smirnov, Andrei Sergeevich, actor, director, National Artist of the RF
Soboleva, Anita Karlovna, Candidate of Philology, attorney, member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights
Sokurov, Aleksandr Nikoloaevich, National Artist of the RF, three-time Laureate of the State Prize of the RF, member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights
Stratanovsky, Sergei Georgievich, poet
Titov, Mikhail Viktorovich, Chair of the Election Commission for Tver Oblast: 1997-2007
Shablinsky, Ilya Georgievich, Doctor of Law, member of the Expert Advisory Council of the Central Election Commission of Russia
Sheynis, Viktor Leonidovich, Doctor of Economics, People’s Deputy of the RF: 1990-93, Deputy of the State Duma: 1993-99
Shibanova, Lilia Vasilevna, Executive Director of Golos: 2001-2013, member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights: 2012-18
Translated by Anna Bowles and Mark Nuckols