03 Mar 2012

Golos Association Calls Attention to Election Process in Russia

(by Ksenia Sokolova)

Association GOLOS conducted independent long-term and short-term monitoring of federal and regional elections set for 4 December 2011. The monitoring was performed in 48 regions of Russia. GOLOS obtained information from correspondents of newspaper “Grazhdanskiy Golos” who acted as electoral observers, expert interviews with representatives of political parties, NPO leaders, members of election commissions, as well as from citizens who reported violations in the course of campaigns – both to GOLOS representatives in person and through the ‘Map of violations at elections’.

GOLOS Association calls attention to the large-scale participation of federal, regional and local officials, including the RF president, the head of his administration, eight members of the Government, and the majority of governors, in direct campaigning for one of the parties. This creates the conditions under which the inequality of the participants inevitably predetermines the election outcome.

Some of the problems identified:

–    The legislation does not even require that they would be on vacation for this period, thus creating extreme information inequality as practically all administrations are campaigning under the guise of fulfilling their professional duties.

–    As a result of concentration of the top state bureaucracy in the list of one of the parties, and because of the hypertrophied powers of the executive branch and actual subordination of the election commissions to it, the whole state power system actually works for the results of one specific party, constantly exceeding its powers and applying pressure to the electorate, mass media, and opponents. All levels of the executive vertical are ordered to ensure the greatest possible results for United Russia party, and the administrations, in their turn, put this pressure to enterprises and institutions, in the form of direct instructions and orders to the workforce to vote for United Russia.

–    Using the budget funds, the officials make their campaign trips through the regions. Practically all regional, city and rayon administrations have been made United Russia’s campaign staffs, the heads of administrations have been declared personally responsible for its success, and are openly campaigning for United Russia, sometimes even at official events.

–    The campaigning itself is quite often conducted in educational institutions, hospitals and other health care institutions, where campaign ads of the party are also displayed. Municipal officials, employees of budget-financed organizations and of housing and utilities services are forced, through administrative pressure, to participate in the campaigning. Large-scale indirect campaigning for United Russia, in the form of social and other advertising, by its style and contents clearly associated with the ‘government party’, remains the key technique.

–    This campaigning is generally conducted using slogans and visual images, to the extent of confusion resembling those of United Russia itself. Not infrequently, the party’s logos or their imitations are present in campaign ads which formally have no relation to United Russia. All this volume of indirect campaigning is not paid for from the party’s budget or its election account.

–    Production by election commissions of campaign ads, very closely resembling United Russia’s ads, and, vice versa, publication by United Russia of campaign ads imitating the election commissions’ ads, is an especially notorious practice.

GOLOS Association notes that United Russia systemically claims for itself the results of activities of the federal, regional or local authorities, performed at the account of the respective budgets. This can be classified as false political advertising.

Along with growing importance of the Internet in the election campaigns, there have been more and more cases of using improper methods for struggling with the opponents on the Internet, including DDos attacks in order to paralyze operation of the sites of opponents and undesirable mass media, cracking of e-mail boxes, trolling etc.

There are other manipulations, including attempts to sabotage meetings with voters, organization of ‘instructive’ public opinion polls, and so on.

The picture featured above is credited to AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko.